We're living and doing business in some volatile times. From the incessant onslaught of "breaking" news lurking around every digital corner to heated political discourse on social media outlets, some days it's a wonder that any business gets done at all. But business must get done—our lives and livelihoods depend on it. That means leaders have to figure out how to lead in this age of uncertainty.
It's a tall order: uniting teams behind a singular vision, especially when each team member wakes up to their own hopes, dreams and fears each day. But leaders can transcend the noise—or at least fine-tune it—to drive success on both an individual and company level.
Let's explore how to lead through a tide of varying social sentiments.
Carey Lohrenz, the U.S. military's first female F-14 Tomcat pilot and author of Fearless Leadership: High Performance Lessons from the Flight Deck, knows a thing or two about focus in chaotic environments.
—Carey Lohrenz, author
"An aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous industrial worksites in the world," says Lohrenz. "A moment's inattention or distraction—a simple breakdown in teamwork—could mean catastrophe."
Her number one piece of advice for leaders curious how to lead their teams in tumultuous times is a renewed commitment to focus.
"As we say in fighter aviation," says Lohrenz, “If you lose sight, you lose the fight."
"There is an enormous amount of competition vying for your team's attention," she continues. "In order to remain relevant, you need to cut through the noise to gain and hold your teammates' attention. Focus on what matters. Diluted focus equals diluted power."
So, how do you hit the refresh button on focus? Find ways to remind your team of their purpose and how critical each person is to the company's mission and goals.
"When your team lacks clarity on your organization's mission, they will never see themselves as part of the solution," says Lohrenz.
Flip the Script
Angel Gambino, founder and CEO of AI-powered social media management tool Sensai, knows the stress that social media can place on people and businesses first-hand. Whereas the constant noise and potential distraction throughout social media can amp-up workplace stresses, Gambino thinks companies can flip the script when it comes to how to lead effectively in a stressful space.
“Traditionally, we may think of the workplace as stressful and home as a place to relax and be 'real,'" says Gambino.
"Now the workplace can become an unlikely refuge where employees can bond over creating new opportunities and solutions to competitive threats. The office can become the place we escape to rather than from."
How do you do that when workplace stresses are one of life's most prominent stressors? Gambino's an advocate of cultivating a culture of learning through fun and play.
"At my company, we play team-based trivia games that ask fun questions to encourage more effective communication between teammates who work in different areas of the business," says Gambino. "These kinds of activities may seem superficial, but if employees see the workplace as an unlikely refuge where they can connect with others and enjoy themselves, then the office becomes a place they escape to rather than from."
Building on Lorenz's advice to hone focus, Gambino's thoughts on using the workplace as a refuge during turbulent times can also help leaders build cohesive teams.
Eyes on the Prize
But here's a question for you: how do you lead with focus and create a workplace refuge when your very industry is at the core of a heated national discussion?
Theresa Hush, CEO of Roji Health Intelligence, sees relief as a promise on the horizon as opposed to a task to check-off on today or tomorrow's calendar.
“When the news is chaotic—and we in healthcare have been at the heart of the chaos—my antidote is to help our team members keep their sights on long-term versus short-term trends," says Hush.
"This means giving our teams the opportunity to participate in developing services and products that center on value," she continues. "For us, that value is consumer access to high-quality, affordable healthcare."
It's not glamorous or exciting to tell your teams that the best is yet to come—especially when "yet" seems further away than ever. However, an idea for how to lead in uncertain times might be to shift in focus from short-term rewards to long-term goals, giving your team the inspiration they need to keep building, innovating and creating despite obstacles.
What's Certain in Uncertain Times
While the current social media climate might be unlike anything we've previously seen, real people with real experiences, identities and concerns are your company's most important concern. From the team members who carry your mission from concept to consumer to the customers who gladly accept the relief you provide—each person is essential to your company's ability to succeed.
Without individuals, we lack the strength of teams. We miss the diversity of ideas. Companies can suffer. Customers may go elsewhere. Cohesive teams help make companies stronger and their offerings enduring.
While the world beyond the office walls might present unprecedented challenges, it's inside your walls where you can thrive, regardless of social turbulence.
The three principles above can help you lead your company through the roughest of social climates and show the individuals that you so depend on for success that they have value and import.
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