One of the first things that can come to mind when making a plan is how long things are going to be this way. How long are you asking people to make sacrifices, how long until we get back to normal? How long is basically another way of asking WHEN?
Getting things wrong by predicting a quick turn around on the when and how fronts seems to undermine your leadership in your own mind. In addition, many leaders don’t want to be wrong with too dire a prediction. We get caught in thinking that our adult employees are like a young child, and that we can’t scare them with the real information.
Right now, all leaders are caught in the WHEN trap and this is why we think you should punt on the timelines but still have a PLAN. A great way to do this is to get the team focused on the daily key actions that lead to the long-term benefits of endurance as a competitive advantage.
If your wondering what we know about endurance, we have unknowingly been acquiring some personal knowledge for decades and had a crash course the last 10 years due to some unforeseen medical emergencies.
Our professional golf backgrounds highly correlate with endurance. I also have completed open water swims in Lake Tahoe and the Maui Channel where the duration of the competition is such that endurance, as a quality for continuing for a long time, is paramount.
Our crash course has been on the medical front where within an 18-month period Sara was diagnosed with a bi-cuspid aortic heart valve that would require open heart surgery and both of Sara’s parents would be diagnosed with incurable cancers.
The prescription you get with a bicuspid valve when you are in your late 30’s is to be as healthy as you can but to wait for as long as you can because post-surgery you may be on blood thinners for the rest of your life and a second surgery may not be possible.
Sara’s parents were immediately put into surgery and then aggressive chemotherapy. Random numbers on charts become the norm, Google searches not very comforting, and seldom found is a doctor who got a minor in empathy.
What happens when so many family members are in need of care is that you start to shorten up the time frames by which you plan. You go from thinking where your life might be in ten years to realizing that every 90 days or less you are going to be making new plans. You also start to understand that the PLAN now gets an asterisk next to it. The asterisk is then explained at the bottom of the page and it reads:
“Plans subject to change.”
Endurance, and the benefits of having a recipe for endurance (back to the definition at the top of the quality of continuing for a long time) started to become our constant companions. We also learned to be very aware of a mindset that can appear when the duration of a condition is considered to be unknown. That mindset is COPE. For the purposes of this nonscientific publication we are going to consider COPE to be something to avoid.
“When you COPE you lose hope” is one of our taglines.
This is not to paint coping as the enemy in all settings, in some rooms it is vital. However, for the purposes of this situation and the leadership challenge that is in front of us know, we are going to want to avoid allowing the team to get comfortable with COPING.
We are prescribing the positive principles of Endurance with the aim that you will be able to use these to lead your team at time when you can’t give them an answer to when things will get back to normal. We will share a story from history of endurance and then offer some key lessons learned from that story.
The stories can serve as inspiration to your team and then you will be equipped to share why your team will endure and then can use the questions we have provided to help the team navigate the upcoming week.
Endurance and the Stockdale Paradox
James Stockdale was a POW for seven years in Vietnam with a significant amount of that time being in horrific and solitary confinement at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. In an interview he gave for Jim Collins bestselling book “Good to Great” he shared the dual mentality they formed to allow them to endure their situation and the indeterminate period that they were to be held captive.
Here is a snippet from the book and the interview between Jim Collins and James Stockdale.
“I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
When Collins asked who didn't make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:
“Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
Stockdale then added:
“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Witnessing this philosophy of duality, Collins went on to describe it as the Stockdale Paradox.
What a great line. “Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” What are the brutal facts of today as you see them? Could we see the basic confidence in the public stock markets shrink to historic lows? Do you have a plan in place to function as a business with the market at those levels? Do you have a plan for a key sales manager or a front-line manager to be sick and not able to work from home?
It appears that this is a time for leaders to pull the team together and visit some emergency preparedness plans with more clarity and focus. Have a plan for things getting worse from here so that if that happens the team has practiced recently, and they will know that someone was thinking through this before and not just making it up as they go along.
It is also a time to avail the unwanted fears of your clients and share with them what you are doing to serve their needs and the processes you have in place to keep them properly allocated.
Your business will endure with certain habits and it is important to have your clients be mentally prepared to endure with you. It seems like if Admiral Stockdale was alive today, he would say:
These points of view give us courage and we hope that by passing this example of endurance on to you that you will be able to effectively lead your employees and advise your clients at this crucial time in our country’s history.
We view your work as being essential to our country’s well-being.
Your Leader Playbook for the Week
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