All organizations go through tough times now and then. Budgets fall short. Leaders leave, sometimes abruptly. A new project or initiative is a flop. These are all normal aspects of working reality and leadership.
When faced with a tough time, it’s easy to go to your bad place, whatever that place is. Maybe you are short with people. Maybe you swoop in and start micro-managing. Maybe you go radio silent.
The next time you are faced with a challenge as a leader, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Make hard decisions quickly. Dragging things out hurts individuals, but more importantly, staff morale, which is not something that can be quickly fixed. If you are planning a layoff, a termination, or a strategy shift, be clear about timelines, process, and decision points. And stick to them. This doesn’t mean you should rush a decision, but don’t drag it out either.
Know your blind spots. Your blind spot is especially a nuisance during times of stress. Some leaders don’t think big enough. Others think too big and steer organizations off course. Some leaders focus solely on logic while others focus on solely on people’s feelings. Some avoid conflict while others face it head one. Everyone has a blind spot. If you don’t know what yours is, it’s already running your organization.
Think before pointing fingers. It’s easy to find a scapegoat. If something is wrong at your organization, it’s definitely your fault – and that applies to board members, executive directors, and development directors alike. So don’t waste your time trying to figure out who deserves the most blame. Start from a place of accountability, and make a plan to improve.
Be a human. When people are stressed about their purpose, their day-to-day work, or the future of the organization, it’s not a time to be mythical. It’s a time to be real. Sure, there is a healthy distance that must be kept when the buck stops with you, but there is no reason you can’t name the elephant – or elephants – in the room.
Leadership can be a lonely place, especially when times are tough. But you don’t have to go it alone. What are some things you try to remember when facing challenges as a leader?