Editor’s Note: Dr. Mary Kelly will be one of the keynote speakers at our 2020 Leadership Conference, this Thursday, 11/5 and Friday 11/6, helping you think through your post-election strategies for the months to come. More information >
It’s the morning after the election. There’s no solid outcome. We’re in a holding pattern.
Despite their deep political differences, your people have one thing in common—they’re not being productive. They are distracted. They are uncertain. They may be fearful and frustrated. Your job as a leader is to take these groups of divided people and coalesce them into the viable, focused team you know they can be.
At this stage, the only reality is that no one knows for sure what is going to happen. It’s conjecture. And we cannot control it.
What can proactive leaders do today? It is important to focus on what you know and what you can control. That is what’s essential right away.
In my two decades leading teams as a commander in the U.S. Navy, and in my years teaching and advising CEOs on how to lead in crisis, I’ve found that far too often, we stumble because we focus our energies in the wrong direction by worrying about things that might not happen.
Part of great leadership means planning for the worst possible situations, and then working backwards. This means creating contingency plans for all kinds of variables, and then realistically planning for different scenarios.
The best leaders hope for the best, plan for the worst, and are realistic about possible outcomes. Great leaders help their people adapt and they help them move quickly and calmly to the contingency plans.
How To ‘What If’
When it comes to election results, I suggest gathering your senior leadership team as soon as possible today, and working through my five-minute “what if” crisis plan.
To start the “what if?” crisis planning process, leaders need to ask:
- What is our worst-case scenario?
What is our plan to handle that worst-case scenario?
What specific actions do we need to implement if this worst-case scenario happens?
- What is our best-case scenario?
What is our plan to handle that best-case scenario?
What specific actions do we need to implement if this best-case scenario happens?
- What is our most likely scenario?
What is our plan to handle the most likely scenario?
What specific actions will we need to implement if this most likely scenario happens?
The Calming Conversation
Remember, being calm in a crisis is contagious. Being calm inspires confidence. Staying calm throughout a change, challenge, or crisis increases the trust others have in you.
Start by having a focused conversation with your team, using these 5 reminders:
- Acknowledge that some people are unhappy.
- Reiterate that everyone is a professional and that you expect professional behavior in the workplace.
- Remind the team that the US is a democratic republic, and that regardless of the outcome, some people will be unhappy and concerned, but we are all aligned with the vision and mission of our organization and focused on the success of our clients and customers.
- Conduct active brainstorming activities to encourage people to focus on possible solutions.
- Give your teams actionable projects to spur action. Action eases fear. People need to take action. People need more frequent wins to stay motivated. Have your managers break up large jobs into smaller chunks and reward people for their accomplishments.
It could be a while before we know the results of the election. In the meantime, your team will be stressed and distracted. Getting them focused and productive will help—not just your business—it will help your people, too.