When companies, families or businesses fall into trouble, the group often looks to the leader as if to say, “What now, boss?” And in those moments, truly great leaders know that every word they say matters. Not because they are genius and infallible, but because this is the moment to inspire the group to work together to overcome a difficulty. This is the moment to motivate creative solutions instead of adding to the current problem. This is the moment to drive exciting opportunities from chaos. It’s a leader’s job to rally the team, inspire them to seek solutions and give them hope. So what a leader says in this moment, means everything.
When facing difficult times, a truly great leader will say…
1. A person’s first name.
A leader see her team. She knows it’s important that each individual is known and recognized for the value they bring. She knows that without this person the team would be lesser, and so she always acknowledges her team members with respect. Using someone’s name perks up their attention, makes them feel seen and inspires their work because they feel valued. Difficult times for a group means all hands on deck, and using someone’s name is the first method a great leader will use to teach that how they contribute matters.
2. Nothing at all.
Sometimes all a team needs at a difficult time is to be heard. To avoid making assumptions, a truly great leader will not try to fix the situation right away with words, but by listening. Listening to team members and making them feel like their words carry weight means they will be more conscious of what they say. When a leader makes his team feel their words will be absorbed, everyone wants to make those words count. A leader knows that listening also sets the precedent for respect, calm and patience.
3. Why the course is changing.
People are always searching for meaning. A great leader knows that to ask her team to implement a new policy, direction or mode of operation means she has to tell them why the change is meaningful. Disconnecting from the why disconnects the leader from her team. It makes her decision-making more imperative than the team’s ability to effect the change she wants. This divide is counterintuitive to productivity. You cannot build by hoarding meaning. Meaning gives motivation and motivation inspires change.
4. Exactly what he means.
A great leader knows that miscommunications happen and people come to the table with various degrees of assumptions. He knows that the only way to avoid as much miscommunication as possible is to distill his own thoughts into exactly what he means. Saying exactly what he means keeps leading the conversation to the solution and away from misinterpretation. Keeping things concise means his group can count on him to give them clear information every time they need it. It fosters a sense of security. This lack of pretense inspires others to speak more clearly and fewer miscommunications result.
5. I need help.
She knows when it’s time to delegate, ask for help and get her team to contribute. A great leader won’t play the superhero; she will ask for what she needs because she will expect her team to do this as well. To a great leader, nothing is more important than accomplishing what the team is set to accomplish — so if she doesn’t have an answer and believes someone else can more effectively find the solution, her ego won’t stand in the way. She’ll ask for help and move the project forward.
6. How to move forward.
Most of the time, a great leader invents: new ways of doing things, new products, new connections. He creates something from where there was nothing. In other words, he has a vision. But within that vision, he also sees the steps of how to bring it to fruition and then he communicates the steps clearly. He stays open to improvements upon the plan, but he never comes to the table without a plan in mind. A leader showing up with initiative creates a culture of team members showing up with initiative.
7. It’s going to be okay.
She won’t lie to her team, but she will see the bigger picture. A great leader knows that perspective is everything when getting around tough problems, and by saying, “We will get through this and all will be fine,” gives her group confidence in their ability to grow. Making a point of saying it’s going to be okay also takes away the dramatic undertone that can develop in a difficult situation. It’s easy to focus on the problem, but calming down helps the entire team focus on the solution instead.
8. Different things at different times.
A truly great leader understands that while we can learn from history, every situation is unique to this particular moment in time. Different people, different locations, and different ability levels all need different solutions. The words a leader might use with a veteran will inevitably be different than the ones he uses with a new team member. They need different ways of being built up, of being encouraged, of being motivated. Every situation will have its own nuance and subtlety and a truly great leader will have the thoughtfulness to address each difficult situation with an equally nuanced approach.
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