You can plan, collaborate, engage and do all the things you need to do and still fail unless you do this one thing. Commit! Risk is a relative measure. In a crisis the riskiest thing you can do is do nothing. The second riskiest thing is to react rather than consider and act. Be proactive not reactive.
Nike’s famous slogan is ‘Just Do It!’ Great advice in a crisis. Having a can-do attitude goes a long way in leading in a crisis. You have to be action oriented but remain flexible and learn as you go. In strategic terms it’s an action learning cycle. That cycle of act, think, adjust and go again. Without action there is no result. Commitment is a great trait as long as its balanced with an understanding that you will sometimes be wrong, and that’s OK. It’s not a measure of weakness to have a crack at a solution and get it wrong. It’s a sign of ego if you then persist and don’t flex. That’s why your communication should be confident but not definitive. You will get somethings wrong and need to reset and go again. Learn as you go, learn fast and keep going, stay committed.
There is nothing wrong in being committed to short term actions as long as they are framed within medium term thinking. “Act short term, think medium term.”
You will also be distracted by a plethora of ‘good’ ideas. Beware, make sure you filter and commit you your own agenda not those of other stakeholders. This is especially true of well-meaning outsiders. As long as you’ve done the thinking and collaboration, run your own race and get proactive. Good is the enemy of great, so commit to great and get it done.
Don’t wait for the perfect solution, data or information, you don’t have time. Go and adjust as things become clearer, momentum will get you there, perfection is not attainable. Good is the enemy of great, but perfect is the enemy of good.
Commitment is the antidote to paralysis.
It’s about creating momentum and then steering as you go. Momentum crushes problems. John Maxwell has a great metaphor that I’m going to borrow. John talks about a train being in a station waiting for passengers. When it’s ready to go, a log of wood is placed in front of it. This seemingly small obstacle will make the train unable to depart; spinning its wheels, unable to move. Yet, if the same log were placed on a track when the train was moving at full speed, it would provide no resistance at all. Probably not even noticed, as the momentum of the train overcomes the resistance, of a now insignificant obstacle.
The same is true with our workplaces and teams. An organisation with no momentum stumbles over small issues, politics and infighting. Arguing with vigor and lots of consternation over insignificant issues. Yet if we have momentum, then small issues and problems get solved and dealt with, seemingly without pressure.
So how do we as leaders go about creating this kind of momentum in a crisis? Devolving decision-making to the front lines, where there is situational clarity goes a long way. This creates an ability to flex where you need to, allowing empowerment which leads to practical solutions being activated promptly.
Yet empowerment alone is not enough. Alignment to a clear unifying vision and crisis priority set is paramount if broader desirable organisational outcomes are to be achieved. Ensuring resources and pressure are in the right places, is always difficult to achieve. Yet a concerted effort to resource appropriately and manage the paradox of competing priorities, go a long way to ensuring momentum is sustained, even in the middle of a crisis. So stay committed, stay flexible, and stay calm; you’ll come out of this well.