Leading In Times of Challenge

Leading In Times of Challenge – How to use adversity to build and strengthen those you serve, and your self.

Think of the great leaders in history.  It was their very adversity that made them strong, helped build their team, their “tribe”.  This is your opportunity to go beyond your status quo and do something great for your self and those you serve.  The current challenges in your business and the world offer you the playing ground to become a better leader, to help those you lead become stronger and more confident, and to build a strong community to do something worth doing, and together build something extraordinary… here’s how:


When things get challenging, like the current economy and global issues we, as leaders, take it on.  We’re the leaders.  We’re suppose to step out front, know what to do and perfectly lead everyone.  It seems like the right thing to do but is it? 


I started noticing a pattern recently.  I was hearing it from my clients (executives, entrepreneurs, leaders and ministers) in their experiences, seeing it in leaders out in the world, and noticed it in my self.  As we were doing what we thought we should, we were separating ourselves from our greatest leadership strengths… trust in our selves, and connection and trust in the people we lead.


So I dug in to look at the problem, to learn and better understand the challenge.  I paid attention to my clients, the leaders in my life… and I looked at myself in my role as a leader.  What I realized is that everything had gotten harder because we were putting more pressure on our selves.  The more pressure we put on our selves, the more expectation we felt, and the more distant we felt from those we were leading.  In each case I saw and heard it expressed differently but the pattern I saw was… the greater the expectation we perceived, the more we believed ‘they’ wanted something different than what we had or are or were giving. 


The harder we tried, the worse we did because we’d quit connecting and hearing what was really needed, and we quit feeling supported and connected.  The pressure of our own expectation of ourselves and our fear of not being enough was building a chasm.  That chasm was leaving us with a feeling of not knowing what to do and not being enough, which was negatively impacting the power and outcome of our leadership… Sound familiar?  


For me, I couldn’t figure out what my “tribe” wanted because in my expectation of myself and my scrambling to meet that, I had disconnected from them.  And, as I wasn’t serving them as well as usual because I was trying too hard, they noticed my distance and discomfort.  As a result, there was a separation from them too… for many reasons including the very human response of wondering if there was something negative I was afraid to talk about, or if the distance was something about them personally, along with the fear and stress they were already experiencing. 


So instead of building this strong and cohesive team to work together through this challenge, we were all alone trying to figure out what to do…  separate and alone in a group.  Again… sound familiar?


(This same thing happens in friendships and love relationships when there is a problem.  Instead of working together, we can start feeling there is something the other expects from us.  If we feel unsure of what that expectation is and our personal insecurities come up we can get defensive, start to build resentments, or push away because we feel we’re not enough.  Creating more problems, instead of working together to build solutions.)


So what do we do about it?


You, the leader.  You’re not in this alone.


It’s not all up to you.  You don’t have to be perfect.  You do not have to do it all alone.  You are part of a team.   That’s the thing to remember whether you’re running a company, leading a team, supporting your congregation or are a political leader.  We are a team.  We are in this together.  Yes, we as leaders stand out front, and we are not alone.  If someone is following you, they want you to win, and they’d love to be a part of helping you succeed… if you have the interests of the group at heart.  If you don’t have their best interests at heart, you’re screwed and you shouldn’t be leading anyway.  If you do, use it.


Part of the reason I wrote this article (and do what I do), is that so much of what I read about topics such as this sound like a textbook and seem to forget that we’re human and that those we serve are resourceful and capable.  That they want to be part of something, to belong, and they want to win.  We aren’t leading helpless followers, unless we treat them as if they are and disempower them, which unfortunately was what I observed.


So, here’s the question… what would you want from your leader?  Would you want them disconnected, way out front telling you what to do?  Or, would you want them in the midst of the group saying, “We can do this.  We can get through this together!”?


Help them, help you.  Reconnect.  Remind them that you are a team.  Do this for yourself and for them.  This is a hard time for all of you. You’ve got a good team. They’re smart, capable people. They know what’s going on in the world. They understand the realities of it. They may not like it any more than you do… and that’s the point. You’re all in this adversity together, this uncomfortable situation that you don’t like. It’s not them and you; it’s all of you.  If you invite them to help and participate, it’s very likely they will.



