How to lead in uncertain times – 3 questions to ask yourself

Are you a leader struggling or thinking about how to be leading during uncertain times?

If so, we wanted to hit pause and talk about what it means to be leading during uncertain times and the significance of being intentional and leading well.

There’s no hype, just perspective on what we’re seeing with the CEOs we have the chance to work with on a daily basis.

Let’s hit pause and talk about the importance of your leadership in this uncertain time.

Your homework

Your homework after listening to the podcast: Answer the three questions and put your results in the comments. We’ll be collecting and sharing the best tips and tactics as we receive them.

  1. How can you use your gifts/resources/network during this time?
    What businesses can you support? What neighbors can you help? How can your network help others?
  2. Think of a leader that you admire – how would they be setting the tone from the top right now? Think of the leader that taught you how not to lead: what would they be doing right now? Are you showing any of those signs?
  3. How can you create clarity in your business/home/community? Can you try talking about what’s not going to change? One easy way to drive Clarity is to ask yourself what do you want your audience to Know, what do you want them to Feel and what do you want them to Do? Know. Feel. Do.

Make sure to subscribe to the For You Leaders Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Episode Transcript

Kirk: Are you a leader struggling or thinking about how to be leading during uncertain times? If so, we wanted to hit pause and take some time and think about what it looks like and what it means to be leading during uncertain times and the significance and the importance of being intentional and leading well. 

Chip: Hi, I’m Chip Hanna and this is the For You Leaders Podcast, a very special edition today.

Kirk Dando and I are going to be talking about how to lead in these uncertain times, right? Kirk, 

Kirk: You know, I was talking to one of our CEOs this morning, Chip, and he said, Kirk, what should I be doing? What should I be thinking? And I’ve got over a hundred families I’m responsible for plus my own.

And you could hear the desire to want to lead them well, but you can also hear a little bit of that fear inside of the question of “how should I be showing up?” We’ve also had several of our portfolio CEOs and some of their team members, and actually some VCs and other leaders asking us what we’re seeing and what we’re sharing.

So today we want to share some of the things that we’re seeing and experiencing and share with you. Some of the same advice and guidance that we’re both getting and we’re giving to other leaders in our portfolio as well as people in our lives during these uncertain times. 

Chip: First, let’s just set the stage, Kirk, if people don’t hear anything else, what do you want CEOs and other leaders be thinking about and doing during uncertain times? We talk a lot about the tone from the top. What tone should leaders be setting right now? 

Kirk: Chip, that’s a really good question and obviously we don’t have all the answers and, and we’re not always certain, but we do want to try to share the things that we’re seeing and the things that we’re experiencing.

And what I think a lot of our listeners want to know is that people are watching you, whether it be your family, whether it be the people that work alongside you. And we don’t care if you’re a CEO, a mom, a dad, a teacher, you name it, you are a leader. And how you show up in these times really does matter.

I want you to please tune your ears as Chip and I talk about how critical you are as a leader right now and how you choose to lead for those that are depending on you and watching you, not only matters now – but into the future. The people you are leading: family, friends, team members, etc.will fondly remember you and draw from lessons they learned from you during these times or well, they learn how not to lead.

Life has taught me the road to heaven does go through hell. And it is your choice if it’s a day trip or a daily trip. This holds true for how you lead during uncertain times. It’s your choice how you will show up and lead in your home business and communities. People are depending upon you to do it well.

Even if you do not feel like you know what you’re doing, we hope to share some perspective and get you thinking carefully. During these unprecedented and times, even if you are uncertain yourself, and as I shared earlier, Chip and I have by no stretch of the imagination, pretend to say that we’re certain during these times, but we’re hoping by sharing our thoughts and ideas that we can come together and learn together.

Chip: So Kirk, one of the things that I’ve been thinking a lot about, I’ve got, you know, 3.5 year old and a 1.5 year old and I saw someonewho said this, but someone said, “You know what? In the handful of years, your kids are never going to remember the Coronavirus or anything that they see on the news or hear on the news… We don’t watch the news at our house, which is a tip for all the parents out there, but they will remember how the house felt and what the family was like. And I think it’s super important for people to remember the same thing is true at work. People, five, six years from now aren’t going to remember the Coronavirus, but they are going to remember how you led and how the business and how the house felt.

