The Resilient Maverick – Not Just for the Brave or Courageous … with the passing of the winds and the inexorable climb to the new reality, I had to figure out what to do next. In the early days, mere survival consumed me, but as the community settled into the current reality, the uncertainty was crushing at times. An overwhelming powerlessness threatened to immobilise me at times. How could I keep my head “above water?”
With the approach of a storm, mariners at sea know to trim in the mainsail to keep the boat from getting overpowered by the winds and seas. This is called “reefing the main.” Making the decision to reef the main is a judgement skill that has to be developed. Usually, this happens through first experiencing the consequences of not making a good decision …
The adage is that if you are thinking about reefing, it’s already too late.
Entrepreneurs, just like mariners, need to create good instincts to create plans that include a response to any catastrophe or even just an expansion, or recovery from a global pandemic, to be able to respond before it’s too late. Rita Mae Brown says, “good judgement comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgement.” I’ve personally gotten lots of “experience” to get where I’m at today …
Not Just for the Brave or Courageous … Whenever any of us is weathering an extreme event, whether it’s a record-breaking hurricane, a global pandemic, or the confrontation of video footage showing the murder of an unarmed, unresistant black man – these are all opportunities to develop good judgement. And, we can see from the worldwide protests, that many people are using the latter experience to re-evaluate their own choices and a massive revision in decision-making is taking place before our eyes.
As of the time of this post, the global Covid-19 pandemic still hovers like a relentlessly ongoing “Category 5 storm” with wide-reaching financial, social, or emotional implications for most of us. We have to ask ourselves, “are we using this, and every other experience to develop good judgement to make better decisions for ourselves and our businesses?”
When you are in the throes of a Category 5-level challenge like shuttering your business involuntarily, it may be difficult to see how to turn the events into an opportunity to improve your life. Yet, using the extreme situations to practice good decision-making skills can keep us from spiralling downward. The moment for me came when I realised that I was trapped with the storm raging outside and no way out of my shelter, no plan, and no means to ask for help. As I could feel the panic rise, I made the decision to learn from the experience. It was too late to “reef the main” ahead of the storm, but not too late for me to learn in time for the next one!
Good thing, too, because the second Category 5 hurricane came two weeks later …
Not Just for the Brave or Courageous … How would you handle yourself if you had no access to the things that you usually rely on to solve problems – people to brainstorm with, the telephone, internet and social media connections? Maybe, if you’re like me, you would start by picking up a pen and paper, to record what you are experiencing as events are unfolding, learning as much as you can while still in the throes of the trauma. It allowed me to get focused on something productive, kept me from missing out on trying to recall events already in the past.
It is scientifically established that physically recording our thoughts, ideas, experiences, goals, etc. activates the problem-solving section of our brains, the pre-frontal cortex. At any time before, during or after a crisis, we can take action to start writing. Through the rising panic, I began to record everything that I could remember, the things I did well, the mistakes that I made, the resources that I had, what I had forgotten, all in as much detail as I could recall while it was still fresh. I wanted to learn whatever I could from the experience, because I knew that there would always be another storm. Not only did it help get me through the hours of interminable terrifying sound and darkness but writing also cleared my panic and emotions long enough to be available for a solution to come to me.
This strategy worked well for me when it felt like a matter of life and death, and in so many other lesser storms in life and business.
Not Just for the Brave or Courageous
Learning when to “reef the main” is the first step. From that experience, we can develop a decision-making style and plan that can be shared with your stakeholders, so that when the storms come, everyone understands what is expected of them, and what they can expect from you. This is true whether you are the head of a company or a family, responsible for yourself or your community. You can develop this skill by first weighing the urgency in making the decision against the importance of getting your team enrolled and acting on that decision. Let your team know whether you will use a consultative or consensus approach, if you will delegate the decision, or make the decision first and seek buy-in later.
During the lockdown from the pandemic, you have seen firsthand or experienced personally the tough decisions businesses have had to make, shuttering, furloughing or laying off teams. These are the kinds of decisions that leaders have had to make through any Category 5 event. Through some of the public protests to the lockdown we witnessed a disconnect between management decisions and buy-in by employees. Using a more consultative or consensus approach may have caused less disruption in the enterprise. For some essential businesses, the urgency of the Covid-19 situation may also have impeded more engagement with teams, so new methods would have to be developed to ensure full consideration is given to the team and their concerns.
The pandemic has given us a front row seat to the importance of exercising good judgement and decision-making in a crisis. We’ve also seen firsthand, the impact of a failure of leadership in a number of organisations to develop and implement these important skills. Learning when to “reef the main” gets you where you want to go faster and more efficiently, without destroying the ship and your crew!
Not Just for the Brave or Courageous … In this series, I share strategies to weather any Category 5 crisis to not only lessen the impact, but to come through thriving. These are the “7 Barometers of Resilience” that I introduce in my latest book, The Resilient Leader: Life-Changing Strategies to Overcome Today’s Turmoil and Tomorrow’s Uncertainty.
More to come …