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When the going gets tough – how do the toughest leaders, get going?

11 July 2022

When business is going to plan, the job of a leader is a joy.

However, it’s when the plan goes off course that a leader earns the title.

Characteristics which are often attributed to strong leaders are “positivity” and “motivation”.

I completely agree, but it’s important to understand what these words mean in a leadership context.

Firstly, what does leadership positivity not mean?

  1. Appearing constantly happy and cheerful.
  2. Stubbornly maintaining that the team are great.
  3. Steadfastly sticking to the message that everything is okay.
  4. Insisting that the plan is on course and that nothing is wrong.

 Now on to what leadership positivity does mean:

  1. A recognition that the business needs a Vision – an end of the journey to aim for. If you have one, great. If you have not, acknowledge this and get to work creating one.
  2. If the journey goes off course, that isn’t necessarily your fault (although it might be), either way you are accountable for the situation – accept that. You want your team to see that you live and breath accountability, which can only earn respect as a leader.
  3. Now is not the time for a post – mortem” is what the textbook advises you should say. This is good advice when the cause of the problems become quickly apparent. If they are not, it is nonsense. A car cannot be repaired until the mechanic understands the damage. Fail to make your diagnosis through proper investigation and your ability to repair that car is hampered.
  4. Avoid finger pointing. Your investigations should be non – adversarial and inquisitive. Your questions should be open. They should allow you to identify the problem as quickly as possible giving you the ability to move swiftly into solution mode.
  5. If you can’t find the solution, acknowledge this and seek help to find it. Pride has no place in leadership positivity.
  6. When the solution is found empower your team to deliver it, DON’T try to deliver it yourself! A leader trying to do everyone’s job for them is a busy fool. You will gain no kudos by working 25 hours per day and leaving your team out of the solution.
  7. You set the roadmap and provide the car, your team do the driving. You do however need to check that the journey is back on course and not look away until you are certain that it is.
  8. Finally – and this is the most important part – there are 2 golden rules after the plan is back on track;

  • You must learn from the experience. Tell your team what you have learned and ask what they have. What would you all do differently next time?
  • This is the moment when accountability must be applied. This must;

(a) be fair in both principal and procedure

(b) Apply to YOURSELF and ALL MEMBERS your team and

(c) be brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible. Until this process is concluded, neither you nor your team will be able to move on. Anyone who tries to argue that this is a “blame game” is badly mistaken and will realise this in due course.

 This is “Leadership positivity” when the going gets tough.

The good news is that you don’t need to worry about motivation. Applying these 8-steps will motivate your team both immediately and in the longer term.