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More Tips for Leading in Turbulent Times

Liz Wiseman, founder of The Wiseman Group, is the creator of a proven leadership philosophy she calls Multipliers vs Diminishers.  Multipliers are those leaders who use their intelligence to amplify and bring out the smarts and capability of those around them.  Diminishers, usually Accidental Diminishers, are well-intended leaders who subtly and, completely unaware, shut down the intelligence of others.  Diminishers jump into projects or staff work thinking they are helping, when in reality their actions are communicating something entirely different.  When they offer help, it comes with an attitude that conveys that needing help is a sign of incompetence, or just shows “how it should be done,” by the quality and speed with which they did something the employee was struggling with.  Rather than teaching, they leave the employee feeling diminished.

Turbulent times can make working toward being a Multiplier more difficult.  It is easy to resort to Diminisher behaviors when your staff is scattered, routines are different or non-existent, and jobs are on the line.  Leader anxiety can lead to “just doing it yourself”: stepping into another’s area of expertise to “speed things up” or failing to recognize the good work that is happening because of the changes in routines.

Alyssa Gallagher, Training Director and Master Practitioner from The Wiseman Group, has suggestions on how to be a Multiplier during crisis:

  1. Signal the struggle. Acknowledge the challenges of the current situation.  Everyone is uncertain and worried about the future.  We’re all in the same boat.  We all have the same information.  Since a pandemic is uncharted territory, you can’t know everything.  Don’t expect others to either.  Acknowledge your own struggle in maneuvering in this pandemic.  This will build trust and relieve tension in the team.
  2. Fill in the blanks. Communicate honestly and frequently.  People would rather get bad news than no news at all.  Your staff needs to know what is going on.  If you don’t communicate, your employees will make up their own stories. 
  3. Investigate your impact. The need for certainty in an uncertain time may cause you to regress to become more of an Accidental Diminisher.  Check yourself by asking your staff,
    “How might I be shutting down your intelligence.”
  4. Provide back up. People have been furloughed or terminated during this crisis and others are being asked to do more, perhaps in unfamiliar areas.  There will be mistakes.  Create a safety net of employees who can step in or give guidance to their peers.
  5. Create comfort for colleagues. Everyone is stressed which may lead to colleagues being short with one another.  Use humor and be sure to laugh at yourself to alleviate stress and build empathy in the team.
  6. Rediscover your rookie state. Remember when you were new to the job?  There were challenges and uncomfortable times as you learned.  In this time, everyone is learning new ways to do their jobs and may feel unsettled.  Remember those feelings and how you went about learning.
  7. Ask for their genius. Everyone has a “native genius.”  Native genius is a skill or talent that they excel in.  In unfamiliar territory, employees may not understand where their best work can be used.  Coach your employees to broadcast their native genius and offer it up to the group in this new way of living.
  8. Construct a capability gap. Ask people to stretch in their role.  But remember, they may be already stretched to the max and cannot go further outside of their comfort zone and learn new skills.  Growth is a good thing but if they are already giving 110%, ask them if what you are asking of them is doable.
  9. Create a clear “water-line. New situations may demand new ways of doing things and that could require experimentation.  Know the line where experimentation is welcomed and where it is just too risky.  Things above the “water line” are where people can take risks.  But things below the “water line” can deteriorate quickly into a significant failure.
  10. Admit and share mistakes.  The need for stretching and experimentation will eventually cause mistakes to happen.  Admit to your team some of your past mistakes and how you recovered from them.  Give people permission to make mistakes with the caveat that they learn from them.

There are great leadership challenges that you may not have had to address in the old “normal.” Gallagher’s advice is do-able, power-laden and can make all the difference between a team, a division or an entire enterprise surviving this turbulent time.  Great leadership requires courage, mindfulness and being concerned about the good of others.  You can succeed at being a great crisis leader.  We are here to help you navigate through this uncertain time.  Contact us for coaching, mentoring or thought partnering.

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