What Will Happen to My Team if … ?

Contingency Blog Post

As we continue to lead our teams and organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic, there are so many things that leaders must do to ensure the safety and performance of their team. There’s one thing in particular I want to put on your radar!

In addition to your increased management and leadership responsibilities, there is one very important question I want you to ask yourself:  “What will happen to my team if I (the leader) am out of commission for two weeks?”

What will happen to my team if I am out of commission for two weeks?

Great leaders don’t just focus on leading through crisis, they plan in advance for it.

Every organization, every team, has their own unique risks that can be navigated and managed more smoothly, if you are prepared for them. Many large organizations develop and update their Risk Management/Contingency  Plans annually so they are prepared in the event of various crises. 

If creating a Contingency Plan is something you have already done for yourself and your team, then you get to advance to GO and collect $200 (an old Monopoly reference)! 

If not, you need to carve out some time on your schedule quickly to create your team’s Contingency Plan. 

For Your Team

Consider doing a Zoom or GoToMeeting call with your team to discuss creating a Contingency Plan. You can also discuss during your weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member, as well. Ask each team member “if you are suddenly out of commission for two weeks in your role, what are the worst-case scenarios?” Have them write down each scenario and begin to develop their individual Contingency Plan, which will become a part of the team’s overall plan. Remember, this is a “temporary, just-in-case plan” so the plan needs to focus on critical work products or deliverables only.

Their individual plan should include:

  • Describe the Project, Deliverable or Task
  • Define the Successful Outcome 
  • Document the Ideal Response  (including Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Make sure critical processes and procedures are documented in detail and, if it makes sense, consider  job shadowing or cross training someone on this particular task.)
  • Document the Timeline 

For You — the Leader

In the event you are out of commission for two weeks yourself, you also need to explore the  worst-case scenarios, risks, and concerns and develop a Contingency Plan to help your team manage around or navigate through the disruption in your absence.

Stop worrying about having all the answers. You just need to be able to tap into the wealth of knowledge, experience, abilities, and strengths of your team … and then give them the space to deliver remarkable results!! 

Make this a “WE Project!” This is how you keep your team engaged.  When they are working on meaningful projects — projects that have a specific purpose — projects that are aligned to the company’s goals — THEY WILL STEP UP AND BE ENGAGED!

But listen! You must take time to acknowledge and appreciate the extra work they are doing for the overall benefit of the team. You must not miss an opportunity to celebrate or to  say “Thank you! You did a great job!” That momentum is what you need to keep your team moving forward!!

Leading Through Disruption

In the fields of Manufacturing, Technology, Customer Service, HR, and the list goes on and on, the big topic at conferences around the globe has been around “Innovative Disruption.” How can we disrupt our daily routines to discover critical solutions, create new products, and streamline existing processes and procedures to produce breakthroughs in our systems? How can we step out of the whirlwind of “business as usual” to elevate our game  and provide better products and services to our customers?

Well … guess what?  DISRUPTION IS HERE! 

Leading through times of constant change and ongoing disruption requires different leadership.

It is during these critical times that great leaders slow down to do the right thing — not the easy thing.

When it comes to leading through disruption, here are 4 critical leadership opportunities to help your team thrive!

  1. Focus on your Mindset. Shift your focus from crisis to disruption. When you think of the word crisis, what thoughts, words, or emotions come to mind? When you think of the word disruption, what thoughts, words, or emotions come to mind? Does one word seem or feel more hopeful than the other?  Does one word seem to cause less stress or anxiety? Remember, strength doesn’t start in the gym. Strength starts in your mind!
  2. Focus on your Behavior. If you think about this as a crisis, and you talk about this as a crisis, and you behave as if the sky is falling and everything is falling apart … guess how your team will respond? It is important that you remain calm. Be mindful of your behavior because your team will follow your lead! Focus on demonstrating the same behaviors you want to see in your team.
  3. Focus on Successful Outcomes. Instead of being paralyzed by the problems and challenges created by the disruption, allow it to give you the courage to take action. To think “outside the box.” And, don’t worry! Just because you are the leader, you don’t need to have all the answers! Look for opportunities to pull your team together to collaborate and provide input. BUT … before you get started brainstorming on solutions, stop and ask your team to define the successful outcome. Once everyone is clear about what the successful outcome looks like, everyone will be moving toward the same destination for a solution!
  4. Focus on You. You must make sure you are taking care of yourself first. If you are “Running On Empty” (like the old Eagles song), you have nothing to give to others. Make sure you incorporate activities into your schedule that helps to fill your bucket. If you like to read, listen to music, or workout, create space for those things in your schedule so that you will be refreshed and refueled in your mind and body.

