Leading Through Conflict and Crisis
By Gina Rubel
This article was originally published as “Thought Leadership from the Pros: Series III” by Freeman Means Business: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leading-through-conflict-crisis-gina-rubel-susan/
2020 has given its fair share of conflicts and crises. Since January, the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters, and presidential election have forced business leaders to pivot into often-unknown territory: accepting vulnerability and embracing resilience to successfully manage their teams. Leading through conflict and crisis presents unique challenges, particularly when one must communicate uncertainty while maintaining their own wellbeing.
Here are things you can do to effectively lead through conflict and crisis.
Know the facts: If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma, I recommend it. The docudrama unveils the hidden machinations behind our favorite social media and search platforms where most people get information today. Before opining about issues or sharing stories, verify the source and information. There is much we have learned about every conflict and crisis experience in 2020. #knowthefacts
Don’t add to the vitriol: No matter your position or politics, race or religion, gender identification or sexual orientation, now is the time to step up as leaders and be kind. Attacking others does not move the needle forward. Today’s leaders have an opportunity to actively listen to others and not discredit them. Use “yes, and …” verbiage where you acknowledge another’s points-of-view or feelings while adding factual and positive information or feedback to the discourse.
Mind your mouth: Words matter. Whether they are spoken or written, what comes out of your mouth or fingertips will leaving a lasting impression on others. During 2020, I have seen and heard people say and write things that have left me stunned. Think about how your words matter to others. Be mindful of the origins of words and phrases and how they can be offensive. Remember that while you may believe your opinion is “right,” so does your neighbor with opposing views. Leaders lead better.
Give people a platform: Growing up, kids were to “be seen and not heard.” I did not like that as a kid and believe everyone should be heard, even more so during a conflict or crisis. Susan Freeman of Freeman Means Business is a perfect example of someone who gives people a platform to share their wants, desires, needs, ideas, vulnerabilities, and so much more through podcasts, publishing and leadership conferences – not to mention her perpetual ability to be present for others. Providing others with a safe platform to be heard, helps leaders to learn, understand and grow.
Admit uncertainty: My friend, Renee Branson, is a resilience cultivator. She advises people to admit uncertainty – especially when leading through conflict and crisis. As a leader, being vulnerable is a “willingness to admit that we don’t always have the answer right away,” Branson said. “No one could have predicted the magnitude of this pandemic, and for a leader to stand up and say, ‘this is difficult and a little bit frightening for all of us, and we’re going to learn and get through it together,’ feels very vulnerable.” Transparency establishes trust that deepens relationships between leaders and their teams, both now and moving forward.
Set clear boundaries: The CEO of Penn Community Bank, Jeane Vidoni, told me about the book, Boundaries for Leaders. In the book, Dr. Henry Cloud shares tools and techniques that leaders need to achieve their desired performance. I could not possibly tackle all the reasons why setting clear boundaries helps leaders lead in conflict and crisis. Suffice it to say that the more you maintain your boundaries, the more people will look up to, appreciate and respect you.
Lead by example: I am a huge proponent of leading by example. I have tried to live this in life and in business, and to put myself in check when I do or say something that I have advised others not to do or say. For instance, if you advise your staff to take vacation time to recharge after a crisis or conflict, be sure that you do the same. If you hold yourself out as an antiracist or an ally, do everything you can do to be an antiracist or ally. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.
Have compassion: This year has been difficult on everyone. While one company may be thriving, another may be sinking. While one person may be winning marathons, another may be struggling for breath. And while some may have the ability to easily work from home, others may have household obligations that make it more difficult. Flexibility, empathy, and compassion are key.