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Monday, October 20, 2008


As financial uncertainty gives rise to fear in people around the globe, leaders have a unique opportunity to infuse their organizations with a sense of security, stability, and the ability to weather the storm.

What are the characteristics of exemplary leadership in times of crisis? Here are ten tips :

1. Trust your own ability. The experience you have gained from handling difficult situations in the past has provided you with an extensive set of skills with which to approach any task. Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding yourself of ways you have previously surmounted obstacles--thereby erasing any doubts as to your readiness for the challenge.

2. Remain Calm. Take a deep breath. Don’t allow the anxiety and confusion that is overtaking others to impact your outlook. Don’t react with anger or impatience to the fears of others. By asking questions, careful listening, and focusing only on solutions, you can instill calmness in those around you.

3. Get all the information you can. Things are rarely what they seem to be at first blush. Discover all the facts so that you can reach an informed decision. Get information from a few different sources; each person’s perspective will give you another piece of data with which to solve the puzzle.

4. Assume ownership of the situation. In order to effectively deal with a crisis you must refuse to make excuses for anyone. Don’t blame others for the realities you are now facing. Focusing on the past and what was done wrong won’t propel you toward solution. Look to the present and develop a laser focus for what can be done from this moment forward. Changing difficulty into opportunity begins right now.

5. Dare to take action. Bad news on many fronts, setbacks and challenges can cause a “deer in the headlights” response. You need to guard against temporary paralysis. Don’t give in to feelings of indecision and confusion. Think of the first specific steps you can take to develop a plan of action and implement them; each step leads to the next and the forward momentum will generate more energy for you.

6. Dissect the challenge. Learn as much as you can about the challenge you are facing. This is the time when knowledge is the key to power. Step back from the scene and look at what’s happening in the context of the larger picture. What is restricting your progress? How can you overcome, sidestep, or eliminate the problem? As you discover the first constraint, neutralize it. Do this in a methodical way for each element of the difficulty. Each successful encounter will engender others; each accomplishment exponentially builds on itself.

7. Know when to “fold ‘em.” Any good card player knows when to get rid of a bad hand and conserve resources for the next ante. Ask yourself how you would handle the situation if you hadn't already invested time and energy in it. Be prepared to abandon that which no longer serves you or your organization.

8. Remember that many eyes are upon you. Others are watching how you handle yourself in these difficult times. You are the barometer for how others in your organization will manage their own challenges. These are opportunities to model your beliefs in your behaviors. Your influence is always greater during hard times.

9. Practice constant communication. This is not the time for unpleasant surprises. Everyone who is impacted by the crisis deserves to know as much as you can reveal to them. Their own mastery of the situation will grow as they have more information and know the part they play. Keep others apprised of changes as they occur and ask for their continued assistance and input.

10. Think beyond the probable: invite the possibilities. Now is not the time to accept mediocre performance. There are solutions for every problem, and you can stimulate creative problem-solving by conducting brainstorming sessions with others. Get each idea, no matter how fanciful, on paper and define the problem by as many standards you can. Once clearly defined, a problem invites its own solution--you just have to take notes and capture the energy as you unleash the creativity of others. Once your problem has generated as many solutions as possible, you are on your way to achieving greater success than before.

© Deborah Avery, New York Executive Coaching 2008

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Growth is change.
Change can be uncomfortable.
Grow anyway.
Deborah Avery

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