You could say that the global pandemic has redefined the word uncertain! But there is little comfort in hearing (yet again!) that these times are unique and unprecedented. If you are trying to lead your organisation or team through a constantly shifting business landscape, it is practical assistance that counts.
Leadership starts with you – and allowing yourself to be human, as a leader, is a vital part of authentic leadership. However, this can place immense pressure on you when trying to maintain strength and positivity in the face of pervasive uncertainty.
That’s where the steps laid out in this blog come in. They are intended to present you with a clear path amidst the chaos, to focus you on the crucial skills and preparations you need to lead effectively in difficult circumstances.
Step 1: Recognising, and leading, on the human side of uncertainty for you and your team
It is impossible to solve a problem that you don’t know about or mitigate a business risk that you have no knowledge of. Remember that the resilience of your staff (or lack of it) is a business risk which you need to manage carefully at the current time.
So, let’s start with you. Acknowledging and sharing your personal and business vulnerabilities is good as it shows you are human – but focusing on them – not so good. It is well known that the drive for perfection can easily lead to the imposter syndrome, my blog provides more info and tips in handling this pressure.
In order to lead your team, you have to decide how much personal responses to change and challenges you want or need to share. Balancing the need to demonstrate resilience and show vulnerabilities will depend on your team. As this is a tricky question to answer, many of my clients find a second objective opinion on the likely impact of their communication in this area invaluable.
To assist your team with getting their own balances right, it can be extremely useful to create a safe space where their concerns and even vulnerabilities can be shared, is extremely useful. This can be accomplished in a number of ways.
You and your team need to decide whether a daily check in or talking on these sensitive issues is done on a weekly or fortnightly basis within a meeting. The timing of these meetings is important; it needs to recognise work and personal commitments. Communicating the purpose of these meetings is to support them and the legal practice, it would be useful to include how these will help the team to succeed. The more you that you consistently hold these, the more trust you will build with your team that they, and their mental health is important.
Having a clear agenda for these meetings is important as you will be guiding the meetings to cover business and personal issues as well. Therefore, these meetings have to be engaging, supportive and productive. They may change as the uncertainty facing you all changes or they might evolve into another form of productive way of team engagement. I have written four blogs on team meetings which you may find useful depending on how you lead these. This one, What is the Point of your Team meetings, includes tips for identifying characteristics of good and bad meetings.
Step 2: Rallying your team
After step 1, where you all have accepted and shared your concerns then you need to pick up your team and provide them with some support in managing their own well-being.
You should also bear in mind how the meetings are taking place. If your organisation is still working remotely, the meeting will have to be conducted over apps such as Zoom or Teams. The lack of physical face-to-face contact may mean you have to be even more cognisant of ensuring everyone in the team is engaged. Here is my blog on planning and preparing for your meetings.
Depending where your legal practice is on ‘blended’ working, then you may be including team members who are working from home using apps and other technology such as Zoom /Teams to include them. Extra effort is required to be even more cognisant that all the team is being engaged.
Here are some practical activities that can help you and your team work in these ambiguous times:
- You and your team can use the simple technique to manage moods set out in this blog.
- You can use the more resilient members of your team to help one another as this can be very empowering. However, you should monitor this closely to ensure that certain team members don’t become overwhelmed. Be aware that even the most resilient ones may change over time, which is why repeating step one is key.
- You and your team complete this simple resilience test to track your resilience.
- Or for a tech equivalent you could try Mente which is an online mental health tech platform which provides cost effective and high-quality support to every single member of your team.
- You can appoint a Mental Health First Aider.
- You can arrange training aimed at building their resilience which is a 1-hour’s workshop that can be delivered at lunch time.
- For boosting your own confidence and skills as a leader, Coaching and mentoring is a very confidential way to obtain help if you are struggling to cope with this constantly changing environment.
Step 3: Formulating a plan of action
Once you have your team on an even keel, and boosted their resolve for the struggles ahead involve them in creating a plan of action. This plan should detail how the team is going to work together through this or any other crisis in the future. Currently this may be focussed on how best to utilise blended working practices. It is important that both you and your team are part of this process, so that everyone is invested and informed.
