In the past two weeks, we’ve been in several meetings and conversations with leaders responding to rapidly changing coronavirus scenarios. Regardless of the industry, as leaders shared responses and next steps, many of their teams reacted in the same way:
But how do we … ?
We’ve never had to do this before. Can we really … ?
We’ve never done anything like this. What am I supposed to do now?
These moments of rapid change and unprecedented response naturally cause anxiety, doubt, and grief. The old way of doing things is gone—even if only for a month or two. What now? Can we handle this?
In these moments, your team needs your leadership more than ever. Address these moments of rapid change with calm clarity and then focus on answering the doubt.
When it Feels Impossible
In a state correctional facility, Christine faced a challenging problem.
With no prior supervisory experience, as one of a small handful of female staff in a mostly male prison, and with a highly diverse and contentious inmate population, she had been placed in charge of creating a clothing factory. As weren’t if those enough barriers, prior attempts to open a similar factory in other state facilities had failed.
One year later, Christine’s factory was out-producing the prototype operation, had an impeccable safety record, and could run itself without supervision.
I was able to talk with Christine, asking what made such a rapid transition, and seemingly impossible results, possible. Here’s what she said:
It began with my belief in the people. When they came to me, they wanted to tell me about what they had done on the outside—why they were in prison. I cut them off, told them I didn’t really care about who they were last year. ‘This is who we will be in this factory and this is what we’re going to do.’ Most of them didn’t believe it at first, but pretty quickly they responded to someone believing in them.
She described how male inmates would initially object to sewing because they thought it wasn’t something men did.
Christine would walk over to the industrial sewing machines, quietly operate it, produce a garment, return to the men and say, “You’re telling me women can run this industrial machine but you can’t? I don’t believe that. I believe you can.”
Your Confidence in Your Team
I love Christine’s message: “This is who we will be in this factory and this is what we’re going to do.”
Faced with major change and hurdles, your team needs your confidence.
This is the essence of leadership: believing that together we can do more and have a better tomorrow. That’s what it means to be a CBO – a Chief Belief Officer.
Your team needs a CBO right now. Your team needs to hear you say, “You can.”
I know this is tough and I know we will find a way through it.
I trust this team and believe we can find new answers.
Together, we’re going to stay safe and figure out how to deal with these changes.
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