We Make The Road While Walking

There has never been another time in my life where I have seen leaders so challenged from so many sides. They are being called upon to lead in the most unpredictable and uncertain times and, of course, unprecedented times.

They are having to make decisions quickly without all the facts. They have to trust their judgement and draw on their inner resources, acting courageously and without fear or favour.

While they are being advised by experts in every relevant field, there are no guarantees that the decisions they make will take us where they want to go.

They have no idea what the road ahead looks like because they can’t see very far ahead at all. They can’t see around the corner.

I recall what Paulo Freire said decades ago when we don’t know what is ahead of us: We make the road while walking. That’s what our leaders need to do in leading through this crisis.

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Empowered adults

This was an article I sent out as part of my Self-Care newsletters early in this pandemic. Given we are about to go into very demanding restrictions and lockdowns here in Victoria, Australia, I thought it was worth re-visiting it. What kind of people do we want to BE in these next six weeks? And what skills, strategies and inner resources are we going to need to BE that kind of person? We need to believe that we can be empowered adults and take back the control that COVID-19 has taken from us. In a very real sense only we can do it. 

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Create the Future

Who would try and predict the future at the moment? So why try? Why not do what the late management expert Peter Drucker said many years ago and create the future we want and desire?

Is that a fantasy dream, a pie in the sky hope? It doesn’t have to be.

From day to day our reality changes. Yet we so often think that if we can’t predict our future with some degree of certainty we are in big trouble. We are now living in a very different world and uncertainty and change are its middle names. Any future we might have lies in being able to live with those two realities, in fact embrace them and make them work FOR us not AGAINST us.

It’s all about the mindset we bring to our lives and work, whether we have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

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Stress Down instead of stressing out

Today is Lifeline’s Stress Down Day. This annual event always has inspired me. Instead of STRESSING OUT, it calls on us to STRESS DOWN. It is a message of even greater importance this year – 2020 – because even those of us who usually manage our stress very well are challenged by this COVID-19 crisis.
The words of Eckhardt Tolle are very relevant at the moment. If we can find a way to accept being HERE, instead of yearning to be THERE, we not only will beat this “thing” more quickly, but we will also able to STRESS DOWN as Lifeline calls on us to be.

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Leading through Uncertainty

Leading through uncertainty is the challenge of our times for leaders. It’s times like this that we all look to our leaders to restore certainty, to bring back equilibrium, stability and normality. We see their role as seeking out the facts, discovering the truth and taking action to make things happen. But that was before COVID-19 imposed itself upon us.

Because of the threat to many parts of our lives, especially our health, leaders have had to make decisions quickly and more often than not the information they needed to make those decisions was not there. They have had to act with the most current information and facts at hand only to discover later that there was information and facts they didn’t have at the time. If they had had them they would have made a different decision. They have then found themselves having to say something like: “In retrospect I would have made a different decision” or “In retrospect I could have handled this differently.”

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From reactrive to Proactive leadership

In the unpredictable, uncertain and changing times, even before COVID-19, being proactive was a most significant and important skill for all of us, especially for leaders. I’ve always called on people to be proactive. I’ve always believed it was a matter of mindset. By changing your thoughts you could change your behaviour. It was a shift that was possible if you developed some self-awareness of what was happening within you. You could see the considerable benefits of being proactive as compared with being reactive.

Yet here we are now caught in this unprecedented reality of the COVID-19 pandemic that I feel challenges those beliefs.

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Take Back Control

How our lives have been turned upside down in a very short period of time! In fact, as I write this today, we can expect that tomorrow more change will envelop us that we can’t even foreshadow right now. As for next week and the week after that…….. that is so unforeseeable.

As I have already said in an earlier article, we have lost control of most of the parts of our life that gave us a sense of security and stability. We have to take back control over what we can control. That is not just our physical reality but also our emotional lives.

Tony Schwartz and Emily Pines, in an article titled “Coping with Fatigue, Fear and Panic During a Crisis”, called on us to move out of our Overwhelmed and Survival Self and into our Adult Self as the way to take back control in this challenging time.

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can't manage people

Last week I told the story of Mark the highly skilled technical expert who was promoted to management but couldn’t manage his people. What happened next was the organisation’s worst nightmare.

This was a blog post I wrote back in 2016. I recalled it when I recently had a CEO come to me to talk about a Mark in his organisation. I’m not going to detail exactly what we talked about for his Mark, but as this is a very common issue, I am going to give you some approaches for how to handle this kind of situation if you are a CEO or leader in your organisation.

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Enpowered leaders

Every leader wants a team of high performing professionals in their organisation. How you achieve that is the big question. I’ve written previously about what I consider are the three big motivators – Engage, Empower and Elevate that will see you achieving that.
There are also many other skills that can enhance your leadership. I have selected six that when developed and enhanced are the ones that I believe will bring the most significant outcomes. Those of you who know my work will know that my focus is on the soft skills needed for leadership.

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Stressed Professional

Stress creeps up on us. We often know we are approaching overwhelm, but we are highly competent professionals and we tell ourselves we can work through it. “As soon as I complete this project things will get better”. “I have holidays coming up in 2 months time. I can get through to then.” “I wanted this job so much I can’t let them know that I’m almost at breaking point.” We don’t believe we have any other choice but to keeping working at this level of stress.

But……if we don’t take control of our stress it will take control of us. The least damaging result is that we break down in tears one day at work, or collapse momentarily from exhaustion and have to go home. The worst outcome is we have a heart attack or stroke. That’s the ultimate act of stress taking control of us.

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