Your Team      


People, especially when things are challenging, want to feel part of something.  They want a mission, something to do bigger than the problem, or to face the problem together.  They want a mission to focus on that makes a difference, and they want to feel/be important.  This is an opportunity to give them the experience of belonging and being important.  I’m not talking about a “mission statement” I’m talking about a mission.  Something you all believe in, that makes you all feel good about your selves to work toward.


I started coaching the CFO of a company that had just gone through their first layoff.  Moral was low, obviously profits were down.  The management team was scrambling and disconnected.  The employees were upset at management.  Things were going from bad to worse.  The company was falling apart. 


As I started working with my client, he shared that part of the problem was that this company (600 employees) was family owned and operated, and that the employees felt like a family and felt betrayed.  What I realized through that, is this company had great values.  And, that if the management team reconnected with the employees around this value, they could create a mission of ‘being in this together’ and turn things around.  They did, and that new mission, that was already there, gave the whole company a new passion and purpose.  This got things moving forward again with everyone on the same team.


As the leader, what do you really want you and your team to accomplish, not just in reaction to the problem but through the problem?  Adversity is our opportunity to grow.  How can you lead and use this challenge to build something new of you and your team, as a whole and as individuals?  How can you use and grow all of your skills and talents through this, to help all of you?  How can you go from fixing a problem to working together to build something extraordinary through the situation?



Creating Your Mission               


This is the opportunity for you and your “tribe” to use your present situation to go beyond the problem, even beyond your status quo and… (wait for it)… Go For Extraordinary! 


When I work with a client, whether an individual or a company, the point is not so much where they’ve come from or what the situation is, it is where they’re going and what they want to create.


Bear with me on this, I’m kind of a sci-fi geek… the best analogy I could think of is that moment in movies where leader is beaten, we think they are down for the count… but we hope… Then, they get back up to step into their power and become more.  Think of that moment in The Matrix where Neo gets up, flexes and becomes the person he already was but didn’t know he was until he faced that challenge.  Remember how through it all, his “tribe” believed in him and would do anything to support his success.  Now it’s your turn.


So, you’re all in this together, and this is your opportunity to use this challenge as a microcosm, to face this challenge head on and be strengthened by it… together.  To build something better than there was before.


Find your mission.  Think of your team.  What is important to you as a group?  Why are you together in the first place?  If you’re the type of leader that cares enough to have gotten this far through this article, there is something special about you and what you stand for.  What is it?  Remember I mentioned the company with the family values.  What is it that brings you and your “tribe” together, not just on the surface, on a deeper level?  Rally around that.  Remind everyone of that.


Then build your team.  Think of the individual strengths that all of you have. Think of what you want to build with them. Create a vision for yourself of how you’d like it to be. Reconnect and work with those you serve.  Let them help you, as you help them.  This is a ripe opportunity to rebuild your team in a new way. Come up with some ideas and some action steps of where you want to go, a new vision, stronger, better.  Bring your team together to help you all.


One of the things I do as a coach and leader is to get people looking forward. It’s easy to look at what we lost and what’s not working. Our job as leaders is to get people thinking about what we want to build out of the rubble, to start planning forward and even get excited about it.  An adversity like this offers an opportunity to reorganize, to build something… something better. What do you really want? What will you make of this new team of yours?


Decide what you want to build.  Then bring everybody together.  Talk about what you want to build… share your vision, share your mission.  Then tell them you want their help.  Tell them and show them, you (all of you) are a team, that each is important and together you (all of you) can work together and build something great.  That this does not have to be a time of loss but of creating.


Every adversity offers us the opportunity to face the challenge and grow from it, to become more than we were… as individuals and as a group.  Take on the challenge, rally your troupes, and build something extraordinary as a team… stronger and better than ever because… you helped each other go through this, you valued each other’s strengths and saw each other as capable and as winners.  If you use this challenge, you might just create the most powerful team you’ve ever had and you and your leadership could be better than ever.


This is our world… let’s make it great by believing in ourselves, believing in each other, and working together to do the extraordinary!


If I can help… you know where to find me, and I’d love to.  You have not chosen an easy path… and I know you can do this!!!



Also check out:  Leading After a Lay-Off


Using Your Adversity as Your Ally… in life and business.

What if… the adversity you’re facing in your business/life right now is not just a problem but an opportunity that holds within it all the growth and learning opportunities to take you beyond it, and help you fulfill your potential?

