Difficult Times Arrive When You Least Expect Them...Be Ready!

Here are some of my thoughts on how to handle difficult times when they knock on your door.

Most of us will probably never go through anything as challenging again in our careers as we did with the events back on 9/11 /2001 and the months that followed.  At least, I hope not.  During a crisis not only do we have to be great leaders and set the example, we, at the same time, have to manage our own personal concerns and emotions     . . . as well as be there emotionally for other people in our personal lives. You will face many different kinds of difficult situations in your life. Prepare yourself mentally now so you are ready when they strike.

When crisis strikes, that is the time to remember everything you have learned over the years about leadership.  This is the time for you to stand tall and be a great leader.

We know that great leaders are flexible and are always evaluating the environment—ready to adjust to any circumstance at a moment’s notice.

This is not the time to believe there is only one way to do things . . . or that last week’s plan is good for this week.

This is a time when you have to move quickly and push aside your own personal opinions, preferences, and agendas for the good of the organization.

This is a time to share your leadership authority and work as a team to make the right decisions.

This is a time to implement and to implement quickly.  This is a time when you need to be a great leaders and a great follower.

This is a time to get employees input, and this is a time when you need to follow orders.  This requires delicate balance so that you get the right ideas on the table, and at the same time, get things executed quickly.  This is not the time to study things for weeks.

This is a time to take calculated risks.   When we all believe that we were heard and that our opinion counts, then we will all be on board.  Listen carefully to your employees. They know things that you do not know.  Do your best to explain why decisions were made.

Remind everyone often of your Vision and their Purpose and Role.  They are as important during tough times as they ever were, maybe more important.

This is the time to communicate with your fellow employees as much as you can . . . and this is the time to trust the organization when everything cannot be explained to you for various reasons.  This is the time to give your fellow employees reassurance and assistance.

This is the time to demonstrate a  passionate professional commitment to your responsibilities.  A few things for you to think about are:

  • Be an internal optimist about what YOU can do for the business.  Notice that YOU is capitalized.
  • Demonstrate personal ownership.  This means that you need to divulge anything you know that will help your situation for taking care of your customers, employees and the   business results. Don’t even think about not giving up all expenses that make sense.
  • Have a positive attitude.  This means don’t complain about decisions made unless YOU have an idea that is better.
  • Spend the right amount of time, in the right ways, on the job.  Clear your calendar, and be available.
  • Spend enough time on the job (earlier, later, day, night, third-shift, Saturday, Sunday).  Get around and touch everyone . . . and tell each employee how much you appreciate him or her.  Explain to them what is going on and how they can help.
  • Get people focused on the goals for customers, employees and the business.
  • Find ways to break the monotony (or the stress).  Create elements of surprise for your fellow employees and for your customers.  Lighten the workplace environment for people.  Humor and fun are powerful remedies for stress.
  • Spend time with customers and employees.
  • Be available for customers and employees, and let them know that YOU are available.  Let your fellow employees see you every day.
  • Do the right things for the right reasons.  Treat people as individuals.
  • Be crystal clear about your expectations during these stressful times.  Everyone appreciates clarity, discipline, and firm direction during these kinds of times.  Don’t be wishy-washy.
  • Share YOUR enthusiasm and pride in your organization with your team..

Leadership is much easier when everything is going smoothly.  Right now everything in the world is not going smoothly.  Great leadership can calm things down and smooth things out.  More than ever in your life this will be a defining moment for how YOU are remembered as a leader.

YOU can step up and be a great leader, or YOU can stand by and become consumed with all of the difficult events going on in the world.  We get much of our strength from one another and from our leaders.

The following quote was sent to me last by one of the most important people in my life.  It pretty much says what we all need to do . . . in 18 words: “Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them.”   . . . Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik-7, an artificial heart.

And another quote from a great leader: “I function better when things are going badly than when they’re as smooth as whipped cream.”   . . . Walt Disney

As I have said before, “Your career will end. Your reputation will not….Lee

  1. Lee, it seems to me that leadership and problems can be likened to being an orchestra conductor – at first, everyone is learning the music and things are a bit disastrous and out of tune. You – as the conductor need to know how everything should sound – and work to encourage and guide your musicians to a beautiful ending. Eventually, everyone will be in key with each other and the results are magnificent! It’s amazing what a little understanding can do! We teach our Boy Scouts a simple way to become leaders – the EDGE method. It stands for Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and Enable. Explain things as to how or why things are done, Demonstrate the steps and lead by example, Guide learners (or co-workers!) as they put new skills into practice, and these steps will Enable them to go on and do things on their own and help them teach others..It is a bit tricky at first, but – in a crisis – things can get flowing a bit smoother.

  2. Lee…
    Thinking about this, I draw pretty much a direct parallel to 09/11/2001 at the time, I worked at Lockheed Martin, is a support systems developer. We were a rag-tag bunch, of what could be classified as “Geeks” (no offense intended to my former co workers, but they all know deep down it is true) Monday of that week, was a slow day, I had some time to write to some friends from high school to ask about the upcoming reunion. We all wondered if our division would be disbanded, as work was slow.

    Today I work outside of the defense industry, and am amazed at the artificial crisis that come up on an almost daily basis, and until very recently management (which differs from leadership) had lost all perspective. Today there are many I positions of authority, whom is they don’t have the idyllic toolset, will give up on a problem. Or will wait to solve it until the correct tools are appropriated.

    But the group at Lockheed, was different, the events of that Tuesday took us completely by surprise, suddenly we were all thrust to the forefront, and all we had built needed to perform flawlessly! But as often happens in the real world, there were issues, but the thing is this, when under the gun, I never saw a group of people, pull it together so quickly, and use, not the ideal resources, but the resources at hand, to resolve issues and bring about the best outcome possible.

    To this day I am proud of have been a member of that team, and still in awe of the spirit of my co workers, a spirit of determination that never quit.

  3. When we are consumed with difficulties we never see the solutions. We have to be the steady leaders that help focus all others on solutions and helping others proceed toward the solutions.

    It’s interesting you bring this back up now as we are going through a difficult time in our business but in the context of 9/11 our current difficulties seem to only be a distraction.

    Thanks for reminding us.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *