Dancing in the Rain: Three Questions Leaders Should Ask Themselves in Turbulent Times
It’s time to get real about our current reality and what it’s going to take for you to lead your organization forward. Multiple, overlapping storms from both short- and long-term problems and trends are raining unrelenting, accelerating change. Now is not the time to grab an umbrella, but it is time to learn how to dance in the rain.
Among other things, our society is:
- At the very beginning of a worldwide pandemic;
- Reeling economically;
- Experiencing social disruption. This is triggered by systemic issues within the criminal justice system and reflective of larger, long-term social and cultural problems;
- Grappling with the difference between shareholder and stakeholder capitalism;
- Increasingly polarized electorally;
- Passing the generational baton;
- Undergoing fundamental, long-term economic shifts as profound as the late 19th-century change from an agrarian to an industrial society, and;
- Suffering from (mis)information overload.
All of the above represents only a partial, surface-level summary of what’s going on. Whew!
Whether you are personally experiencing some, all, or none of the above, you need to know that all of these phenomena are VERY real and not manufactured, as some would like you to believe. This is not a scare tactic but a statement of fact to help you understand that, historically speaking, when massive change occurs, it does not happen in a vacuum. It is messy, confusing, overlapping, and painful. It often feels too fast and out of control, defying understanding in the moment.
So, what does this mean for you and your leadership? How do you move forward? Below are three tips for how you can apply direction and lean into what really matters.
Three Steps for Successfully Leading Through Turbulence
1. Understand our reality by empathizing with others. Rather than summarily rejecting who someone is, instead ask yourself, “How might I see the world through this person‘s eyes?”
When you reject or disagree with something that’s happening, you are closing the door on opportunity and ignoring one fundamental truth: Everyone is experiencing change right now, and they’re all experiencing it differently. If you reject any portion of what’s currently happening, then you risk rejecting someone’s personal experiences. And, since we are all the sum of our experiences, when you reject someone’s experience, you are rejecting them. The person you’re rejecting might be a family member, friend, employee, customer, or someone else entirely. Trying to expand your perspective will not only broaden how you see reality, but it will lead to new opportunities that you never before envisioned.
2. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I really need?” When is the last time that you deliberately considered and listed not only your goals and objectives but what you personally need? Most of us walk through life in a bubble of self-delusion regarding our motivations and what we think we need to be satisfied. We replace what we actually need with low hanging fruit that’s easier to pick.
Stop it. Since everything is changing, take the opportunity to change your mindset. If you can honestly grapple with figuring out what you legitimately need, then you will begin to look for satisfaction where it really resides instead of engaging in fruitless snipe hunts.
3. Examine and illuminate your idea. Consider, “What idea(s) undergird our organization, and are they still relevant?” History is a graveyard of not only people but also ideas. And when massive, systemic disruption occurs, unexamined and outdated ideas are often buried in the graveyard of history along with the organizations that ride atop them. At its very core, your organization is an idea. It doesn’t matter whether you provide a service or manufacture a product. What makes your organization successful are its fundamental principles and its culture—both of which are rooted in an idea.
Moreover, for an idea to be successful, it must remain relevant. In turn, relevancy requires change., If you’re unsure if an idea is relevant—or if its relevancy is even remotely in question—it’s time to take that idea out of its box and examine it in full sunlight.
If this all seems too abstract, then simply remember the following three questions:
- Are you truly trying to understand the experience of others, or are you only trying to advance your point of view?
- Do you really understand what you personally need, and are you using that knowledge to take care of yourself?
- What is the basic idea that your organization is founded upon, and is that idea still relevant?
Facing reality by asking yourself hard questions like the ones listed above is the only way through what promises to be several turbulent years to come. If you’re struggling with these and other questions, give me a call. Perhaps we can start to answer them together.