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Perseverance & Crisis Management

“It is not what happens to us that matters so much as what happens in us.” Jerry Sittser

Go back 18 months. Go back 20. What you did as a leader over a timeline to the current day. What happened? What did you notice? What did you learn about yourself, your team, and your business?

The pandemic was a popular time for phrases like action plan, problem solving, and crisis management. But nine times out of ten, leaders used these terms to discuss setbacks, not opportunities. For me, and I bet with you as well, this time was ripe with circumstances that challenged what we did as leaders and how we did it. As I shared previously, the organizational mission doesn’t change, but the way we deliver that mission can definitely change. Now, we step into what degree we deliver it. What about when the circumstances create discomfort, uncertainty and distraction? What about when we face difficulty? Are we staying true to what we need to do, day in-day out, when our leadership is being challenged?

I am reminded of two wonderful quotes. One from Robert Frost, who shared, “The only way out is through”. The other from Winston Churchill, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Both of these resonated with me because the crisis of COVID tested our resilience and our ability to keep doing what we need to do. It tested our perseverance.

Perseverance in Crisis Management

Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty in achieving success. It’s the quality someone resolutely continues to do what they need to do even though it is difficult. Words like resiliency, determination, endurance, steadfastness, grit, and moxie come to mind.

Question: what’s the action plan when overseeing something during difficulty? What is important as we work through disruption? What are the common denominators in an uncertain landscape? Both crisis and crisis management give us enormous opportunities as leaders.

Leaders who are growing through crisis, show up and stand out. They put people first. They calmly embrace reality. They remain flexible by leveraging their resources, and create an action plan that suits. They use good judgment. They provide value to others. They’re confident, vulnerable, and authentic. They assure us of the hope found in “we’ll get through this together”, and “this too shall pass.”

How do we respond to the question, “are we managing crisis or are we leading through it?”

Start Thinking about Perseverance in Crisis Management Today

Get a sheet of paper and a pen. Draft your answers to some or all of following questions:

  •  How do you define perseverance and resilience?
  • How do you typically respond to crisis, adversity, disruption, and difficulty?
  • How do you evaluate your goals, objectives, mission and values when you face difficulty?
  • Do you tend to lose sight of your organizational mission in a crisis?
  • What are your problem solving steps when you face difficulty and are in the midst of adversity?
  • Think back about a previous time when you faced difficulty. How did you respond, what got you through it, and what did you learn?
  • What training on working through difficulty are you providing your team and organization?
  • When you persevere through difficulty, how are you processing the lessons and planning for the future?
  • How are you paying attention to your people during difficulty? What do they need from you?

How will these questions and answers influence perseverance in yourself, within your team and in your organization? Our resilience in change, failure, and all challenges is seen. It is felt by the teams we oversee. Our greatest influence is our response to crisis.

Crisis Management as a Leadership Opportunity

In March 2020, leadership guru John Maxwell delivered a three-day virtual leadership summit, Leading Through Crisis. I would absolutely encourage you to check out this video. The biggest ‘aha’ I experienced was the underlying opportunity in crisis when he said, “With this crisis, we’ve all been given a lemon. So, I’m going to take that lemon, cut that baby open, and I’m making lemonade.”

His message of leading through adversity resonated. Adversity is often seen as a bad thing. We want bad things to end. We want to know when they will be over. While I understand that perspective, that is not my thinking. Adversity challenges us to change the question from “why is this happening?” to “what can we learn and improve?” Opportunity lies in the middle of our adversity. Perseverance is our driver to explore what happens next.

Adversity, crisis, failure, distraction… All of these experiences create change, and cause us to change with it. They challenge how we look at wanting the old normal, risking new success, and how we work through what we are given. It increases our focus by having us re-evaluate our priorities and what we see as essential in our life. It also gets us to be creative in our thinking, bold in our decisions, and precise in our action plan.

Today, be intentional about who you are and who you are becoming in difficulty. Believing whatever you face makes you better. And remember, your people are your greatest resource. When you and I persevere for them and for their sake, they persevere.

Your Action Plan for Building Perseverance

  • Define organizational perseverance, resiliency, and grit
  • Elevate organizational mission, purpose and “the big picture”
  • When in season of difficulty, be very transparent and communicate often
  • Encourage team collaboration and development of perseverance best practices
  • Take opportunities to reflect on and capture lessons being learned
  • Celebrate wins and success stories often
  • Pay attention to emotional intelligence and resilience
  • Foster employee health and wellbeing programs

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