The Power of One
It started like any other day at the office, and then everything went south. In one moment during that day, everything they’d worked so hard to build over the years was monumentally threatened by one decision.
One. That’s it. The now infamous words from their (by far) largest customer went something like this: “We’re going with another vendor. They’re cheaper and we just liked the appeal of their presentation.”
Done. It was like a message from outer space, especially in light of the fact that they’d been told by the client “not to worry,” “we love doing business with you,” “you’ve been amazingly awesome to us and for us over the last six years; we love you!” Their largest client…GONE in less than sixty seconds.
That’s the “power of one.” Knowing they weren’t impervious to the perils of the business world, the company had been working for a few years, with clear intent, to diversify their client base. As the CEO shared the news to his executive team, there was total silence.
The Power of Another One
Here’s to the Power of Another One—the CEO—who’s led his executive team and his entire organization with the courage it takes to navigate through tough times. Over time, wounds like this heal, but they don’t heal without proper attention. It takes leadership to guide people through a time of incredible crisis, and the resolve demonstrated during chaos offers us a glimpse into what it takes to survive a jarring jolt of monumental magnitude, of what it takes to catch your breath and move forward wrapped in chaos and fear.
1. Get centered again. Review what’s made you great already: Your Core Values. Share any new ground rules you might want to apply as you navigate your team through the chaos. In the case noted above, the CEO told his company: “I don’t want to hear anyone saying anything negative about XYZ Company. They’ve been a great customer for many years and that’s been a blessing. In keeping with our Values, simply say nothing negative about them—ever.”
2. Openly acknowledge the fear. “It is what it is.” As Jim Collins says: Face the Brutal Facts. Share what everyone already knows: Yes, there will be layoffs…and yes, those layoffs will be at every level of the organization…and yes, there will be cuts in pay for most others…and yes, that includes those at the executive team level. Review your Annual Plan acknowledging what now needs to be recalibrated.
3. Spin the Emotion. Emotions are subjective. Work to spin the emotion into something more objective. What happened becomes a “thing.” If you can do this gracefully, you can help people see the situation more from a distance. They can begin to figure out what their own plans of action are and begin to act on creating their own “next big thing” vs. staying in a state of panic and fear. Your people will simply begin to look at what’s happening from a different (and healthier) vantage point.
4. Discuss, Debate, Agree, Action! As hard as it is, discuss and debate with your executive team to come to the best decisions you possibly can relative to creating a roadmap for moving forward. What are our first steps for the rest of this Quarter? Do it by yourself or spend some of those precious dollars you have left on having an outside facilitator. No matter how difficult the decisions are, avoiding the discussion and the healthy debate of where we go from here won’t help. Write your new script about the future together so everyone is clear about the consistent message and the newly perceived future. Lights (shed light on what’s real and what’s to come), Camera (the attention is on your every move, your every word, which is why you must develop the script together as a team), and finally: Action!
5. Become part coach, part psychologist. Coach people toward higher level thinking. When any of us is ruled by fear, our thinking becomes distorted. Take “course correction” seriously…and with patience.
6. Confirm the future. In times of a setback, the future can look dim. Revisit your BHAG and remind people that while you may have fallen off the trail a bit, the climb up the mountain toward your preferred future is still possible.
7. Keep the Rhythm! Now more than ever, keep your Daily Huddles. Keep your Weekly Meetings. Keep your Monthly Meetings. Once you decide your recalibrated first steps for the upcoming Quarter, track your progress in real time over the next 13 weeks. Let the Rhythm of your consistency keep you connected, focused, aligned.
All in all, keep moving forward. It’s the power of your leadership that will pave the way for forward progress.