There are moments of crisis in every group, in every team, in every company.
And if you lead, you ought to try and turn the crisis into an opportunity to strengthen the bonds.
Confirm with your people what the purpose is. The vision, the long-term game, the utopia you are heading towards despite the temporary setback.
And then agree on what the tactics are, what you are going to do today that’s going to take you all closer to the purpose.
The two parts go hand in hand, and that’s where most leaders fail. They either move from one tactic to the next, in the hope to find a purpose. Or they use tactics that are taking them away from the purpose, with the excuse of trying to address the crisis (“we will do what is right once the crisis is over” is not a very effective narrative).
When purpose and tactics are aligned, here are three important questions to answer to keep everyone informed and cared for as you get to it.
What if you are not it?
What if you are not the best choice for that role you so much want?
What if you are not the outstanding writer you have worked so hard to become?
What if you are not the father of the year?
What if you are not the person that will lead the company out of the crisis?
What if you are not the one who has a solution for every problem?
We rarely plan for failure, but at some point, we ought to consider the possibility that we are simply not it. Perhaps, we are not the main character, after all. What happens when we realize that?
There are still a lot of things we can be. We can be the guide, the supporting role, the cameo, or the director. We can still play a part and also decide that, after all, it is not the movie we want to be part of.
A narrow approach will limit our peripheral view.
And there’s so much more out there that’s waiting to be appreciated.
Company principles and values should be literal and absolute.
Saying that you care about people is a powerful statement. If you then put that in practice only when people do what you want, not so much anymore.
Saying that you foster collaboration and learning is a powerful statement. If you then do that only after everyone has achieved their own personal goals, not so much anymore.
Saying that you pursue innovation at all costs is a powerful statement. If you then keep quiet every time someone makes a mistake, not so much anymore.
Companies add fine prints to culture statements all the time. Employees figure that out in no time, and they get disengaged.
Start from how things work, from what is actually happening, from reality, and work your way up.
It’s the only way to build an effective culture.
In any role, there are three sources of motivation.
First is what the company you work for values. This is not about the principles you read on the website, but what happens at the company at certain critical times. Is it an environment where people generally care about each other? Is there a lot of control, processes, red tape? What happens when somebody disagrees or fails? Who gets promoted?
Second is the relationships you have. Both with your peers and with your managers. When the first source fails, this becomes incredibly powerful. How often do you hear from them? Do you know them on a personal level? Do you have supporting people around you, and do you have people you feel like giving your support to? What happens when somebody leaves?
Third is the work you do. When the first two fail, this is all you have left. How do you feel about the tasks you are being assigned? Are you proud of what you do? Are you learning something new? Would you do this somewhere else? Can you?
The most important question: where do you get your motivation from right now?
You need to be able to keep success and self-worth separated.
For two reasons.
First, because success is the outcome of many inputs, most of which out of our control. Luck, for example, plays a huge role. Others do as well, whether we recognize their contribution or not.
Secondly, because we need to be ready to maintain the same distance when success turns into failure. We are not worst human beings (or writers, fathers, marketers) merely because we are failing.
Understanding that success is not a reflection of how good we are keeps us grounded and maintains our horizon wide open. Ready to appreciate the complexity of things and continue learn from it.
Free of hubris.