We used to talk about the speed of change, but the last two years have been off the charts for many industries and organisations. The impact of the pandemic led to urgent setting up of whole new work systems and even whole new organisations in areas like health and mass reductions in other sectors like airlines. In the thick of all this are people who had to adapt at a pace not known probably since World War Two.
When I first meet with Kylee she was stressed and exhausted. In a week, Kylee had gone from leading a team of two financial analysts to leading five team leaders each with teams of six to seven team members. She had jumped into the deep end and was sinking fast. As I worked with Kylee as her leadership coach, she identified some immediate steps she could take to find her way back to the surface to take a breath. Within two weeks, while Kylee’s world was still chaotic, she felt more confident that she had enough of a grasp to keep swimming.
If you find yourself suddenly thrust into a bigger leadership in times of turmoil, try taking these four steps:
The key question to answer straight away is – what is the unique value of my new role..right now? This question will help you to focus amidst the noise and distractions. Your answer to this question will be a judgment based on what is in front of you. Focus on what only your role can contribute. If you are leading other leaders, then do that and don’t be tempted to do other people’s jobs for them.
What are the two or three things that must be delivered right now? Why are they important and who are they important to? In times of chaotic change, your efforts and the efforts of your team must go into the here and now. During the pandemic, for many businesses there was a real possibility that if they didn’t get the here and now right, there was no long term.
Who are the three people that you are accountable to for these deliverables? This is likely to mean that there will be people who think they are a priority and perhaps use to be a priority but aren’t in the current world. Where you can, explain that honestly and openly. But stay focused on your key relationships.
You can’t possibly succeed in this new bigger role relying on your own individual knowledge and skills. Quite simply: Ask for help. If you are used to being a technical expert contributor who is paid to know stuff, this can feel quite strange and vulnerable. Work out what you know. What you don’t know. Who does know and how can you get their help? A leader of leaders asking for help is empowering and engaging. Most people are keen to contribute.
Your way of being
The core of your success in surviving the jump in the chaotic deep end is not in the environment around you. It’s in you. It is what is going on for you in your own way of being. Managing yourself is at the heart of success. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, the mood you are in and what is going on in your body. Heightened panic and anxiety don’t produce high performance in leadership. Calm your body through slower breathing, making opportunities to move (even a two-minute stretch or a walk around the block!) and shift your mood by tapping into your curiosity and what you can learn from this experience.
In these times of chaotic change, you may well find yourself catapulted into leadership roles that you never thought you would be in. They can be huge and can feel overwhelming. You can’t control everything. But you can find your space of contribution and do your best in your area of focus.
If you are interested in getting coaching support through the transition to a bigger leadership role, contact me at optimalfuture.com.au.