Leadership – three principles for almost any difficult situation

Path imageBy far the greatest aspect of general management is the sheer breadth of exposure to both complex and simple challenges.  Of course there are also wonderful opportunities in general management but challenges have such a way of focusing the mind on strong decision making.  Over the past ten years, during which I have been dedicated to leadership within professional services, I have found three principles to be reliable in guiding me through almost any difficult situation irrespective of the complexity.

i) Remove the oxygen from the situation.  Emotions rarely improve a situation, whether financial, operational or team related, and like fires, business challenges usually grow when given breath.  I find this principle helpful in making sure that I always quickly get to the core of an issue and not let drama or emotional responses take over.

ii) Be generous.  Strange situations arise in every business and jumping to conclusions about who was responsible and why they did what they did rarely helps find a positive path forward.  Being generous and assuming that the intent was honorable is a good starting point.  Generosity for me extends to; a) giving the benefit of the doubt at the outset b) giving liberal feedback on where someone could have taken a different course of action and c) willingness to wipe the slate clean (at least once) if the situation is resolved appropriately.

iii) Share context. Unexpected situations arise because they are unexpected.  I hate to be trite but too often I hear over-reactions to challenges that seemingly blindside us. Such situations might include; people behaving outside the usual range, declines in business activity, unauthorized budget expenditures, product quality issues or any other manner of activities that make a business such a fascinating ecosystem.   Sharing the context of a difficult situation (with the rest of the team involved) and describing the conditions that led to the situation provides a way to learn from mistakes.  I find context to be a great leveler and it always matters.



Filed under Leadership, on the perimeter - a blog