Setting Goals and Leading Through Turbulent Times
Living and leading in highly dynamic and turbulent times can make goal setting seem nearly impossible as your business reality changes daily. There’s no question that the ability to think ahead, plan for disruption and adapt quickly will continue to be critical skillsets in the new year. But don’t let the possibility of a pivot stop you from providing critical direction for your business now.
Setting goals, while being mindful of current limitations (and unique opportunities) can help you capitalize on areas where you can most effectively exert control, make critical improvements and continue to thrive.
Your responsibilities have changed
Start by accepting that your roles and responsibilities, and those of your team, have changed significantly in the past year. Much like a war-time president, when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, you suddenly became a crisis leader. Where organizations may have been setting goals around driving additional revenue or gaining market share prior to the pandemic, many have since had to focus on addressing severe staffing shortfalls, controlling costs, juggling supply chain issues, safeguarding the physical and mental well-being of their teams and, most recently, rising inflation.
Advisors and partners in the leadership consulting firm, ghSMART, point to four behaviors leaders must cultivate to move forward during periods of crisis. Tuning into these critical behaviors can help you better chart the way forward.
- Make decisions with speed rather than precision. Accept that information will be incomplete, emotions may run high and that you will be called upon to make difficult decisions with less time and spottier data than you would prefer. Be clear about your priorities, identify who is empowered to make decisions and understand that missteps are likely in volatile environments and do not punish honest mistakes. Executive coach, Patricia Carl, and author of Entrepreneurial You, Dorie Clark, suggest focusing more on near-term goals and understanding that longer-term goals, while still worthwhile, may be more nebulous for now.
- Adapt boldly. Some of your most important decisions at this time may be about what not to do or how to do something quite differently from before. But you still need to make strong choices and not let your future be determined by fear and inaction. Carl and Clark suggest asking, “What actions can I take right now?” By focusing on the very next step that can bring you closer to your goal, you build momentum and demonstrate to team members, customers and other stakeholders that you are in charge and moving forward.
- Reliably deliver on your core priorities. While lots of things will remain out of your control, continue to focus on key deliverables and search for new ways to serve customer needs. Carl and Clark suggest paying special attention to process goals right now because you will have more influence over their outcome. You may not be able to serve customers as easily in person or secure preferred raw materials, but consider how you can pivot and continue to deliver value.
- Engage for impact. Your team is likely distracted and, two-plus years into doing business during a pandemic that ebbs and flows, weary. In addition to providing a supportive work environment, one of your most important jobs is to help them stay engaged and on task. “Effective leaders are understanding of their team’s circumstances and distractions, but they find ways to engage and motivate, clearly and thoroughly communicating important new goals and information,” ghSMART recommends. Help people working with you to set new goals if old ones no longer fit the current environment.
If you are a solopreneur, make sure you check in with yourself as well. Ask yourself if you are getting burned out, need a break or are having trouble staying on task. If you feel overwhelmed, try putting your big goals aside for a moment and focus on something smaller and more manageable. When you accomplish even a small task, it provides energy and motivation to tackle the next thing.
Clearly, 2022 continued to provide a strong dose of tumult and uncertainty, rather than a return to any previous conception of “normal.” But by embracing your role as a crisis leader (not a leader in crisis) you can continue to set meaningful goals and identify the way forward for yourself, your business and your team.