July 13, 2020
If you have ever been lost while driving around in a car, your natural reaction will probably be to slow down. When we are uncertain about which direction to head, our natural reaction is to slow down, look at a map, ask questions, and proceed cautiously forward. For several years, we have been measuring resilience and confidence and have noticed a significant decline since the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of uncertainty and lack of control have increased anxiety and stress. Stress and anxiety, along with uncertainty, will inevitably reduce resilience in many people.
In a leadership resiliency study, we examined data from over 110,000 leaders. We measured their resilience with an eight-item index along with an evaluation of their speed. The evaluation was based on ratings from managers, peers, direct reports, and others. It is clear from the graph below that as a leader’s resilience lowers, so does their speed.
Perhaps this is a good thing. In a time when uncertainty is high, slowing down and being careful is prudent. But if you have ever driven 40 miles an hour on a freeway where others are going 60 miles an hour, you know that can be dangerous. The problem is leaders who are going slow are not doing so because it is the right thing to do; they are slowing down because they are less resilient.
In our research on what leaders can do to increase their speed, we discovered eight enabling behaviors that can help leaders to move faster safely.
1. Foster Innovation. One thing we have all learned in this pandemic is that there are a variety of new options about how to operate and succeed. What innovative thing can you do to restart your operation quickly?
2. Update Your Strategic Direction. The world is very different today than it was just a few months ago. What is your new strategy to succeed in this new environment?
3. Be Courageous. What difficult decisions need to be made today? Time is of the essence, make those difficult decisions, and move forward.
4. Establish Stretch Goals. Our temptation is to put our toe in the water to test the temperature, but do not be afraid to set a stretch goal for recovery that seems impossible. Your employees don’t love stretch goals when they first get them, but when they achieve something that feels impossible, they are both engaged and proud.
5. Communicate Powerfully. It is essential that we let people know the plan, follow up, reinforce the importance, and thank people for achieving the plan. Speed requires regular and frequent communications.
6. External Focus. What is going on outside your immediate organization? What are your competitors, customers, friends, and government leaders doing that are helpful, and what gets in your way? Stay connected and involved.
7. Take Initiative. It is hard to get things started, but once started, it is easier to keep things moving. It takes a considerable percentage of the fuel in a rocket to get two feet off the landing pad. Start something that has not been started before.
8. Maintain Technical Professional Expertise. There are some new things you need to know. If you do not have the expertise, either find it out quickly or acquire it.
One of the interesting things about increasing speed is that you will find that as you move faster, your resilience also will increase. Moving fast gives others confidence that they can move quickly and deliver results.
To learn more and sharpen your leadership skills register for our upcoming webinar, or take our 8-minute strengths assessment.
– Joe Folkman
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