Leading When Things Go Wrong

What would you do if things started to go really bad for your team, your project, your company? Would you start looking for other opportunities or would you rather increase the effort to fix the problem? Would you start to be negative and become part of the problem or would you rather increase your resolve and positive approach to be part of the solution?

See the big picture

People react differently when things go down and it is only human to consider options. To know what you should do is to consider the bigger picture of your life, your priorities and your values. Consider what impact your decision has on your family, your coworkers and your friends and community. And don’t just stay at the surface but dig deeper.

The company is losing money, you will not get your bonus and your manager came to you asking if you are willing to take a cut in the paycheck. If you live and breathe for the company then it is a no brainer. However, what if your priorities are your family? Less money will directly affect them. So you feel it is the right time to quit. What will happen to your reputation when you do that? Perhaps your colleagues will see you as an opportunist who just leaves for money and throws the rest of them under the train. Perhaps even your spouse may ask a question whether you are a quitter and would leave if things go rough for two of you?

Be a leader

Captain stays with the sinking ship. It is the rats who run. If you want to be seen as a leader you need to lead by example. You need to be there for your team when the ocean gets rough and you need to be the one who knows (or at least appears to know) the way out of the storm. Your confidence, your enthusiasm and your continued dedication to the project or the company might be all what is needed to turn things around.

You as a leader are seen by others as having more knowledge of what’s happening and what the future might bring. The moment you start to be negative and moody your team will immediately interpret this as you knowing some bad news that they are unaware of yet. That in turn will act as a distraction, it will fuel negativism within the team, it will demotivate others and impact negatively execution. The project will suffer and things will indeed get worse than they were before – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t give up

Real leaders hold the team together when things go sour. They have a vision and push relentlessly forward, maintaining positive and constructive approach. The team then follows and because of the focus on improving execution chances are that things will turn around and get better.

Know when to let go

So when is the right time to leave? The only way how to be sure what is the right thing to do is to see the big picture and what impact your actions have on the system around you. As a rule of thumb, you should never quit because you are trying to escape from something. You should quit only when you are marching towards something else. You shouldn’t run FROM what you don’t like, but you should run TOWARDS to what you like. Sounds like one and the same thing but it is not. If you try to escape something chances are that your new destination will not be the best there is. It will be just a bit better than the one you are fleeing.

If you decide to move and do something else you should do it at the time when you are reasonably fine with the current state of affairs and there is no crisis. In that situation chances are that you will be also be able to lessen the negative impact of your move and people may not even notice what you are doing because they are fine and your absence will not be noticed much.

Twitter type summary: “Captain stays with a sinking ship, it is the rats who run. Leader holds the team together when things go sour and leaves when they calm down.”

How do you know it is the right time for you to leave? Would you leave when the team feels down and demotivated or would you leave when everything goes smoothly?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s