“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Thomas Paine wrote these words in 1776. They are equally relevant today – whether you are talking about the government, your company, or even your family.
Every crisis presents us with an opportunity to lead or shirk from service. It either paralyzes us from moving forward, or it pushes us to take action. Here are five actions you can take to lead your organization or team through tough times:
1. Be visible and vocal. Crisis is change on steroids. The magnitude and speed at which expectations are disrupted totally alters our frame of reference. Be visible and vocal. Individuals need to feel that their leaders are in control. They want to trust their leader’s character, competence, and courage.
2. Make it safe. A crisis heightens worries about safety and security. Drive out fear. Make the situation safe both physically and emotionally. Only then will individuals return to higher level activities that differentiate those driven by fear from those who act out of a sense of purpose and strength.
3. Connect with people where they are. Recognize and acknowledge the emotions of others. Take steps to connect with others at a human level. Your most important resource is the tust and commitment of the others.
4. Focus on success. Dwelling on failure creates a self-fulfilling distraction. Acknowledge the hard work to be done, but don’t allow despair to creep into your language or actions.
5. Give people control. Provide as much accurate information as possible, and do so in a timely manner. Remove barriers to success. Be creative and persistent to help others succeed. Every sincere effort to help people feel more in control of their future will be rewarded with trust, loyalty, and commitment.
Leaders are defined by their response in the face of crisis. The choice is to step out toward a positive future or allow the times to define us as less than our potential.