There is no playbook on how to deal with a global pandemic combined with a shut-down of the economy. There are, however, guiding principles on how to lead through challenges and change regardless of the cause. These principles don’t change based on the circumstances. They steadily guide you and your team to help you overcome your circumstances.
These are the same principles I wrote about in The Power of Positive Leadership and they are NOW more relevant, applicable and important than ever. As a leader you must Lead. You must stay positive. And you must lead the right way, right now in order to create a better future. Years from now your team will be telling stories about your leadership. What kind of stories do you wan them to tell? Here are a few ways to make sure they will be telling positive stories about you.
1) Communicate the Truth – In any crisis it’s essential for the leader to be honest and transparent about the situation. Explain the challenge you are facing. Communicate the facts. This is what we know. This is what we don’t know. This is where we are as a team, company or organization. These are our numbers and forecasts and while they don’t look good, we must confront the reality of the situation. I’ve found that even if you communicate bad news it’s still better than the negativity and uncertainty that comes with poor communication. Remember, where there is a void in communication negativity will fill it.
2) Lead with Optimism – Even when you are in the middle of a crisis and your circumstances are not positive you must stay positive and lead with optimism. After all, pessimists don’t change the world and neither will you if you let your circumstances define your attitude. This doesn’t mean you ignore the reality of the situation. It means you believe you will find a way to overcome your situation. Leadership is a transfer of belief and the optimism and belief you share with your team plays a big part in how you work together to overcome adversity. I received a call about two years ago from Evan Spiegel, the CEO and Co-founder of Snapchat (Snap). Evan had read my book and invited me to speak at an offsite meeting for his leadership team. I researched Snap and discovered there was a lot of negativity surrounding the company. Experts said Instagram was coming after their business and they were getting bombarded with negativity and criticism from the media, financial investors, Wall Street, and much of the marketplace. As I prepared for my talk, I asked Evan what he wanted me to talk about. I knew the people in the room would be many of the most brilliant minds in the industry and I expected to hear words like “research, analytics, case studies, cost-benefit analysis.” But instead he simply said, “Help us stay positive. We need to stay positive in the face of all this negativity. We can’t let it get to us.” If you followed Snap over the last few years you can tell from their growth that they stayed positive, worked together as a leadership team and improved their business. Evan said optimism and belief were game changers.
3) Share the Plan – When Alan Mulally took over as the CEO of Ford in 2006 they had lost 12 billion dollars. He turned the company around in a few short years and many say it was one of the greatest leadership feats in history. He told me that everyone had to know the plan, embrace the plan and relentlessly work towards the plan. It’s essential that, as a leader, you share the plan and explain why the plan will work and how it will be executed. This brings clarity and clarity leads to focused action.
4) Point Towards a Positive Future – After you tell the truth and communicate the facts, share your optimism and plan to succeed, you then want to share a vision of what success looks like in the future. “Yes, this is where we are now. This is our situation. But here is where we are going. This is what we are working to create.” What success looks like for each team and organization is different. The key is to define it and share the vision with your team. We all need something to hope for and work towards and when you share a positive vision for the future it engages, ignites and rallies your team to create the vision together.
5) Create Inside-Out – As I wrote in The Coffee Bean, the world is like a pot of boiling hot water. You can be like a carrot that gets weakened (fearful and stressed) when placed in the pot or you can be like an egg that gets hardened (bitter and angry) in a tough environment. Or you can be like the coffee bean that transforms the water into coffee. Instead of being impacted by the heat and difficult conditions, it instead transforms the environment it’s in. As a leader your most important job is to be a coffee bean and transform your team and the environment within your organization. There’s a lot you can’t control but you can control how your team responds to adversity. When you lead now and lead positive you be a coffee bean that helps your team overcome this crisis and thrive on the other side of it.
Jon Gordon’s best-selling books and talks have inspired readers and audiences around the world. His principles have been put to the test by numerous Fortune 500 companies, professional and college sports teams, school districts, hospitals, and non-profits. He is the author of 20 books including 8 best-sellers: The Energy Bus, The Carpenter, Training Camp, You Win in the Locker Room First, The Power of Positive Leadership, The Power of a Positive Team, The Coffee Bean and his latest Stay Positive. Jon and his tips have been featured on The Today Show, CNN, CNBC, The Golf Channel, Fox and Friends and in numerous magazines and newspapers. His clients include The Los Angeles Dodgers, Campbell’s Soup, Dell, Publix, Southwest Airlines, Miami Heat, The Los Angeles Rams, Snapchat, BB&T Bank, Clemson Football, Northwestern Mutual, West Point Academy and more. Jon is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a Masters in Teaching from Emory University. He and his training/consulting company are passionate about developing positive leaders, organizations and teams.