7 Secrets to Leading Through Turbulence
I chartered a sailboat for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It was clear, sunny, and we could see the shores of St. Croix, when the captain invited me to “take the helm.”
Even a former farm boy can steer the boat in calm waters. I felt more important than I was. But…
Leaders matter most during storms.
Turbulent times and threatening circumstances call for skillful leadership. People depend on you. Challenging times make or break you and those around you. Rise up.
Your response impacts their response.
7 Surprising secrets to sailing in rough seas:
- Give power don’t take it. Tough times paralyze powerless people. Stifle your inner control freak!
- People feel most powerful when they feel in control. I still remember the feeling of holding the helm. I wasn’t doing much but I felt in control. Focus on controllable behaviors not uncontrollable circumstances.
- Ramp up compassion; tone down harshness. Embrace the tension between tender and tough. You tip toward one or the others. Cling to both. Exceptional leaders call for excellence in compassionate ways, for example.
- Deal quickly and decisively with lollygaggers. Do it for the good of the team. They anchor everyone. Give ultimatums to half-hearted foot-draggers. “You have one week to get on board or I’m throwing you over the side.” Crews cheer when sluggards walk the plank.
- Respond to hand wringing naysayers by asking, “What can we do?”
- Say everything you can say. Information is power. The more information you give the more powerful they feel.
- Create predictability when times are unpredictable. Establish rituals. Schedule a Wednesday morning meeting to track progress, adapt plans, and create wins.
Bonus: Stand on deck more than ever. Be seen: walk around more, touch base more, stop in more.
Added resource: “10 Ways to Navigate Turbulence.”
What does leading successfully in turbulence look like to you?
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It is true the turbulent times test people. Those who are powerless get paralyzed but those who are powerful make effort to surmount the turbulent time. I think being powerful and powerless in the matter of belief. This belief directs behavior. I agree with you that we should focus on behaviour and not circumstances. We control behaviour, but we can not control circumstances. I have seen many people get too much worried about future when they face with the turbulent. They live in the past and think for the future. Living in the past means, they recall their comfortable and good period of the past and worried about the uncertainty of future keeping present turbulent in mind. They do not work to overcome such turbulent. They also do not understand the natural trend,that nothing is permanent. So, I think, that is the difference between powerful and powerless. It is all about mindsets. Powerful work to overcome circumstances, and powerless worry against the circumstances and see it as great obstacle.
Leading successfully in turbulent time take a great sense of understanding the time, our own potential and effort to make future better than present. This is possible through great self belief, perseverance, will power and sincere effort.
Great comments, Ajay!
I agree that the mindset of a leader in turbulent times is really important. In some cases, learning these behaviors – keeping calm, focusing on solutions, encouraging/supporting the team – is very useful in keeping afloat, even when your instinct is to freak out and blame everyone else. If you are fortunate to have a good mentor, then watching and learning from them in tough times is invaluable.
Thank you for appreciation.
You are right that it is fortunate to get mentor during turbulent time, If you get, you are really lucky.
Love the addition of mentoring to this conversation. Thank you, Michael.
Thank you Ajay.
“Nothing is permanent” … 🙂
Bravo…and my personal one… be willing to allow those who don’t weather storms well to own that…and be kind but firm if weathering storms consistently well is required. We all cannot be everything and yet there are some things within teams that are non negotiable.
The more we defined who and what we are not, the more at peace we can become. I am not many things but I am learning to own them and accentuate, empower and enjoy living as who I am.
Thanks for another thoughtful morning opener!
Thank you Sweetie,
The more we align with who we are the more peace we have. Good one.
Great post Dan!
Sometimes I just cross my fingers and hope the preparation shown, taught, whatever works!!! Hoping so today busy busy busy!!!
Uho here we go !!!!
Thanks Dan have a good one.
Good post, as always Dan-
This reminds me a bit of Daviel Pink’s TED lecture about what truly motivated people. Storm or no, people must feel that they matter.
