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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #79
(June 16, 2020)

Do You Have the Courage to Cross the Stream by Feeling the Stones?

As I reflect on the current world around us during the coronavirus—and not just in business but in the larger context of the world—I've been impressed by many leaders and disappointed by others.

Some leaders have faced the fear, uncertainty, and ambiguity by instilling a sense of calm, projecting confidence and optimism, by drawing together their respective communities, and, most certainly, by demonstrating a high degree of compassion.

But, for others, the same fear and ambiguity have paralyzed.

My experience as a leadership consultant demonstrates, time, and time again, that an individual's true character is exposed during times of crisis and uncertainty. And, when things get really turbulent—as we are experiencing today—you start to see who shows up as a leader ... and who doesn't. Crisis—whether in business, government, or society at large—has become the modern-day version of "The Emperor has no Clothes." [Note: Actual title is "The Emperor's New Clothes" written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837 ... how prescient!]

I read a thought-provoking article this week that used, as its headline, several dire (even apocalyptic) statements from business leaders about the future. Then, with a huge "GOTCHA" they went on to describe that these statements were made many years ago during the last five major uncertain events of our time. This was a perfect reminder that we've dealt with uncertainty many times before and that strong leaders evolve, adapt and—with significant frequency—turn challenges into opportunities.

So this brings me to the question I asked in the title of this week's CORE Bites—a question paraphrased from a quote by Deng Xiaoping ... do you have the courage to cross the stream by feeling around for the stones? If you've ever done any hiking in the wilderness it's likely you've had to occasionally cross a stream with a very uncertain streambed. This requires a cautious (almost intuitive) feeling around with one's toes and feet looking for stability—all while moving forward at a reasonable pace (you'll never finish your hike moving forward at an inch-a-minute!).

In a similar way, we are being called upon today—as leaders—to move forward. People are looking to us to guide them into the future; they're expecting us to show them the way across the stream. What they don't want to see is us standing on the streambank immobilized by uncertainty or, worse, pointing the way but never leaving the safety and security of the streambank ourselves.

It's time for courage ... it's time to lead and cross the stream.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

The HVAs provided below will help you find stable footing to keep you grounded while crossing the stream—to help you move into the future, incremental, by feeling your way forward—even amidst uncertainty.

  • Leaders Do What's Right Not Just What's Popular: Strong "willing-to-cross-the-stream" leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the entire group or team. This means that not everyone will agree with your actions and decisions. It's inevitable if you stand by an immutable set of values. If you try too hard to find a solution everyone will like, you'll end up avoiding the tough decisions (leaving you stranded on the bank of the stream). This can also manifest itself into not confronting the people who need to be confronted. Paradoxically, if your goal is to get everyone to like you by not doing anything contentious, you will end up upsetting the people who are most engaged and most productive in the organization.
  • Look Below the Surface of the Stream: Just because the stream appears to be moving quickly doesn't mean that the streambed isn't stable—in fact, this surface activity often results in a more stable streambed. So don't shy away from doing something for fear that you might not like what's below the surface. An example of this is a common adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This is a sure way to guarantee mediocrity and complacency. Why? It's a mindset that assumes that yesterday's realities will continue tomorrow in a neat, linear and predictable fashion. How suddenly we were taken down by the coronavirus is an example of why this mindset is pure fantasy. Strong "willing-to-cross-the-stream" leadership means that you question—even provoke—to proactively uncover what needs to be done to solve problems before or as they emerge.
  • The Stream Doesn't Care What Title You Have: Organization charts show hierarchical levels. But when crossing the stream of uncertainty—as is true today with the 'there are no rule books' coronavirus crisis—titles mean less because the capacity to influence and inspire is not just the domain of people with titles. Have you noticed that people will commit to (and expend vast amounts of effort for) those individuals who bring optimism, pizzazz, drive, compassion and caring—regardless of their title? Strong "willing-to-cross-the-stream" leaders know this and, with optimism, press on, even though there is uncertainty. The contagious effect of a leader's enthusiasm and optimism is very powerful. Please don't misunderstand; I'm not diminishing the seriousness of this crisis so I'm not positioning "optimism" as standing around with a "What, me worry?" look on your face. Instead, I'm referring to a "We can change things here; We can make a difference" type of optimism.

Leadership is a journey that never stops. You—as a leader—have the opportunity to lead your teams and inspire confidence. Your team need you now more than ever.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Courage doesn't mean you don't get afraid. Courage means you don't let fear stop you."

— Bethany Hamilton —