Kirk: Yeah, that’s, you said that at the beginning. We talk about tone from the top and I love that you talk about your family and leading there because during these times, and we’re going to talk about it as, you know, a lot of people are going back home to work and, and, and are going to be close to their families and, and we’re being asked to really be in our homes for reasons not to just protect us from the virus, but also to protect others and be responsible in that way. When you think about Chip, the people that we have been speaking to over these past couple of days, what is one thing that comes to mind that has kind of caught you about how someone is leading well or has maybe has a perspective that kind of lines up with what you were saying about how it feels to be in the home, how it feels to be in the business?

Anything come to mind? 

Chip: We talk about this a whole lot. In times of crisis and times of success is the whole concept of certainty versus clarity. And we would all like to have certainty. We’d like to know exactly what’s going to happen, exactly how long we’re going to have to work at home versus the clarity of maybe what’s not going to change or what should change.

That’s a huge concept that we’ve talked a lot about and it’s come up over the past couple of days. 

Kirk: Yeah. Very true. How do you drive clarity? So if you’re listening to this, one of the ways that we want to arm you with is thinking about that tone from the top. What is the feel, but also how can you drive clarity?

As you said, Chip, we’d all love to have certainty, especially during these times. But that’s, that’s just not how life works, but we can have clarity. You shared with me, you know, something that you do about just thinking about things that you can control versus not controlled.

Chip: One way that I look at this, and this is just a personal thing, is that I focus on what, what can I control in these situations in front of me?

I can control my own behavior, my own actions. What I’m doing. And so I would encourage people to keep their one-on-ones. They may have to be virtual, they may have to be via Zoom or WebEx or Google Hangout. Keep your executive team meetings. They may have to be virtual, once again, but these are things that you can control.

And let’s spend just a little bit more effort focusing on things that we can control. Not ignoring the outside world, but, what can you control as a leader? And the number one thing you can control is, is the attitude and the approach that you have for your leadership, for the people that you have working for you and alongside you.

Kirk: Yeah. I love the way you said that. It’s one of the things that I’ve taught my daughters, and that’s something that I try to practice is: When tough times hit and they’re going to hit – it’s part of how we grow and as part of how we learn, if we let it, it will teach us, is to get the focus off of my situation and get the focus on other people’s, you’re exactly right.

Our customers are experiencing things. They’re having a ripple. Some people are thriving because of this and some people are really struggling. Keep things as normal as you can, but be safe in doing it. Double down on how you serve: Others, your employees, your team members, your family, the community, double down on how you can help your customers.

Remember, they’re going through things as well. Cherish the potential extra time you have with your family. 

Chip: Yeah, and so let’s talk about that for just a second. You know, we get the privilege of talking to a lot of different CEOs and a lot of different businesses. What are they saying about working from home?

Should CEOs mandate employees stay at home? What are you seeing as we’re talking to all these different leaders across the country? 

Kirk: Yeah, chip, it’s interesting because we’ve even had some discussions about should we be mandating it or making it optional, and obviously I’m not an expert here on this advice.

I’m just sharing and we’re sharing what we have seen. But the overly obvious and embarrassing simple is you’ve gotta be smart. You gotta tell your employees to be smart. There’s so much information out there on what to be doing or what not to be doing, and I think that as leaders, people do as we do, not as we say, I think that we’ve got to follow what we’re sharing with people.

We had one company that did a trial from working at home to see how it worked. They are in an industry where it’s hard to work from home and some industries. it’s real easy. And they’re capable of making that switch. Warehouse workers, people driving trucks delivering food to our supermarkets, people working inside of hospitals and stuff like that – it’s not possible to work from home. And those are things are obvious, but I think that what people are looking for is as a level of responsibility and a level of care that we actually have a plan to protect one another, both physically, financially, emotionally, and otherwise. And so protection is not just physical.

So those are the things that we’re talking to people about is whether you mandated or it’s optional, is really something that is going to be dictated on how you can continue to run the business and serve your customers and serve the people that are working with you, but more importantly is having a really good plan.

Chip: Yeah, that, that’s great advice. You know, who knows? There may be some, some positives that come from this whole work from home experiment too. You know, we may see that employees worked from home more often in managers can get better at actually managing from remote space. You know, we even had a company that they, long story short, do augmented reality for pharmaceutical companies and a lot of those pharmaceutical companies are having travel ban, so guess what?

Their technology fit perfectly to match with their customers running. So there always can be some good that becomes out of these uncertain times if you’re there and if you’re looking at it. Not to be opportunistic but just have your eyes open and your ears open to what’s working and what’s not.

