Leadership in Turbulent Times: 9 Ways to Embrace Change

as a leader embrace change

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” – Peter Drucker

Do you feel like you’re just treading water right now, trying to keep your team afloat? To lead through challenging times, you must embrace change. Never forget that disruption gives you an opportunity to rise to the top of your field.

My executive coaching clients have been going through the same thing as the COVID-19 crisis brings dramatic changes to workplaces everywhere. No one has all the answers to how to navigate this new situation, I assure them. We’re all working to create solutions step by step. Fortunately, all of the best minds are hard at work on that task, and we’re bound to create novel solutions together.

On a daily basis, I’ve been talking through solutions with the leaders I work with so they can maintain high morale despite the extreme disruption that’s been occurring. Fortunately, many key leadership principles that apply in any crisis are incredibly valuable here. Read on for nine key ways to steer your company to success amidst the great changes in progress.

1. Spend time reflecting.

Don’t react to change instantaneously. Rather, give yourself time and space to think deeply about how to handle the evolving situation. Reflect on what your employees need most in this moment, and what has the greatest importance to you in your life and work. Think about questions like these during a designated block of time once each week. Friday afternoon is a great time to reflect on the events of the past week and how to move into the coming week. This will help you define your key priorities and create exciting new ideas. Make reflection one of your top priorities, so you can navigate the changes wisely and with consideration for everyone involved. Your reflection time will allow you to think creatively, rather than staying in a state of constant fear and reactiveness.

2. Lead team brainstorming meetings.

Fire up your outside-of-the-box thinking by convening a meeting of the minds. Call your team together for a group brainstorming session, asking them all to chime in with ideas for dealing with a specific problem. Some people will bring more valuable input if you let them know the topic of the meeting in advance. Set a strict time limit, which boosts excitement, and encourage people to voice any ideas that arise rather than second-guessing themselves. With a tool like Slack, you can continue the brainstorming exercise after the session is disbanded—good ideas might keep arising after the meeting concludes.

3. Prompt others to give feedback.

Routinely ask your team for feedback on how you and your organization are managing the changes. Listen to their input and integrate it into your practices. Ask for feedback both on how you’re supporting them and on how the organization is coping with the change overall. You can also stay in tune with how they’re feeling by soliciting anonymous feedback. A virtual suggestion box or survey is a great option. By asking for feedback regularly, you’ll be able to better track your performance over time.

4. Take strategic risks.

To navigate change successfully, you need to step outside of your comfort zone. Tell inspirational stories about how others have achieved what seemed impossible by believing in themselves and pushing their limits. Hearing about the past successes of others—whether in the business field or a completely different realm—will bolster morale and make them feel excited about taking calculated risks.

5. Think about the big picture.

Cultivate an in-depth concept of how the current ambiguity affects each function in your organization. Think about your company’s vision and mission through the lens of what’s happening in the world now. Consider the most viable strategic direction to pursue, and which decisions will align best with your vision and mission. How can you bring your organization closer to fulfilling them, in light of the current context? Create a vision of how you can keep striving to achieve your big-picture goals while working with the changes at play.

6. Work with influencers.

Get the key influencers in your organization on board with your idea before you announce it to the group. That way, they’ll be poised to help you promote it to the people they work with most directly. They might also have valuable input that will help you fine-tune the plan—and getting their feedback will help them feel more invested in your ideas.

7. Assign action steps.

Give each individual an action step to take that will bring the group closer to the solution you’re striving toward. Let them know you need their help, acknowledging the specific skills they bring to the table. Ask managers to delegate responsibilities if appropriate, or ask for volunteers for particular duties. Everyone will then feel a sense of empowerment, and your team will launch into immediate action.

8. Nurture your rising leaders.

You may notice new leaders revealing themselves amid crisis. Help them grow their abilities by praising their efforts and giving them pointers. Some may not even realize they’re leading others until you let them know they’re doing so. Work to mentor your new leaders, pairing them with advisors, resources, and feedback that will further their growth.

9. Stay connected as a group.

Especially when working remotely, it’s easy to start feeling disconnected. Maintain a sense of unity by calling everyone together once a week to share your progress as a group. You can use a platform like Zoom for this purpose when you can’t be in the same physical space together. Keep a positive tone by emphasizing your wins and sharing success stories. Humorous anecdotes can go a long way toward inspiring comradery, too. Remind your team of what you’ve accomplished together in the past, and the hurdles you overcame along the way.

Celebrate every stepping-stone toward success, even the small ones. By raising morale, you’ll keep your team fully engaged and driving toward solutions. Be sure to praise those whose work has made a major impact, too.

With these strategies, you’ll keep your team solutions-focused and unified. Your team’s morale will continue to rise as they observe their progress, and you just might find lasting solutions that place you ahead of the competition!

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