I’ve heard Carl Jung’s line “what you resist, persists” many times and I didn’t really get it until this week, or not to the extent that I do now.

Our challenges are not problems, per se; they are the solution to our problems.  Yes, there is something “wrong”, something that is not working.  But not something to avoid and be afraid of, not something wrong about us.  Those challenges offer us…offer you…the opportunity to grow and learn, and become what and who you need to, to move forward the next step.

If we resist that lesson or growth, we stay stuck where we are. The problem stays or comes up over and over in different ways.  We can try to do other things to fix our self… and the problem is still there because… the only way through, is through.  The only way to truly get beyond it, is to step into it and learn what it is trying to teach us.

The challenges (this economy, divorce, addiction, etc.) are something to embrace, not feel victim of.  Responding to the problem, instead of reacting to it is our next step to build our self and fulfill our personal potential (growing better financial skills & choices, building relationship and partnership tools, self power and self care versus avoidance, etc.).

It’s about knowing we are capable, that there is a solution and “using” the problem as our opportunity to grow.  Using the “bad situation” to our advantage… using it to grow our strength, our skills, our capabilities, our confidence, and our personal success and spiritual tools. Growing these one step at a time in the area most needed, the one bugging you the most, now so that we grow into all that we are meant to be.

I love using nature as a metaphor…  Imagine a flower.

First, you’re just a seed in the ground.  Hanging out in the dirt, just being.  Time goes by, and you start having this desire of wanting to be more, somewhere in you, you know you are meant to grow. You keep thinking about it.  Then one day you crack open!  What the…!

That would be seriously scary, I think.

Then things start growing out of you, roots and a stem…what the heck!  Then you pop into daylight…Whoa!  Ouch!  And then the first leaf starts…a bump, a weird growth on your side.  You don’t know what it is… is it good, is it bad?  And you keep growing and getting stronger and bigger…each step of the way, making way for the next, even fall and winter, every step preparing you for the next phase of you being what you are meant to be.

…But what if, when that first root came out, it scared you, and you spent all you energy trying to hold it in.  What if you were the first seed around to crack open and you were embarrassed because you felt different or broken, and you tried to stop growing.  What if you thought, “I don’t know how to do that” so you resisted your natural instincts and intuition of what to do.  Or that first flower started to bloom, like the other flowers around you, and you thought “I’m not good enough to do that” and you held closed, not showing your magnificenceSound familiar?  Take a deep breath.

The thing is, each step along the way, like the flower, will bring you to the next place.  Each step is necessary for your fulfillment. Every root and leaf might have felt new and wrong and frightening, and every bit was necessary for that flower to fulfill it’s potential.

No matter how big or frightening what you’re facing is, it is an opportunity for you to become all you are meant to be.

We all have areas in our life where we get stuck, where we stop our selves from fulfilling our potential.  Instead of doing the things we fear or feel less-than (not capable of) we avoid in whatever way we do (tv, booze, busyness, eating, etc.), and we don’t build that skill, talent, or muscle to get through it.  Then we can’t do the next thing.  We’re stuck.  We also break down our self confidence, our personal power, our faith, our belief in the rightness of things and that we can handle whatever comes up.

We can get stuck in any area. It can be over something like an opportunity to speak in front of 10’s of thousands of people, standing up for what we believe in at work, trying a bold new way of doing when everyone is doing something else, breaking out of our status quo.  It can be about feeling not good enough as you are (too young, old, tall, short, etc.).  It can be having a conversation we’re afraid of, doing what we long to but feel too small to or knowing it’s not “normal”.  It can be our finances.  It can be feeling stuck in our business or our relationship or our weight.  It can be just trusting that we’re great, going for what we want when it doesn’t feel feasible, or being who we want to be.  It is anywhere in life where we feel stuck or powerless, where we are complaining, blaming and reacting versus responding and feeling we have a choice and making that choice.

What’s that quote again?  “What we resist, persists.”  Whatever we don’t face, whatever we don’t learn, whatever skill we don’t acquire, whatever we don’t accept and do what we can with, it will keep us stuck, it will keep things not working.  And, the good news…

Within the challenge in front of you, is your opportunity to fulfill your potential.


