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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pamela Davis

Leading in Difficult Times

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

The onset of the pandemic has forced us to think differently about everything. We have seen the challenges leaders have faced in government, healthcare, the service industry and even education. For many, there was not a great deal of background experience to draw upon. In looking back, the leaders who were most successful were the ones who demonstrated steadiness and calm under pressure.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of the state of New York stands out as an exemplary leader in his strategic navigation during the pandemic. Even with the amount of limited information, he managed to take advantage of the known and make calculated moves. His leadership drew national attention and has been lauded because of the success New York state has experienced in stabilizing the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

In difficult times, the vision needs to be clear more than ever. Depending upon the nature of the challenge impacting the organization, your team members may need to be reminded of the vision and the leader's expectation to stay the course. If the challenge causes the vision to change, that needs to messaged right away.

When an organization is undergoing a rough time, it is important to establish expectations and determine which entity will be the source of guidance. It may require calling upon multiple agencies. In doing so, it will be crucial to coordinate resources and design a plan to message information to the necessary parties. As these multiple departments come together, a point of contact will need to be identified. This person will be responsible for all decision making related to the agencies involved and will message the plan of action to impacted agency leads.

Communication can make or break you. If you release information too soon, you compromise the plan. If you do not release information soon enough, you lose trust with your stakeholders. While it's difficult to find middle ground, leaders must be as transparent as possible with their communication. Clear, timely messaging that is thorough and provides the leader's audience with guidance.

Executing the plan in difficult times requires all team members to be on board. Leaders who have set up clear expectations and appropriately communicated them will have no problem implementing their plan. Delegating responsibilities is vital to the success of plan implementation. Leaders will learn rather quickly the strength of their team. Being able to tap into your team's sweet spot will give you the edge you need in maximizing their talents and skills. So, assess your team's talents in advance of a crisis. Identify areas of opportunity to develop your team members. Whether through survey of needs or a SWOT analysis, the feedback will inform you on areas to improve. This will have you positioned to work toward your team's strengths in a crisis.

Lastly, you will need systems in place to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan. This will require that you re-visit your vision; review data from the multiple agency debriefs; collect feedback your team members; and make adjustments to generate the desired results. Communication plays a huge part in all aspects.

Difficult times, come unannounced. Our best approach is developing the talent of the individuals within our organization such that they have the stamina to withstand the pressure that crisis brings. As leaders, it is our responsibility to grow and prepare the people on our teams. Having a diverse and talented team is our best form of defense during difficult times.

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