Leading During Chaotic Times

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Leadership in Times of Chaos The election is around the corner. Everyday there’s lots of media rant about the election and government being in “chaos” as a the polls diametrically oppose and shift up and down. As a trained, Old School Journalist, I can tell you that it is all smoke and mirrors. They are not reporting fact; they are attempting to form public opinion. And since they cannot
control reality, it appears chaotic every day. There’s a lot of exaggeration out there – after all, the media is about sensationalism, not fact. That’s what sells newspapers and media advertising. Like the election, there’s no question that many companies and nonprofit organizations experience times of chaos, and many times over the years, I’ve actually been asked to consult during these catastrophes about direction, branding and image. During those times, I’ve helped them navigate through their storms. So the question becomes, how should leaders react when the “fit hits the sham”? When everything breaks loose, what’s the best approach for righting the ship and getting the organization moving forward again? While each story involves careful crafting, complexity and time, here’s my suggestions from the start (and feel free to pass this along to our Republican and Democratic friends): 1) The best leaders understand the business. During times of crisis, everyone will step up with “advice,” and many of those ideas will be crazy. The best way to navigate the overwhelming tide of outside opinions and ideas is to know the business well. Know your team, and who’s the best in which roles. Know the organization’s structure and know how the business works. Industry, government, nonprofit, church – whatever, know it. Otherwise, you’ll be lost in the tidal wave of sincere but terrible suggestions. 2) Tilt toward action. Too many leaders freeze in a crisis, and because of the delay, those organizations rarely recover. In the early days of a crisis, tough decisions have to be made, and I just might prefer making a wrong decision than no decision at all. 3) Keep the vision in front of the team. Now more than ever, a powerful and compelling vision can inspire your team, customers, and donors. But you have to tell the story, tell it well, and tell it often. 4) Communicate. Communicate to the team, and to the outside world. No matter how bad things may be, never stop communicating. Find the influencers in the organization and let them help tell your story. Perceptions will be created from the information you share. As a result, know that you don’t have to share everything, but what you share needs to be the truth. 5) Get outside advice. Many company admins, nonprofits, and organizational leaders call me during a crisis, because they’re quietly looking for advice on how others have handled similar situations. And since I am a ghost, they can take credit for having solved the greater problem. You need a bigger picture, so don’t be afraid to reach out to board members, other leaders, and respected voices — even ghosts on the outside. The key is to vet your advisors, so you know they have the experience and know-how you need. Then, listen to them! 6) Finally, stay in control. Everyone is looking to you for confidence and encouragement, so don’t lose your cool, and don’t blow your stack. Keep your attitude in check – no matter how frustrated you may be. Don’t lecture people, don’t blow up, and don’t freak out. To a great extent, your attitude will determine the attitude of your team, so keep your head up. As always — To Your Success…

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