We can all benefit from the following comments written by my friend and business colleague, Gary Epp, President of The SURVIS Group, a top-tier, Atlanta-based staffing and consulting firm.
An Anchor in a Storm
Where do you head during a storm? Our instincts urge us to find a protected harbor, drop an anchor and ride out the storm in relative safety. Diminutive Rear Admiral Grace Hopper whose towering intellect forced the U.S. Navy to twice recall her from retirement frequently remarked that “Ships in port are safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
During the current economic storm it might seem safest for your business or career to head for port and ride it out. Stay away from deep, rough water and minimize risk. However, your owners have entrusted you with their investment and expect more. Your employees have entrusted you with their livelihood and expect more. So, heading for a safe anchorage is out of the question.
Having led business teams through numerous stormy situations let me make three suggestions:
Clear the Clutter…One of the first rules of survival is eliminating every possible distraction that might disrupt your focus on those few elements crucial to surviving the storm. One of the fallacies that germinate during good times is the delusion that we can successfully juggle many things (projects, roles, etc.). On calm seas the amateur captain can both party and pilot the boat. However, during a storm piloting must become a focused task. Go back to the vision for your organization. Anything which does not explicitly and obviously support the vision must go. Stop it. Drop it. Eliminate it. A laser-like focus on a critical few priorities will help you succeed in a challenging environment.
Commitments—make 'em and keep 'em…The natural reaction of some is avoiding during difficult times anything which smacks of accountability. However, this risk averse posture produces an undesirable consequence. Business leaders may now view such people as non-contributing dead weight. In a drive for self preservation these individuals inadvertently increase the odds they will be cast overboard in order to lighten the load on the boat. Faith and fear cannot co-exist. Trust your talents. Step out and make commitments. If you’ve already cleared the clutter your odds of succeeding go up dramatically.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate…Most storms produce wind and waves of varying size and direction. Responding to them requires constant adjustments. Storms also reduce the margin for error and shrink the time to react. Since every business person shares their “boat” with others, keeping everyone aligned during those frequent course corrections becomes crucial. These realities of storms place huge premiums on effective communication. Effective leaders and organizations increase the frequency of communication and install monitoring systems that empower and enable team members to see and react quicker to “waves” of change.
Take these three steps and you will become an “anchor” to which others cling during the storm.