Anybody can be a leader during the easy times. When a crisis occurs, though, true leaders rise to the challenge of facing uncertainty in their business. And adapting to change in a business can be tough — particularly for those at the top of the ladder.
Let’s face it: Entrepreneurs’ success hinges on how well they can map out their fates. At the moment, however, many are adrift without surefire ways to steer toward calmer waters. As the owner of several businesses, I can relate to their stressors. Yet after decades of guiding others, I’m not afraid. In fact, I want to be on the front lines assisting those who need it: The many tried-and-true lessons I’ve learned as a business leader can certainly help others weather this storm.
I believe this blip in time is God’s way of allowing leaders to experience and overcome difficulty so we’re better equipped to help, coach, and teach in the future. Leading during a pandemic is a chance to sharpen our perspectives, alleviate others’ anxiety, and show unparalleled adaptability. But none of us can live up to our potential or learn how to adapt to changes in business if we insist on total control.
Overcoming Fear of Failure in Your Business Endeavors
How do you let go of the desire to take ownership of everything? Acceptance. Oh, and the acknowledgment that, sometimes, you can’t do anything to change a situation. As theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer reads, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” That prayer gives me strength and optimism, especially when I have trouble letting go.
If you’re battling against the loss of control, reflect upon the serenity prayer. The longer you try to dominate events outside your sphere of influence, the more pressure you put on your body and mind. Don’t get me wrong: Humans are designed to rebound from some pretty tough experiences. Nevertheless, we’re hardwired to recover from limited fight-or-flight responses. We can’t recover as easily from a constant barrage of adrenaline that leaves us jumpy, reactive, and mentally foggy.
So what’s the answer to stepping up your leadership game, showing fear the door, adapting to change in business? Try engaging in the following practices. They’ll refocus your intentions and calm your mind so you can be thoughtful and calm instead of impulsive and fearful.
1. Clarify your team’s mission. Your employees crave direction because they’re also experiencing a loss of control. Spend time designing a simple one-page mission statement that clarifies your most important goals over the coming weeks. For instance, you might want to put a push on retaining a high percentage of customers rather than seeking new ones. Or you might want to spend a month or two revamping your protocols to fit the so-called “new norm.”
Once crafted, your mission will serve as a road map for those underneath you, so be sure to give your team leaders carte blanche to fulfill that mission in whichever ways they see fit. Giving your employees a sense of control within specific parameters should reduce their general anxiety and will likely promote creative solutions.
2. Revamp your workplace protocols. I’m a huge fan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines, and that’s why I do my very best to social distance, carry hand sanitizer, and keep a mask with me. My objective is to set up workplaces that are truly safe zones, where people can comfortably do their best work. Even if that means staggering when employees start and end their days or purchasing mountains of disinfectant wipes, gloves, and updated touchless trash cans, I’m on board.
Be patient as you navigate this process — and be ready to go back to the drawing board when things change. For now, make sure that all work stations are spread apart at least six feet. Putting up Plexiglas or fabric barriers between desks might also be a possibility. And of course, encourage everyone to disinfect both their hands and surfaces and wear face masks without fail.
3. Give people choices. One great way to return control to people is by offering them a choice. It drives me crazy to see how many people in our society insist, “I’m going to make decisions for you.” Everyone has the right to make their own decisions — including your employees.
Case in point: I have a courier on the payroll, and she wanted to stay home because of pandemic concerns. Instead of trying to talk her out of her fears, I acknowledged them. And I continued to pay her. What she is experiencing is important for her, and I value and honor her choices.
4. Become a constant communicator. At this moment, you can’t communicate too much. The less you say, the more your people will fill in the gaps — often with catastrophic consequences. Reduce their need to guess about your intentions by being present and transparent.
For example, continue your regular cadence of meetings, whether they’re in person or via Zoom. Check in with your folks and make those touchpoints count. Ask questions about people’s well-being, and follow up with those who are having a tough time. They’ll be better off, and so will you.
Understanding how to effectively adapt to changes in the business environment isn’t always straightforward — and this is especially true in times of crisis. However, letting go of your need to control every aspect of a situation will help you concentrate on becoming a stronger leader ready to push ahead with pragmatism, positivity, and poise.