I’ve enjoyed discussing and living out leadership principals with you this past year. As we head toward the new near, I think it is wise for us to think about the conditions that we’ll be doing business in next year. For example, do you expect to experience a severe decline or incline in sales, or do you expect to just maintain your current sales momentum? Will you experience change? Will you add new team members or reorganize? And based on those conditions, what expectations do you have for your team, and are they prepared for 2011?
And most importantly, as the leader, are you ready to lead to the conditions that 2011 will bring?
Leading to the conditions means using the leadership tactics that are needed most in a particular season. It’s the same thing coaches do when they have to adjust their game plan according to the game’s conditions. Should we speed up our play or slow down? Should we be in zone or man-to-man defense? A leader must coach and lead to the conditions of the game whether it’s on the court or in an organization.
For example, 1991, 2002, and 2010 were crucial recession recovery years. These conditions called for leaders to heighten specific leadership tactics. Here are a few that should be top of mind for leaders leading during tough recovery times.
• Casting Vision. You don’t want your teammates getting depressed about the current slump. Sharing and being passionate about your vision brings confidence and assurance to your team. When employees believe in your vision, they focus on the future and keep their eyes on the big picture. This allows everyone to see how his or her current activities connect to a better future.
• Communicating and Connecting. While I believe it’s always good to be close to your people, tough times require it more. Let’s face it: leading in good times is easy. Our team doesn’t need to borrow our belief or our courage. Leading through and out of poor conditions takes a different energy level from the leader. It requires more face time with your people so they can feel connected and secure with you leading the way. Leading during difficult times is not the time for the leader to be aloof and absent from the day-to-day.
• Giving Direction. Confident leaders can ease employees’ and customers’ anxiety by setting direction and having a strategy that supports both short-term stamina needs and long-term vision. Those of us who believe in serving and supporting others with a servant leadership style may feel awkward transitioning into directional leadership. You may feel that this “tell” mode is being bossy or not allowing teammates to explore unique methods of operation. But if expressed passionately and authentically, your directional style will not be a turn off. It will actually be welcomed and desired. During uncertain times, people want and are open to following the lead of someone who knows what to do and has a strategy on how to get there.
• Leading by Example. While leading by example seems very basic, it is vital during times of uncertainty. When you are asking more from your people, leading by example becomes crucial. Asking your team to increase their efforts but not increasing your own sends mixed messages. People will mirror their leader’s sense of urgency and they become aware of it by watching our actions more than listening to our words. Think motivational actions – not motivational speeches – during uncertain and difficult times.
So what conditions will 2011 bring for your leadership team? Have you thought about that yet? If your organization is still in recovery mode, many of the above conditions might still apply. If you haven’t thought about the conditions you’ll face in 2011, now is a good time. As we make efforts to adjust our business strategies for the coming year, we must also adjust our performance as leaders because we will need to lead to the conditions.
What are your conditions?