That is why your first point is the most valuable, I think. Leaders must give power, appropriately, and never appropriate it for themselves. This helps everyone rise to the challenge of getting the team through the storm.
Well said Martina!!!
Ain’t mattering GRAND!!
Thank you Martina.
Love Pink’s work! Glad you mentioned it.
Excellent advice, Dan. Having led a team through difficult times on many occasions including periods of strikes and unrest, I can really rate to most of your guidance points. One other thing I added was to ban all complaints from my team. A couple of jaws hit the floor, but before they could break the new rule, I added that all constructive suggestions for improvement were welcome and that if we all embraced them as a team the way other teams sometimes embraced the art of complaining, I was confident we would prevail! We did and many of those that perservered have gone on to do great things both in their careers and personal lives.
Thank you Paul.
I’ve been reluctant to ban complaints because people may need to vent. But, love your invitation to give constructive suggestions. Perhaps that answers my concern.
Great addition to the conversation. Thanks for your insights.
In time of turbulent, instead of worry of the uncertainty, channel team energy to focus on action plans and next steps. It is key to provide transparent communication and get the team prepared of the forth comings. Emphathy and sincerity goes along way to get the team on board quickly.
Thank you Christian.
Nicely said. 🙂
“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were made for.” Not sure who said that. I often find those words relevant.
Thank you Eric.
Who ever said it, it raises my heart rate.
It’s attributed to the Shedd family, looks like the original came from William Greenough Thayer Shedd… 😉
While it is important for leaders to have dual vision…seeing what is and what can be, during turbulent times, narrow the focus to here and now and model leadership by doing. By being there 100%. Probably aligned with Dan’s #2, manage/control what is within your scope and grasp.
And in extremely turbulent times, Dan’s #6-communicate is essential and even though you know you may have repeated yourself 5 or 6 times, do not assume it gets heard those first 5-6 times. In stressful times, there is tunnel vision and tunnel hearing.
How you repeatedly communicate all that you can is important too, perhaps fits with #3. Tapping into all of the inner calm you may still have is key when interacting. And even if you are on max overload with stress, as a leader, you cannot dump your stress on others.
Thank you Doc.
I hear the voice of experience! Always a pleasure.
“Stifle your inner control freak” is leadership/management gold! The insecure leader believes the ship can’t operate without him. In fact, the ship operates DESPITE his controlling attitudes and behaviors. Organizations cannot flourish under the thumb of a control-freak leader.
Ooooo… you’re kicking it today. “Despite” has some bite.
To me, it looks like someone who can sit down and communicate. Maybe this goes hand in hand with your fifth point, but I find that there are tons of people out there who simply don’t understand interpersonal communication.
Sure, they can do it in a speech, for a group, or whatever, but interpersonal skills they seem to neglect. I don’t think you can lead through turbulence without understanding the importance of the individual.
Thank you Vincent.
Love that you are focusing on one-on-one contact. That can be both comforting and energizing.
Another great post Dan thank you.
Great analogy of leadership vs skippering a boat.
I particularly like Point 5, it reminds me of a Theodore Roosevelt quote “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”.
Point 7 is also very important in my book. Create a “war room” (or, to continue the sailing theme – a bridge) from where you can navigate and measure your progress back to calmer waters.
Reblogged this on OUR LIFE IN 3D and commented:
We are facing some tough times and hard decisions that need to be made quickly as we try to sell our house.Its been daunting for both my wife and I at times. New things to fix, sign this (these!), how to qualify, when can we move, where best to allocate our funds, mortgage payments we can afford, when do we have to be out, the list goes on. Similar to this latest post by the Leadership Freak, its time to hang on during turbulent times; time to sink or swim, and sail through this turbulence…
Your 3 secret – Ramp up Commpassion; I believe to be the true secret to success during turbulance. Great Blog! Thanks for sharing.
These are really tough positions for many leaders to take….especially #4. Toughest for those who have never gone there, and (dare I say) easier the more times one has been this bold.