Times are tough. They have been tough and they will continue to be tough. With no clear end in sight it is time to face facts. If change hasn’t been made to deal with adversity, the time is now.
Adversity is an interesting word. It is defined as “a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress.” I think you would agree, there is no better word to use for the current situation than adversity. But how does one effectively deal with adversity?
History provides us with many examples of success in the face of adversity. Whether it be the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the 9/11 attack on New York, or the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, it has been demonstrated time and again that strength can be found through adversity. And what is fascinating is that every instance of success in the face of adversity has the same key characteristics. I know that many of you are leaders of your respective organizations; do you and your team embody these characteristics?
1) A strong leader. Every instance of success in the face of disaster begins with a strong leader. Whether it be Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rudy Giuliani, or Tommy Lasorda, the team needs to know that its leader has a plan, is committed to the plan, and is fearless in the face of potential failure.
2) A plan. Speaking of the leader having a plan, the team needs to know that there is a course of action. Whether it will work or not, no one can predict at the outset. But there needs to be something in the works, not just flailing about with no direction. Once the disaster is discovered, and that could take minutes or months, there needs to be a concerted focus on righting the ship. There is no better way to lose the support of your team than by lengthy periods of inactivity and indecision. Your team would rather you have a plan that is iffy at best than no plan at all.
3) Transparency. The leader and the team need to be on the same page as far as overcoming the instance of adversity. How does that happen? There needs to be complete transparency regarding the plan of action. Transparency breeds trust and confidence and without transparency there will be a looming concern that secrets are being kept, secrets which could detrimentally affect the plan. If a team member feels they are being lied to or are not being told everything, they will become a cancer which could destroy the cohesiveness of the team. And transparency, by the way, means the good and the bad. No one will believe a leader who only paints rosy pictures.
4) Cohesiveness. The team has to band together. Everyone has to be pulling in the same direction. Imagine, if you will, a tug of war. Everyone on your team grabs some rope and starts pulling back, trying to move that flag. But what happens if two people do nothing? They don’t pull, they don’t push, they just stand still. What happens is sluggishness which eventually causes a traffic jam. The people in front will pull back into the people standing still. Trips, falls, face-plants, and eventually a reversal of course as the other side pulls back. Everyone has to be pulling in the same direction. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. There will be those team members who want instead to stand still because change is difficult. And overcoming adversity requires change. Or perhaps they don’t want to pull because they feel that the team is pulling in the wrong direction towards a goal which is either unattainable or poorly defined. Tension causes inactivity causes failure.
5) The Right Team Members. A leader cannot do it all by himself or herself. A leader can come up with the plan, point the team in the right direction and set the course, but without the right team members in place, the plan is destined to fail. FDR had Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Patton and hundreds of thousands of men and women who were united in the fight against fascism. Rudy Giuliani had the NYPD and the NYFD and a city and country united in re-building. Tommy Lasorda had Orel Hershiser and a team that bled Dodger blue. It is one thing to have a plan, but you need the right people. Who are the right people? That is a good question. The right people must walk a fine balance. While you want a team that is going to follow the path charted by the leader, you don’t want a team that follows blindly. You want a team that will challenge its leadership, not in a way to expose the leadership to failures and failings, but to work towards a proper course. You don’t want a team member who is only in it for them and takes pride in exposing the shortcomings of its leaders. The team has to buy into the plan, they have to own it as if it was theirs, and they have to identify opportunities to push the plan forward. It is easy to be a cog in the machine, simply doing a job to push a plan forward. It is another to own the plan, the look for ways to improve the plan and to go above and beyond the tasks and duties assigned in effort to further the plan. At the end of the day, the success or failure must fall on everyone’s shoulders equally.
What will the future hold? No one knows. But the path to success is more clear when the stars align and the five characteristics above are present. Without one adversity prevails. With all five, success is guaranteed.
Where will you land?
Have a great week.