Leading in Times of Crisis: Stop, Recalibrate, and Listen

Leading in Times of Crisis

Getting Your S**T Together

On a coaching call the other day I asked my client, we will call her Valencia, what was top of mind/top of heart for her. “What should we take on today?” I asked. She responded quickly. “Jessie, I need to get my s**t together. Can you help me with that?” 

First off, I have a general rule of thumb that if a client curses within the first three minutes of our call, it’s going to be a good call! Just kidding (but not really). Valencia and I have established a great relationship so she feels comfortable cutting right to the chase with me. 

Where We’ve Been

We have worked together for a little over two years. She’s an executive at a non-profit, who leads a diverse team who are constantly battling with limited resources at work. She knows they need and deserve more and has been a champion for their work with the rest of the organization. She has their love and respect and it has been well earned. She has worked hard to establish trust and credibility by setting clear vision and direction and building strong relationships with each of them. She is not the perfect leader and they are not the perfect team. They have had their fair share of “storms” but have worked through the natural stages of team development really well. They have been intentional and committed. I have loved working with them. When describing her role she used to say “this is hard but important, so I love it.”

Stop and Recalibrate

However, on this coaching call, she is not saying that. Instead, she is saying “this is so hard and painful and I don’t know what to do.” I wondered if now was a time to do something different and actually be something different.  

Her team is experiencing lots of trauma. Some have tested positive for COVID-19. Others have lost loved ones and are fearing for their most vulnerable family members. Their organization may need to make cuts to stay afloat in the next fiscal year. Her significant other’s small business has taken a huge dip. They have two school-aged children and had to quickly learn the ins and outs of virtual and home-schooling. This is a lot. A whole lot. 

Listen to the Text AND the Subtext

So how does one “get their s**t together?” I know sometimes people say phrases like this in a joking way; perhaps to mean: “I’ve been fooling around and I’m going to get serious now and focus.” For others, it might stem from deep self-awareness: “I’m not doing this well enough and need to get better.”

After asking Valencia some questions to help her further articulate her needs, I reflected back to her what I was hearing underneath her original request. 

“In a matter of days the world I knew slipped out from under me. I have a new set of circumstances that have prompted a wide spectrum of feelings and I need to recalibrate. I am working with the same people but they are different. I am different. The leadership skills I had before, are not quite cutting it. I need help figuring out what this new reality requires of me and learn how to bring that about.” 

“Yes! That. Please help me with that!” she exclaimed. 

Leading During Times of Crisis

Leadership development always requires us, but especially under these conditions, to go on deep explorations into our beliefs and our own inner resources, like our courage, resilience, strength, determination, and intuition. 

Here is the balancing act: we often reach for tangible, external resources—the checklist, the template, the video. These are helpful and play a critical role in growing our knowledge, skills, and mindsets. In isolation, however, these tools are insufficient. The biggest tool we have to develop our leadership comes from our ability to make meaning and process our experiences. This is one of the reasons working with a coach can be so transformative. 

Valencia and I are on a journey to process critical life moments. We have already started to derive new insights she will use to reshape her beliefs and create a new and unique leadership model that meets her needs and the demands of this new reality.  

The same way you cannot take new actions with old beliefs, you cannot lead through new circumstances with only old approaches. You need a new one.

A “new” approach may not mean you don’t already have it within you. It could just be dormant because it wasn’t necessary before. 

Now, we have to wake it up.

To Develop Your Leadership

Join the upcoming Leading in Times of Crisis Leadership Summit!

To Read

We’ve written about leadership before. Check out our blog posts under the “leadership” category here.

The Art of Coaching Teams – Elena’s second book focused on how to lead and coach teams. Check it out here.

To Do

Jessie and Elena will discuss Leadership in Times of Crisis in a FREE webinar on May 20 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time. Details subject to change. Live participation is limited to the first 1000 attendees.

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.