How to be a leader in challenging times

Every business at some point will have to endure a period of uncertainty and change, which can be due to any number of factors. They can be internal, such as a restructure or acquisition, or external; markets are rapidly evolving and businesses must compete on a global marketplace whilst navigating the challenges associated with a growing digitised market, increased competition and an ever changing political landscape.

In recent years, however, uncertainty has also started to play a bigger role in determining business success.  Some companies – such as Google and Amazon – have thrived on uncertainty, and a new style of leadership has emerged, championing collaboration and soft skills.

No longer a stressful period to “ride out”, a period of business uncertainty is the perfect opportunity to build your team’s resilience, facilitate growth in their skills and improve the team’s overall performance. Here are some leadership approaches you can take to ensure your team thrives during challenging times:

Keep your team informed

When there are periods of uncertainty in business, there is the danger that a culture of anxiety might develop. This creates decreased levels of trust in leadership and ultimately lowers the motivation of the workforce. Regular communication with your team will help them feel involved and motivate performance.

As leaders it is your role to create an environment where your team feel they can express positive or critical feedback. A team meeting, or making yourself available for 1-2-1 meetings, might be the perfect opportunity to facilitate these discussions.

Make sure you acknowledge the uncertainty without turning it into a negative spiral – move on to talk about what you can act on as a team, creating an environment where, not only do your staff feel comfortable voicing their option, but they are empowered to work with you on a solution. By making your team part of the solution and not the problem, you create an outcome that benefits all parties.

Remember – your role as leader isn’t just to listen but to take action based on what your team is telling you.

Ensure the personal development of your team

In challenging times, it is essential that your team have well-developed soft skills, such as resilience, team working and persuasiveness, to be equipped to not only manage change and the unknown, but excel in it.

Don’t wait until things to get tough to invest in soft skills training for your team. Put a plan in place now to boost their skills, and you’ll start to see the benefits straight away. Read our blog post on Leveraging the soft skills of your team

Look for opportunities to empower your team. For example, make a point of asking your team members “What do you think?” or when there’s a decision on the table try to delegate by saying, “You decide. I trust your judgement.”

Put yourself in their shoes

Many leaders are unsure how to manage and communicate uncertainty to their team, which can lead to distrust, lack of motivation and lower levels of performance. One way to communicate more effectively during challenging periods is to put yourself in their shoes.

When faced with uncertainty, most of us feed overwhelmed, anxious and upset. Our imaginations run into overdrive and there’s the risk that negative emotions can spiral out of control and become distracting.

Help your team acknowledge that stress is a normal response to the uncertainty that’s unfolding around them, making them feel out of control and at risk. Encourage honest, open conversations in the office and don’t be afraid to share previous work situations where you’ve felt anxious – let your team know they are not alone.

When managing challenges, your team need to see a combination of strong confident leadership paired with genuine compassion and empathy. What can you do to show your team you understand their concerns?

Remember: Take care of yourself

You know the old adage: “If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?”. By knowing how to manage your emotions of stress and anxiety during period of uncertainty, you’ll be able to support your team and be a model of resilience.

Take time to reflect on your emotions and challenge yourself on how to manage the situation in a way that aligns with your ethos: Who do you want to be in this situation? What’s important to you? How can you make your team feel empowered and important?

Take the LEAD21 ILM course

The ILM LEAD21 programmes at Educ8 are an invaluable opportunity for aspiring managers and senior leaders to develop their skills in effective leadership in all environments.

On the ILM Level 3, aspiring managers and team leaders are exposed to the theory and practice behind different leadership styles, offering an invaluable opportunity to reflect on different business conditions.

Designed for senior managers and leaders, the ILM Level 5 programme is the perfect opportunity to assess various management theories and practice, and implement changes to your leadership style in order to effectively develop and lead your team.