In his book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs (Portfolio/Penguin, 2014), Ryan Holiday suggests three steps leaders can use to defeat setbacks:
- A mindset or perception on how to view the situation.
- The motivated action plan on how to address the specific issues.
- An inner drive or will that keeps the mindset and action plan going.
With a leadership team in sync on their mental and emotional approach, solutions can be derived and put into place. But again, a careful and deliberate method yields the best results. Taking action for the sake of action often makes things worse. Action is not needed – prudent action is.
“Don’t just do something; stand there.” ~ Producer Martin Gabel
Leaders who follow the most deliberate and manageable process are the most successful. Trying to slay the entire beast with one sword thrust is detrimental. Gradual, proportional steps are best, tackling one sub-issue at a time. This requires discipline, and it must come from the leader.
The downturn in Kodak’s analog photography business exemplifies a leadership plan that didn’t fully respond to the threats of disruptive technologies. Legacy products were not phased out in time to make way for new ones. Innovation wasn’t ramped up enough to transition the company. An effective, systematic strategy was not implemented. As a result, the company is a fragment of its former self.
When talking about this with my coaching clients, we discuss how important it is for leaders to keep everyone focused. In times of crises, staff can get anxious and want to jump ahead too soon. Some want to quit. Competing issues tempt managers to spread themselves too thin. People can struggle with shaking off disappointment or a sense of failure. As a leader, your task is to encourage, empower, and escort.
A leader aiming for ideal solutions will be frustrated and will frustrate their team. Many crisis situations are not the time for ideal, but for making due. They are a time for rolling with the punches. Leaders who get results consider non-traditional approaches. Attacking a problem through the side door can be the most effective way to find a solution. By preparing teams to step out of their comfort zones, they are open to new ideas. This can be a humbling experience, and that’s often helpful. Pride has no place in this process.
Teaching the staff to embrace the struggle brings out the best in them. A leader who takes things seriously, but holds them loosely, demonstrates what wisdom is. With the best action plan, you can direct everyone to an effective resolution in ways that were never initially thought possible.