Kirk: Yeah, exactly. Things that have already occurred and things that have been shut down: it was beyond my imagination that could ever happen. And so in these uncertain times, thinking about “how I’m going to lead my family and how I’m going to show up?” Something that I do every single morning is, is, is spend time praying over them.

I send them a voice text because they don’t live near me now. But what we do know is that as leaders, we have a responsibility, to not just commiserate with people. And sometimes we feel like commiserating is a way of connecting. And although that is true to some level, I think we’ve got to be wise about the path that we’re walking down with people. And so as you think about how you will lead during uncertain times, sometimes it’s very effective to think about a leader you admire and think back on what they would be doing during this time.

If you can almost channel them and think about what would the tone of their voice be? How would they be showing up? What would their posture be? How would they be leaning in with people? As Chip said earlier, you know, how would they be handling their one-on-ones, even at their virtual? How would they be encouraging the team?

There are a lot, lots of countless examples of really great leaders and how they have showed up in very uncertain times. One example that comes to mind for me is a speech that Colin Powell gave and he was a four-star general in the army. He gave a speech about the essence of leadership and the most important leadership lessons he ever learned was that infantry school.

Listen to what Colin Powell said…

Colin: and so they would teach us at the infantry school, no matter how cold it is, Lieutenant, you must never look cold. No matter hungry. You all are Lieutenant, you must never appear hungry. No matter how terrified you are, Lieutenant, you must never look terrified because if you are scared, terrified, hungry and cold, they will be scared, terrified, hungry and cold.

I’ve gotten away with that many, many times in the course of my career by being scared to death cold and wanting to go to sleep. But no, let’s go. Let’s keep going. Let’s go around this corner, if only out of curiosity, and they’ll follow you into the darkest night down the deepest Valley, up the highest Hill if they trust you.

So the essence of leadership is about doing all this. The science of management says you can with resources, but that taking it that extra step and giving it that spark and that spark comes from getting people to trust you. So that they will follow you. If only out of curiosity 

 Kirk: I really like what Colin Powell says there, and it’s a great opportunity for you to think about how you’re earning trust and your actions and your behaviors are not only going to lead well through this time, but it’s also going to help you earn benefit of the doubt into the future because there’s nothing more important than trust.

Now think about leaders in your life that you admire. How would they respond in the situation? Now, fast forward five years from now, let’s say when people think about you and how you led during uncertain times. Chip, I love what you shared about how the house feels and we keep saying the tone from the top. What will they remember? What lessons will they try to copy from you or, well, they only see examples of how not to lead.

It’s your choice. If you are intentional today about leading well, you will not only lead well through uncertain times, but you will be teaching and developing and paying forward a gift for leaders. That will follow you in future uncertain times. 

Chip: Yeah. Kirk, that’s the true power of leadership and why we’ve spent so much of our life dedicated to it because the way that our leaders led in the past, we admire them.

We’re still reflecting on how they would handle the situation today, and it just pays dividends over time. So how you behave today is how future generations are going to behave when they reach certain times. It’s pretty incredible. 

Kirk: Chip and I understand that there is just a giant amount of information out there right now and we believe that we’re all fatsos, those when it comes to information, but the application is really critical and we know as a leader that that application is very important.

So we’ve created three questions. We would like you to consider an answer that we believe will help you think more deeply and more broadly about being intentional as a leader during these uncertain times.

The first question to really consider is how can you use your gifts or resources or your network during this time to help others? What businesses can you support? What neighbors can you help? How can your network help others? Obviously there’s going to be a time where people are maybe struggling to pay bills or not have enough food.

Look around you and be active.  Number two. Think of a leader that you really admire. How would they be setting the tone from the top right now?

What would be their posture? How would they be showing up? How would they be encouraging? Picture them in your mind and really draw from those experiences that you’ve learned. On the flip side, think about a leader that taught you how not to lead. What would they be doing right now? What would they be focusing on?

What kind of leadership would they be providing and make yourself aware of that to not bump up against those things. And the third thing is, how can you create clarity in your business, home family, community? Chip and I talked about we’d all like certainty, but we really struggle without clarity.

Can you try talking about maybe what is not changing to create some stability and clarity?

One easy way to drive clarity: Ask yourself, what do you want your audience to know, feel, and do. We hope these three questions help you think deeper and broader about your leadership during these uncertain times. If you have other questions for Chip or I or other things that you think are relevant that we should be getting out there, we’d love to hear from at thank you for your time and have a blessed day.

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