At this time of year many of my executive coaching clients are asking me “How should I lead in the new year?” It’s the right question.
It’s an even more pressing question than usual, with less-than-positive economic signals and the possibility of a global recession looming for 2023.
Here are nine things I tell them:
- Be alert: Know what’s going on in the marketplace. Make sure you follow a variety of media sources, to get a balanced view of what’s going on. Remember that when it comes to media coverage “if it bleeds, it leads.” That’s true for financial reporting as well. Make sure you’re following a variety of sources to get a truly balanced view of what’s happening.
- Be agile: This is not the time for the tried-and-true. Be flexible enough to shift your PR strategies, management focus and leadership style as things fluctuate, as they likely will, not only quarter by quarter, but month by month.
- Be aware: Know how your next-in-line leaders and their teams are feeling. It’s not enough to know how you want to get through the potentially rocky road ahead, and it’s not enough to share your vision for that. You must be sure that vision resonates with them, that they understand their roles in bringing it to life, and that they’re “in the boat” with you, rowing in the same direction.
- Be brave: Teams, leaders-in-training and clients have always been attracted to courageous leaders. That’s truer than ever in potentially scary times. If courage isn’t your go-to place, this is one of the few areas where I believe you can “fake it ‘til you make it.” Ask yourself, “What would I do if I were completely fearless?” If you come up blank, imagine the bravest person you know and ask, “What would I do if I were them?”
- Be ready to act If you don’t feel your leaders are with you, if you sense your internal and external clients are less than thrilled, if you’re concerned about how the environment will affect your business, and you ignore the signals, you’re doing so at your own risk. Have a bias towards action, remembering that taking just about any action is better than inaction.
- Be involved with clients: Of course this is always a must-do for leaders, whether you’re in the agency side with external clients, or if you’re in-house with internal ones. Find out if they’re satisfied, not just with your team’s work output and outcomes, but with the client service they’re getting, and the counsel you give. This is not the time for a “C” rating. Get in, find out, and if they’re not happy, remember point 5 and take action. Fast!
- Be both realistic and optimistic: You have to be the former, because now’s not the time to be Pollyanna, assuming that everything will be just find in 2023. That doesn’t seem to be the case. But you must also be the latter, because an optimistic mindset will help you turn challenge into opportunity, and encourage teams, peers, clients, and bosses to follow you. So think of it as realistic optimism, or optimistic realism. And remember that now’s not the time to be a Debbie Downer, either.
- Be good with uncertainty: Know that you’re potentially facing challenges you haven’t experienced before. Expecting the unexpected will allow you to respond effectively to whatever comes your way, and, in the words of lyricist Dorothy Fields, “Pick yourself up/Dust yourself off, and/Start all over again”!
- Be resilient: Now’s the time to get into your George Washington at Valley Forge mode. Gird your loins, knowing that it may be a rough and long road ahead. And know that you’ve been called to leadership as 2023 approaches because you have the ability to lead your people through it. The more you believe that you can do it, the more your team will too.
Ken Jacobs, PCC, CPC, is principal at Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching.