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Leading in a Crisis: A Humane Approach

Leadership in a crisis

Just last week you were trying to lead your team forward. Now, we’re in an historic moment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).

How you lead yourself, your team, your company and your family through these coming weeks will define how all of your life’s stories will unfold.

I want to share what clients have found useful over these past few days.  Just to be clear, in my experience this is a messy, iterative process that takes time to perfect. But, just working through the process the first time is likely to add clarity and strength to your leadership.

I try to avoid military analogies in business, but sometimes they are really helpful.  To guide fighter pilots in making urgent decisions in very difficult moments, US Air Force Colonel John Boyd invented the OODA loop model.  

The model holds that we loop through four steps:

  • Observe
  • Orient
  • Decide
  • Act

I break these steps down as follows:

Observe - Get connected & curious

  • Reality - get as close as possible to where the work and transactions are happening.
  • People - ask a variety of people questions about their situations and opinions.
  • Data - open a circle of inputs that are as unbiased, direct and timely as possible.
  • Models - find the best thinking possible.  Adapt successful models to your situation, don't just borrow their conclusions.

Orient - Get analytical

  • Think clearly - read the smartest, clearest thinking possible. It will sharpen your own thinking skills even if it is not relevant to your area of expertise.
  • Verify data for completeness, accuracy and timeliness.  Refresh your understanding of statistics, especially confidence intervals.  
  • Test ideas for confirmation bias and logical fallacies.
  • Build networks of insight and care - find support for your thinking and spirits.
  • Map assets and liabilities, business and personal, including contractual and social obligations.
  • Prioritize values - these will support the evaluation of options.
  • Clarify circles of care
      • Arm’s reach
      • Personal
      • Community

Decide - Get rational

  • Choose to lead yourself and  others towards greater strength, clarity, wisdom and true wealth in this experience
  • Get tight - pull in all outflows of time, energy and money.
    • Look closely at all of your variable and fixed costs and list how you might cut them and what the trigger will be for cutting each.
    • Conserve cash in every possible way, it is your key to survival.  See renegotiate promises.
  • Stay home - for now, physically and metaphorically. Create your core value.
  • Renegotiate promises - notify the person of your intent to stop keeping the promise, then renegotiate a promise you can keep going forward.

Act - Get moving

  • Purposeful work every morning - know what it is the night before
  • Build structures that serve you and your crew
  • Always learning - we will all be changed by this experience, choose your path forward before it is chosen for you.
  • Refine practice - turn what you learned into a  for yourself and others

As we loop from action back to  observing the results of our actions we have completed the experiment of  one OODA loop. We observed reality, oriented to a hypothesis about it and decided on an experiment to act upon.  The results of that experiment feed into our next loop. With luck and some skill, we will loop closer and closer to creating a new reality that works for us and those in our circles of care.

In times of real crisis, we will loop through OODA with the following intentions for ourselves, our teams an organizations.  As leaders, we are like emergency room doctors seeking to ensure the patient survives, heals and eventually thrives again.  To that end, we must focus on each step in turn:

  • Stabilize - ensure vital processes of life and value creation continue.
  • Heal - the damage done in the crisis and in our first responses.
  • Invigorate - integrate and breath life into the new normal that emerges after the crisis and healing.

Skipping steps in this process will only add risk to your situation.  Really focus on observing and orienting around what will be required for survival, make decisions and act in as many loops as are required to ensure survival  before you move on to the healing process.  You will learn valuable things about your business, your self and your team by investing in this process.  As you go, integrate your new wisdom into your daily leadership practices.

I hope you find this helpful.  We are here to help anytime, please reach out for a quick advisory orientation discussion anytime.  Book a time on my calendar here.

In these critical days, we will hosting free Humane Leadership Open Forums frequently online, see the events calendar here.  In these structured roundtables we will address your questions or issues in a confidential, humane group effort to find what's true and to support to each other in our leadership journeys.

SSig
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In the Absence of Good Leadership, We Must Lead Ourselves

A Reformation, Really?

At the close of Drucker Forum 2017, Charles Handy called for a reformation of business enterprises. Frederick Bird and Henry Mintzberg responded with a tongue-in-cheek revision of Luther’s 95 Theses, their 9.5 Theses which included this paraphrase of Luther’s thesis #32:

Those who believe they can be certain of their salvation because they have achieved higher share value will be eternally damned, together with their consultants.

In the US, government seems to gladly allow enterprises to set their own scopes of responsibility, mainly shareholder value, even when that directly conflicts with the best interests of the employees and the communities affected by the production, transportation, and disposal of their products. (Here’s a recent glaring example).

Could it be that in our zeal to separate economic and political considerations, we’ve absolved businesses of moral responsibility and stalled the conversation about the equitable distribution of costs, income and wealth? Continue reading In the Absence of Good Leadership, We Must Lead Ourselves

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Stephen Interviewed by Heidi Gehman

HLC Int18.003b

Heidi Gehman had some questions for Stephen about HLC. Heidi is a higher education administrator and former colleague of Stephen’s at Oregon Extension. This is part of Stephen’s conversation with Heidi about her work here.

Topics discussed in this interview

    • Integrated, whole self leadership
    • Self leadership
    • Fear-based vs. hope-based motivation
    • Impeccability
    • Wisdom jigs

Continue reading Stephen Interviewed by Heidi Gehman

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Learning Humane Self Leadership From A Teacher’s Resignation

Hooray and dismay.

In reclaiming her own integrity and future by resigning, a Florida teacher in the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) made a powerful statement about our need to stop following leadership that doesn’t know how to lead. The teacher wrote:

“Florida’s startling attrition rate of 40% for educators [in the first] five years [of teaching] …. means my woes are shared by many. “OCPS Means Success” doesn’t mean squat if those measuring the success only recognize a specific brand of success, and continue to ignore the needs of their educators and students.”

Managers who fail to meet our basic human needs while hiding behind standards and data, have not earned the right to lead us. The current leadership structure may have role-based authority but they also must earn the trust and influence required to lead us. Of course, some educational leaders are doing great work at the nearly impossible task of meeting the changing needs of children, society and the imposed standards, but, clearly others are not meeting the needs of teachers and students.

Continue reading Learning Humane Self Leadership From A Teacher’s Resignation