Leading Your Team After a Lay-Off

If you own a company or manage a team within one and have had to lay off employees here are some tips to help you turn adversity into opportunity… to use the lay off to strengthen your team and your position with them.

Any adversity offers us a chance to grow, especially when it’s a group facing a challenge together. Think of those times in your life where you’ve really connected with a group of people through a challenge or catastrophe. Think of the bond that’s built. This is your opportunity to build that with your team.

Here are some tips.

Tip #1. Remember that you are a team, and you’re going through this together. You need to remember that, and you need to remind them of that. This is a hard time for all of you. You’ve got a good team. They’re smart people. They know what’s going on in the world. They know people are getting laid off. They understand the realities of it. They may not like it any more than you do… and that’s the point. You’re all in this adversity together, this uncomfortable situation that you don’t like. It’s not them and you, it’s all of you.

Tip #2. Talk to them, and let them talk to you. Let them know that you aren’t liking it either. Don’t blame the company, don’t complain, just let them know, “I’m upset that we needed to let them go too. This is challenging.” Say more than that but you get the gist. Sometimes we need to be reminded (both management and employees) that none of us like it and we are all in it together.

Let them talk about it too. So many times through things like this, more stress is created because no one is talking which is scary and it makes us wonder. Have an open door policy about this. It’s not just about them wondering what’s going on, aren’t you wondering how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking too? Make it okay to talk about it. Sometimes in work we forget were human… not just human but capable human beings. We can handle it… and it helps to handle it together.

Tip #3. Lead. Many times after a lay off, people are left to just wonder what’s next because the business just seems to continue forward a bit like a funeral march. This is your time to shine. Be a leader. Remind all of you that choices have to be made. The reality is, companies are going out of business. The lay off is to keep yours running. You are the lucky ones. But don’t just talk it… do it. The next part is to start living that, to work on doing more than surviving, work on thriving. It’s your job to lead that.

A long time ago I was demoted. It was very political. You know how those things go. They gave my team to someone else to manage. A few months later, the same thing happened to someone else in the company. We were talking one day. She surprised me. She said, “I wouldn’t have known how to handle it, if I hadn’t watched you. You didn’t complain, blame, lash out, or criticize. You just kept your head high and did your job.”

Be that kind of leader to your team, someone they believe in and have a reason to follow. Which does not mean being perfect, just be someone you feel good about being. It makes all of you feel better and creates loyalty.

Tip #4. Build your new team. Remember that good team of yours? Those people you have left. Have them be your team, your helpers to reorganize. They know their jobs and the department/company. Don’t do it alone, it’s not good for you or for them. Let this time build you as a team. Let your remaining team members know that they are an integral part of the whole, instead of just hanging on to their jobs in hopes that they aren’t next to go.

One of the biggest things I do as a coach is to get you looking forward. It’s easy to look at what we lost and what’s not working. My job is to get you thinking about what you want to build next, get you to start planning forward and even get excited about it. An adversity like this offers an opportunity to reorganize, to build something… maybe even something better. What do you really want? What will you make of this new team of yours?

Tip #5. Vision and Create. Now that you’ve read these but before you do any of these steps… think of your team. Think of the individual strengths that all of you have. Think of what you want to build with them. Create a vision for yourself of how you’d like to it be. This is a ripe opportunity to rebuild your team in a new way. Come up with some ideas and some action steps.

What’s interesting, often in corporations people aren’t as busy as they’d like to be. They are bored. People want to feel useful and work at something that feels like it’s worth doing. Creating a leaner, more powerful team that really values it’s members may be the best thing to happen to your group.

A personal note to you. I know this is hard. These are challenging times. Make the best of it for yourself. Focus forward on what you want to create. Remember each adversity offers an opportunity, and make the most of what you have. Keep your eye on your vision, not just of getting through this but of making something great of it. Now go do it. Build that new team of yours, with their help.

Go For Extraordinary!

If you feel stuck through any of this and want help, call me 206.937.1037 or email me at Lisa@LisaKBradley.com. We can do a single coaching session to get you focused on the opportunity you have in front of you to build something good. We’ll come up with a plan and action steps for you. If you’d like help with talking with your team, have me come and do a Mastermind Session with all of you. I’ll support you in coming up with a plan and actions, and build a powerful team. We can get you thinking forward, empowered, inspired to take on the world in a new way.