#ExerciseLeadershipToday Challenge

  1. Create a visual reminder in your workspace — DISRUPTION, not crisis!
  2. Take 5 minutes to create a list of current challenges you and your team is facing. Prioritize the list. Now that you’ve identified your top challenge, send a virtual meeting request to the team members who can help you brainstorm solutions.  Remember to start the meeting by collecting their thoughts and input to create a clear, successful outcome. Then begin the brainstorm process. This is not the time to “weed out” supposed bad ideas.  Just collect the ideas and then let the team go off for a day or two to think about their best solution!
  3. Make a commitment right now to the ONE THING you are going to do for yourself to keep yourself mentally and physically sharp!

When it Comes to Feedback, Delivery is Everything!

People often have a negative reaction to “feedback” because, over the years, the message was sent but not received, let alone understood. For a variety of reasons, the feedback was often too vague, too direct, too punative, too one-sided, and the list goes on and on. The result? 

Good Feedback + Bad Delivery = Negative Reaction and No Improvement

This has to change because, as Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In other words, the knowledge of the “whole,” the experience of the “whole,”  the wisdom of the “whole,” is greater (more valuable) than that of a single person on a team. That makes practical sense, right?

So it’s not giving feedback that we need to do away with but rather we need to work on our delivery of the feedback. A bad reaction to feedback is not an employee problem, it’s a leadership problem. 

When giving feedback, great leaders check their motives at the door. They take themselves out the equation and do what is in the best interest of the team or team member. They’re not focused on what’s easiest, but what’s effective. They’re not focused on what they want, but what the team member needs. 

Here’s what I propose. Rather than focusing on the “feedback process,” as if there’s actually a “one size fits all” approach, we focus on defining the “successful outcome.” 

As leaders, what can we do differently to deliver feedback in a way that influences a positive reaction and a successful outcome? 

This is one of those times when you a leader has to turn off “auto pilot” and be very intentional about delivering a clear message, clarifies the best way to deliver the message based on the unique personality and needs of the individual, and is always striving for a positive feedback experience and outcome. 

Good Feedback + Good Delivery = Positive Reaction and Improved Performance

#ExerciseLeadershipToday Feedback Challenge

  1. Think about a specific person in which you need/would like to share feedback. (Think PP — positive feedback or performance feedback. Please do away with the phrase “constructive feedback!”) 
  2. Clarify the most important action you want them to take. Instead of telling them what to do, how can you lead them to the best solution by asking them questions? Asking is much more effective at inspiring people to take action because they think it is their solution, not yours. 
  3. Based on what you know about that individual, what can you do differently to deliver that message in a way that inspires that individual to take action? Be specific and think about positive behaviors that would inspire a positive outcome. 
  4. Is there anything else you can do differently to influence a favorable reaction and positive outcome?
  5. Now, go have this feedback conversation! Remember, this doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out conversation. Feedback conversations are most effective when they are short and sweet.

Flip the Feedback Script!

As we kick off this month’s featured topic, instead of always thinking of feedback as “GIVING FEEDBACK,” let’s flip the script!

Instead of looking for opportunities to GIVE FEEDBACK this week … I think we should develop the discipline of ASKING for feedback!

Whether you are a leader, team member, parent, or community volunteer, asking others for their feedback is a great way for you to take control of your personal development. Feedback from “key stakeholders” (i.e., trusted colleagues, your children, other volunteers) not only equips you with meaningful insights of where and how you can improve, it also helps to build trust and strengthen important relationships. Asking others for feedback also reinforces the importance of “teamwork” — that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here are a few tips to help you maximize the opportunity to receive meaningful feedback:

  1. What exactly do you want to know? When asking for feedback, be specific. EXAMPLE: “Hey! I would like to get better at ‘x.’ I really value your feedback and was wondering if you would share with me … “
  2. Practice asking for just ONE THING. Asking for too much feedback can defeat the purpose. Set yourself up for success by making the feedback forward-focused and managable. EXAMPLE: “Hey! I would like to get better at ‘x.’ I really value your feedback and was wondering if you would share with me ONE THING I could do better …”
  3. Clarify the “desired outcome.” When asking for feedback, don’t focus on a “job responsibility” or task (i.e., public speaking, organizing an event) but, rather, focus on the “desired outcome” (i.e., engaging more quickly with my audience, increasing the engagement at my events). EXAMPLE: “Hey! I would like to get better at ‘x.’ I really value your feedback and was wondering if you would share with me ONE THING I could do better that would help me close a prospective client faster?”
  4. Once someone shares meaningful feedback with you, don’t forget to say Thank You! EXAMPLE: Thank you so much! This feedback is extremely valuable to me. I appreciate your support and willingness to share. This is priceless!”  

Final thought. As you are learning how to effectively “ask” for feedback, your colleagues are learning how to effectively “give” feedback. During the conversation, be fluid and learn to actively navigate the “ask” so that you get feedback that is meaningful and truly equips you to achieve excellence!

#ExerciseLeadershipToday Challenge: Who’s up for the challenge of asking for feedback this week? Once you complete the #ExerciseLeadershipToday Challenge, SHARE your experience in the StrengthsBuilders Community or the Strengths-Based Leadership Tribe to enter a monthly drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Make sure you use #strongfeedback when posting your experience!