It is difficult to be human, and even more difficult to lead other humans. The world is full of unknowns as geopolitical tensions increase, worldwide pandemics wreak havoc on economies and companies are forced to adapt to a world transitioning at lightning speed. Being shortsighted almost comes with the territory—people, even political and business leaders, begin to think small when the world seems so intimidating and big. It takes courage to anticipate the future, to take necessary action and to adeptly navigate constantly changing circumstances.
There are some key tactics to help navigate challenges, despite numerous unknowns. Julie Benezet outlined a few mental reboots in Chief Executive.
Your priority is to lead your people into the future, and not to stay stuck in the present.
Business as usual should not be your focus. Rather, your focus should be business as it could be: creating new opportunities in all aspects of organizational life.
“Seek and embrace ways to make life better for your employees, your customers and the communities you are engaged in,” she wrote. “Learn what your stakeholders really need, and then come up with new, viable and effective ways to meet those needs.”
George Scorsis, a Canadian executive, adopted a forward focused approach early on, something he said was necessary for working in highly regulated industries. From energy drinks and alcoholic beverages and now to medical marijuana, he has found that leading in these industries requires a high level of resilience and more transparent interactions with staff and stakeholders.
“Any area of business demands that we evolve quickly and at higher levels. Really, you cannot be derailed from your end goal if you want to find success for your company and for yourself. You just have to regroup with your team, get creative and continue,” Scorsis said.
Embrace fear of the unknown
Flip the script in your thinking and begin viewing challenging issues as assets and not as liabilities. Adopt a champion mindset.
“The world has never been more ambiguous, scary and full of opportunities than it is today,” Benezet wrote. Take risks, become highly adaptable, leverage challenges and opportunities and rejoice successes.
What purpose pushes your people past discomfort and to find results from new ideas?
It will be a boon to your efforts if you can define that, particularly since the path to success is wrought with discomfort. New ideas mean embracing unknown outcomes, including a fundamental understanding that they may not work.
“Allow yourself to be guided by a strong sense of purpose, a good sense of humor and a healthy dose of humility,” Benezet wrote. Discover and embrace the ideals that make your team tick and then turn these ideals into the fortitude necessary to face challenges and make things happen.
“Long hours, including late nights and painfully early mornings can weigh heavily on a team’s morale. It really is essential in those challenging times,when you are trying to keep everyone motivated, to be able to say, ‘Okay, this is not fun right now, but imagine the outcome; imagine what this success will mean for our company and for the entire industry,’” explained Scorsis.
Accept failure as a pathway to success
Learn the lessons, especially the difficult ones. Experiment with new systems, approaches, technologies and ideas, according to Benezet. Failures should be embraced and celebrated, particularly when they are incredibly high risk and high potential.
“Congratulate and thank your people for their efforts and bravery,” she wrote.
Bumps should not be roadblocks, but rather an opportunity to revise and improve.
Realize that humans are messy
Help staff overcome and face challenges.
“People come with their own set of requirements. Everyone is unique,” she wrote. “There is no manual that guides in all circumstances. There is no way to predict what each person will do in any situation.”
Rise to every challenge and find the courage to connect with others. Humble yourself in a way that allows you to experience and understand them on their terms. Be willing to ask many questions to learn what your people see and seek. Resist being close-minded. Let others lead the conversation to surface the answers needed to create the best plan of action.
Be open to new understanding and be critical of your own knowledge. Know that the right information can be hard to attain
Connect with new ideas and the people who can help make change happen. Cultivate a free flow of education that is uncluttered by prejudices or fears. Explore who you are and learn from that.
“Separate and let go of the past so you can identify and act on what is relevant to the future,” she wrote.
Know when to move forward, even when you do not know everything
It is impossible to know everything there is to know. The world is full of quick successions of changes, every second of every day. Facts, people, situations, and opportunities are in a constant state of flux. Are decisions worth the risks involved, the unknown variables? Ask your team for a kind of roundtable discussion style of risk assessment. Figure out how to mitigate risk.
“Decide to make the decision when you feel that the value of going forward is greater than not going forward,” she wrote.
George Scorsis keenly agrees with this point. There comes a time when the scale tips and inaction can prove way more detrimental than action that later requires mitigation.
“Embrace the uncertainties of life and business,” he said. “The path forward is forged by people who have the guts to embrace the unknown while tempering those decisions with strong teams bolstered by as much logic and data as possible.”