There are many ways to formulate your flexible plan. One example is involving your team in a SWOT analysis, to provide a framework for making decisions or pivoting your business going forward.
Two-way communication is key – you need to engage with those who are providing the service to the clients, and keeping the whole team fully in the loop as to what is working, what needs to be changed and how you are supporting them to do so. Don’t forget to stress the positives and praise their efforts. This is so important but is often overlooked and can lead to much wasted effort, repetition and frustration.
Step 4: Learning to act on incomplete information
Decisions still need to be made about the business and what the priorities are, even in circumstances where you don’t have all the facts as you are operating in an evolving situation.
It should be noted that research carried out by Harvard Business School identified that, in these situations, effective leaders are able to make speedy decisions without precision. (Shock – horror). Part of this thinking process is the ability to prioritise within certain key business categories:
- Client work and service
- Employee safety and care including mental health
- Financial continuity
- Regulatory and risk factors
- Training and developing yourself and your team
- The continued success of the practice on an evolving basis.
Understanding the trade-offs you can make, as well as the ones that you can’t, is another key skill for handling uncertainty. Ask for help from industry experts and professional associations, and take into account the views of your team.
Once you are clear on what can and can’t be done, share this information with your team, including the ‘why’ where appropriate. Take action knowing there will be pivoting and flexibility required to deal with changes.
Keep a log of these as you can use this information to guide further decision making particularly what is working and what is not. Further recording and sharing success in any of these areas can be motivating and keep morale high. Have a look at my simple organisational success log.
One of my clients put their growth plans on hold in 2019 and focused on building solutions to the ‘weaknesses’ of her legal business which surfaced at that time. She monitors her legal business sector to ascertain when she can pivot back into growth plans. Another client had to resource up to meet the extra demands on their legal business caused by the pandemic.
Remember as a leader of your firm or practice your purpose is the continual success of your business and people.
Step 5: Continuing to learn and enhance your skills
As tempting as it might be to ‘rest on your laurels’, part of being a good leader for your team or business is to continue assessing your effectiveness and developing yourself. Being visible and open about this sets a good example for your team, and helps you to build a strong personal brand.
With all that in mind, you might find that Sections 2 and 3 of my free Documenting Your Brilliance® toolkit can help, some of which have been mentioned above. The exercises contained there will enable you to take stock of your leadership attributes and skills and identify opportunities for development.
Getting support on your development path
For those who want to deepen their leadership skills both for this crisis and beyond, I have a workshop specifically designed for leading in uncertainty. This contains practical techniques which enables you to make the most informed decisions speedily as recommended by the Harvard Research mentioned above. . For only £99.00, you can fast-track your leadership growth with effective skills, invaluable insight. and maintain your resilience in adversity
Each workshop is limited to 5 participants, meaning that everyone gets chance to share their requirements and concerns. But it also means that places are very limited so contact me to book your slot and avoid disappointment.
Or if you prefer, I can also help you by providing one-to-one leadership training packages, ensuring you receive support dedicated to the challenges you are facing, and focused on the exact objectives you wish to achieve. Phone me for a complimentary chat about your needs – 07921540039.
“Ann’s approach is personable and easy to understand. She does the ‘graft’ so you don’t have to. She is my ‘go-2-expert and has been instrumental in enabling me to overcome challenges so that my leadership and business can grow and thrive.” Jodie Hill, Founder and Managing Partner, Thrive Law
Ann Page, Business Author, Trainer and Coach to the Legal Profession.
Ann Page, a Top 100 lawyer of the year (2003) has had a successful in-house 28-year career, working mainly in the financial sector. She switched from being a business lawyer in industry to a non-practising solicitor who teaches and coaches on business subjects in 2003. Since then, Ann has trained nearly 7000 lawyers on business skills including leadership, management and interpersonal skills. If you want to see Ann in action, click here.
Ann has always been active in various professional committees and currently she is Treasurer of the Yorkshire Sole Practitioner’s Group, a member of the Professional Speaking Association, Professional Speaking Academy and Leeds Law Society.