High impact leaders focus on doing the right things well and consistently live up to their commitments especially when it is hard. You don’t ever have to worry about their personal behavior or professional discipline.
This is an exceedingly difficult time to be a leader. It’s easy to get overextended. It can feel like there’s too much to do, but not enough time or other resources to do it. Besides the obvious things you have to think about in business, there is now the fear of the unknown:
- How long will this pandemic last?
- What will be the short and long-term repercussions for the economy?
- How will the political environment affect my capacity to run a business?
- If my business is still doing okay, is this predestined to change at some point as the COVID shock works its way through the economy?
- How is the employer-employee dynamic changing and is this the new normal?
- Are consumer buying habits changing permanently and if so, how will I need to adjust my sales model?
- What can I do to increase my financial liquidity and how much cash will be needed to weather the economic storm?
- Will my business model be forever changed?
These are all serious questions without easy answers. I am sure you can come up with many more. What’s strange is that only six months ago none of the above was even a consideration. The economy seemed to be on autopilot. Most of my clients were doing well and the few who were struggling could see a way out of their challenges. There was this underlying positive “can do” energy running beneath everything. I guess that’s what it feels like when you have a prolonged bull market. We tend to forget then, need to be reminded of this dynamic. However, unlike the normal economic cycles where there is always some level of expected correction, the bottom fell out of this economy very quickly. Calling it “a shock to the system” doesn’t do the situation justice.
In the Coronavirus/COVOD-19 environment, It’s critical to think before you act. To not overcommit and then underdeliver. It’s just a fact of life that successful busy people often get asked to do more than they could possibly accomplish, especially in a crisis. Maybe it feeds one’s ego? I don’t know. Maybe it’s an ever-present sense of responsibility to do more? Maybe it’s just reconciling your “type A” energy with a “type A” environment. Whatever it is, it has the potential to dilute your leadership effectiveness and increase your stress levels through poorly managed hyper-activity. You need to stay hyper-focused on your commitments
I highly encourage you to limit your scope and manage your energy, commitments, and actions. Do less but do it well. When you accept responsibility for something make sure you can hold up your end of the bargain. If other people are relying on you, then take that responsibility seriously. Forgetting to put something in your calendar is a bit ridiculous in this climate. Missing important deadlines is inexcusable. Accountability always breaks down first at the top of an organization. Bad habits appear gradually in a leader’s life and then trickle-down slowly through their company, often going unnoticed or rationalized. Unfortunately, bull markets shroud their existence.
I am often amazed by how small the gap is between high and low performance behaviors. It’s the small daily things done consistently well. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. However, my most successful clients act in the following manner:
- They are rarely late to meetings.
- They usually prepare for those meetings and know what they want to accomplish in them.
- They follow up decisions with timely and consistent execution.
- They minimize distractions.
- They like to learn but are diligent in selectively applying lessons.
- When they say they’re going to do something, they do it.
- They’ve learned how to say “no” or “not now” and not feel guilty about it.
- If, for some reason, they let someone else down, they own it immediately, apologize, and do their best to make it right.
- They rarely if ever repeat their mistakes and expect the same from others.
- When they’re part of a team, they pride themselves on being the strong link who holds others together.
- They model positive behavior and strive to maximize their own contribution.
- They have high expectations, and it shows.
- They respect the time of all those around them.
- You can count on them and don’t have to fret over their professional commitment or personal discipline.
I have no idea what our future holds. The length and depth of our current challenges is anyone’s guess. However, I do know what good leadership looks like and what it takes to navigate adversity. The best leaders focus on what counts and count what matters. Their time management is exemplary. They are careful and thoughtful with their commitments, but when they commit, they fully commit. As is always the case, the answer isn’t to do too much or too little, but step back, reflect, consider your options, hone your focus, make calculated decisions, and then implement them to the best of your ability.
Uncertain times call for stable, focused, determined leaders who fulfil their commitments.