In Fareed Zakaria’s book, The Post American World, Fareed discusses leadership lessons in challenging times. With Zakaria’s book and insights as a foundation, here’s our thinking on areas that are key to leadership success in today’s workplace.
Set priorities and make clear choices. You cannot be everything to everyone. Remember — if everything’s a priority — you don’t have any priorities!
Don’t tell people how to do tasks, but give them clarity on what they need to achieve. Clarify goals, set clear expectations, and always find time to “celebrate” success!
Take time to build the relationships you’ll need to achieve your goals. Make time to get to know people, exchange ideas, and develop creative approaches for working together. Remember — not everyone’s the same, so it’s okay to vary you’re style and approach.
People have differing needs, goals, strengths, and ways to add value. Take all of this into account when working with others and remember — because not everyone’s the same, it’s okay to vary you’re style and approach — just make sure you always remain authentic!
Conflicts in organizations are inevitable and not always bad. In fact conflict can often be the event that opens the door to creative solutions. Expect them and plan for them. And, when they occur, consider your own hot buttons and be prepared to self-regulate. Don’t allow others “set you off” needlessly.
With “position” comes power. But leaders who people truly want to follow develop their power and influence by being trustworthy, listening, communicating openly and consistently, and interacting with integrity. So find the best in you and let that be you!
More about challenges at work:
Today, workplace challenges abound and leaders are on the front line when it comes to dealing with them. Here’s one that’s common.
What should a leader do when presented with a challenge, has little to no expertise related to it, and is required to address it?
This is a universal challenge in business today. Global trends, changes in strategies little understood, or fast moving business issues happen and leaders at every level are expected to understand what is happening — often with little guidance — and take action to address it.
Here’s an example along with a few strategies you can use.
A major merger is happening combining your company with another. The new organization hopes to become more efficient and also create new products and services for the combined customer base. In the time scheduled for the merger to occur, overlapping and “redundant” personnel will be evaluated (in a way to be determined but never made clear) and the organization streamlined. Products and services will also be evaluated and a determination made as to what products and services will be kept in the new but differently named entity.
So — what’s a leader to do?
A typical leader is both worried for her own job and scared for her staff. This is absolutely natural, appropriate, and needs to be acknowledged. That said, rather quickly and likely before the leader (much less the staff) is ready, analysis and change start to happen. Productivity analysis, employee evaluations, discussions on how to make the organization more nimble — all happening with little knowledge, often poor communication, and lack of clarity about where the organization is going and when and how all of this will unfold.
- Don’t panic. As the leader, people are watching and taking cues from you, your attitude and your approach. This is the time to be self-ware and to self-regulate! Model calmness and maturity — a tall order but necessary. You can scream, vent, and cry but only at home, in private, and in settings that will help — in hinder — you — certainly not at work!
- Decide quickly your own personal plan for survival. Use the opportunity to learn more about your industry, figure out what works and what does not in this transition and be part of the solution not the disintegration. Make certain your personal plan includes learning and then either leveraging that knowledge in this newly forming organization — or in another. Take it upon yourself to figure out the forces that created that change. Get out on the web and do some homework and read/reflect on the issues. Don’t ever expect someone to do this for you — everyone is dealing with their own issues.
- Know things won’t go smoothly. Anticipate that wins and losses happen — and at times the transformation can be “ugly.” Like a divorce, or a remarriage in one’s personal life, time is on your side if you are respectful of others, Don’t get drawn into counter-productive warfare. Rather, seek to see and be part of what is new while respecting and honoring all that was good in the past. Personal and organizational transformations are often messy, difficult, and sometimes appear hopeless but with dedication and vision, often result in something better. Commit to being part of that effort and work collaboratively to move things in the right direction. Don’t make the change a battle, but rather an evolution to a better organization. Inevitably some will want to stay and be part of what’s new — others will not. Know that’s OK too.
- Try to be as objective as possible. Know that this is at some level impossible. All people see the world through their unique lens. But in these types of trying situations efforts to be open, fair, inclusive, and positive are essential. Remember too you need to balance needs — those related to the organization, you, your team, and even customers. It is complex but like most things in life, best done carefully with knowledge that if something does not work, often it can and will be changed.
- Accept that you are on a journey and pushing things too quickly or expecting everyone to be on board may backfire. As a leader be aware that various people will be leaving, staying, strongly in favor or strongly against various decisions. Again, practice breathing (really) and accept that the journey to the new organization will take time, effort, patience, include some uncomfortable change, and require resilience. This is an enormous test of your ability to lead. Accept it and use it wisely!