If you survived the pandemic, you know what uncertainty is.
One day you are working with a group in College Station, Texas then the next, the way you worked was redefined and transformed. You were suddenly in lockdown and if you were not able to pivot or be resourceful, everything in your life, not just your ability to earn a living was uncertain.
One thing was apparent as I worked with leaders through the pandemic if you were a business leader, it became increasingly important for leaders to connect with their teams in new and creative ways.
Organizations that put their people first were the ones that sustained and grew. When they put their culture first, it attracted the best talent and gave their associates certainty in an uncertain time.
I was sitting with three other new NSA members at the awards dinner at the NSA conference last week in Orlando. I was asked about leading through turmoil and my story during our discussion. I gave some insights about that day and how leaders continue to lead in uncertain times.
What I learned that day as the plane was down in the water and you had to take action is no one cared if you were white, black, gay, or straight. Everyone had a joint mission, and the answer to the question about how leaders lead in uncertain times starts with that.
I found the answer to that question lies in three essential leadership skills; having empathy, not being judgmental- embracing diversity, and staying agile.
When I heard my mother speak to me about “Do the Right Thing,” that was my impetus to climb over the seats to check in on the back of the plane. One thing about doing the right thing was to be empathetic to what others were going through. Not to get emotional, but as I wrote last week and learned early in life, first, ” stop the chaos.” If you empathize with others’ needs, you can build rapport quicker and impact the situation.
Second, I have found that effective leaders understand that there are a range of cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives in the team they are leading. When you understand this, when there is a problem or challenge, you get different solutions. That is the backbone of creativity and resourcefulness.
I first learned this when I was the assistant head of security for Tony Robbins. The team had leaders from different companies, backgrounds, cultures, and economic levels. When we had a challenging problem to solve, we were able to leverage these perspectives to come to a viable and low-risk solution.
One example was when we were at an event in London, and we had something happen in the audience that could have been very disruptive, I leaned on our UK team members for their cultural input, which was different than what our US perspective was. This resource allowed our team to resolve a challenging problem so Tony could continue serving without interruption.
Another example was when I looked back into the cabin after the plane was in the Hudson River, I noticed people jumping on top of their seats to get to the exits. Somebody’s resourcefulness led a group of passengers to an uneventful exit and ultimately contributed to the Miracle.
As we experienced during the pandemic, the people who grew were the ones who were not rigid. Instead, those people embraced flexibility, adaptability, and agility. Innovations such as zoom came to the forefront which allowed business to continue and connections to be maintained.
I learned during and since the pandemic that strong leaders embrace an agile mindset to alter their strategies as they embark on their plans. This builds resiliency, allowing you to respond to challenges and client problems quickly and effectively.
As I was participating in the Navy Seals Hudson River swim, embracing an agile mindset was critical to my success. Being agile helped my wingman, Suzanne, and I to change our strategy once we both got to the Statute of Liberty. We got separated during the first leg and both had to slug it out by ourselves. We quickly modified our strategy and instead of jumping off the 15 foot barge, we climbed down the ladder on the side which increased the distance of our swim but allowed us to stay together and have a successful and safe swim.
So as the dinner portion of the NSA Awards ceremony was coming to a close, I shared that one of the things I speak about and teach is how leaders lead in uncertain times, such as a plane crash or business disruption and give yourself the best opportunity for success is to
- be empathetic
- be less judgemental
- be agile
A pathway to create opportunity out of uncertainty is when uncertainty hits, you have to lead yourself before you lead anyone else. The person who had the most certainty in uncertain times becomes the leader.
Create your own flight plan by creating habits every day which gives you the “muscles” you need to step up and lead when. uncertainty arrives.