Stormy Times When Leading

Stormy Times When Leading


Let’s be honest, we have all had times as a leader when it feels like we are in over our head, and we have lost control of the ship we should be steering! In fact we may not even know where the map or even the destination is anymore! Below are a few tips that regularly help me when these days hit: (by the way this is usually begins with making a cup of tea)

  1. Focus forward – so often people seem to spend hours worrying about the future, or analyzing where they went wrong and how they got to where they are – this will not help you (especially if time is limited and ice bergs are potentially looming, you need to find the destination again, get out your map and plan which way to steer quickly). So let it go, and work on the future.
  2. Focus on your top 3 to 5 goals – ideally one should keep these top of mind at all times, but we all know that in the busyness we can lose sight of them – so stop, get back again to focusing on the destination, and pointing the ship in the right direction. (sometimes one may need to talk to superiors or colleagues to reaffirm what these are, especially if circumstances have changed.) The question I like to ask of myself or others here is – if I do nothing else this year what 3 targets/ goals/ deliverables must I achieve this year. Then make these your priority, and put all other items lower on your to do list. (this includes saying no to meetings!)
  3. Gather your team – look at the resources you have around you that can help you get through this time, staff, contractors, friends, advisors….you are not alone…and often talking through a situation helps give you perspective and clarity. At the same time evaluate the skills and resources you have and see if they can take you where you need to go within the timeframes. Delegate more if needed, or bring in some short term contractors, but don’t wait to hit the iceberg, get the team going now while you can still steer out of the way!
  4. Have a written action plan for each of your top goals, which include the steps to be taken, deadlines, and people responsible. This is Management 101 but it works! You may have to have a few weeks of emergency meetings where your team literally reports back on each item every week or even every day, so that you can monitor progress and make mid course corrections, or bring in extra resources immediately. Make these your priority, even if you think they should be doing it themselves – you can’t sail if you have a hole in your boat…
  5. Finally, make sure that YOU get enough sleep, food and exercise. The temptation is always to put in more hours, but remember just like an athlete, the rest time is just as important as the work time, because your brain also needs time to reflect, filter and process information.

Not just so that you can remain alert, focused and on your best game, but also so that your brain can work through problems and come up with better solutions, or let your sub conscious thoughts have time to filter through to your conscious mind, so that you make the best judgement calls.

Now get up, put your game face on, and bravely set sail yet again, you can do it!

Elizabeth Zambonini
Elizabeth Zambonini is the founder and CEO of The Hope Factory, an established Enterprise Development company that creates, develops, equips and supports previously disadvantaged South Africans to establish and grow businesses. From founding The Hope Factory in humble beginnings in Cape Town 2001, Liz has grown it into a sustainable and successful NGO which has national representation, and is one of the leading enterprise development organizations in the country. Liz is also the project director of enterprise development at The South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA), and a leader and advisor in this area of thought leadership.