All of us have tough days when things do not go our way, unpleasant surprises spring up and we end up picking up the tasks which we hate handling. Yet one has to deal with them. We know that we must learn and adapt always. Do we do this when we are faced with a crisis? Do we keep our calm, keep looking for alternatives, invite ideas from others and listen to new perspectives? Most of us lean on the methods we are habituated with and end up with suboptimal results. How do we hold our nerves and believe that old methods may not work?
Challenging situations can be humbling
Imagine a scenario that a business is slowing down and the top boss is demanding the business head to turn around the situation. What happens now? Most often, the business head promises the boss that he would work harder, get the team to put in extra effort, introduce new reward mechanisms and run interesting marketing programmes. These steps have been taken in the past and hence, the boss agrees. They track progress closely, yet the desired results aren’t there. What can one do? The management team puts a spotlight on the weak areas of the business head and the voices calling for a new incumbent get louder as if the problem lies with the person’s competence or will.
The fact is that the management team and the business head have not been able to adapt to the situation. They have applied the solutions and methods that worked in the past. They have relied on the methods of working harder and the famous carrot-and-stick approach. However, the situation could be due to changes in technology or the product itself or the skills of people to engage with the new preferences of customers. Instead of learning from the ground and making fundamental changes in the core of the organisation, they are focusing on changes which are cosmetic and fraught with low yield. Leaders, old and young tend to be victims of this. Each challenging situation is a humbling experience.
Often the leaders get nervous and anxious to see the lack of results despite their best efforts. This feeling isn’t one of the best to deal with. It is natural to feel stressed. Mature minds deal with these rationally and they hold their emotions of frustration and disappointment under control. Firstly, it is tough to accept the fact that the tried and tested methods aren’t working. One always wonders if the methods are being deployed properly and if the right employees are behind the wheel or not.
It is not easy, but there is no other way better than be accepting of the results and thinking of the alternates with a calm mind. This is a good time to involve more people in the organisation in this thinking process. Often the results are very positive; employees feel involved, witness transparency and contribute their ideas openly. Some of these ideas could be more powerful than what the astute minds in the business can think of.
Often it is normal to lose one’s cool and hence, one must be surrounded by people who can show a mirror to the person and remind him or her that one has to handle the tough situation with calm and steely resolve.
It is human to make mistakes and take missteps. However, the challenge is to learn quickly and course-correct. One of the best places to learn is the market where customers, competitors and ground-level staff operate. We have to listen to the voices of everyone and connect the dots. The ability of leaders to join the dots differently to develop multiple options and evaluate all the possibilities is crucial. They have to involve various stakeholders in interpreting the situation in the market. When leaders learn quickly, they can course-correct quickly and succeed in building a winning team.