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4 ways to be more flexible as we enter yet another year of uncertainty

Continued disruption spikes my anxiety as a leader. These lessons helped me stay grounded, even when things get tough.

4 ways to be more flexible as we enter yet another year of uncertainty
[Photo: Pixabay/Pexels]

Disruption has been an unrelenting constant. When the COVID-19 crisis first struck, it was hard imagining this would go on for a few months, let alone nearly two years. Nearly every business in the world has been touched by it. And while some industries are beginning to level out, many are still getting rocked by the effects of the last 18 months.

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So, how can we as leaders keep our cool while also preparing for the next normal?

“It’s natural that a challenge as unremitting as the pandemic should produce alternating hope and despair,” write four experts from consulting company, McKinsey. “Throughout this crisis, coping and keeping up with the ever-shifting situation have taken precedence. ”

Suffice it to say, there is no playbook for leading through this level of disruption. But there are ways we can regain our footing during this period of uncertainty. I’d like to share four tips for how to keep moving forward and remain levelheaded as a leader.

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Let go of perfectionist tendencies

I’m a recovering perfectionist, but in 2020, I started struggling with these tendencies again. Despite my best intentions, running a business during a crisis can make you go into hyperdrive trying to get every project just right.

But then something life changing happened. I contracted COVID-19 and ended up in the hospital. Going through that experience was dramatic, to say the least. While I was fortunate enough to recover, it gave me the chance to examine the “why” of my life. Not surprisingly, the mountain of responsibilities I’d set out for myself didn’t fit into the answer.

Being a perfectionist gives us the illusion of control, but it can also become a liability because it blinds us from the bigger picture.

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“Perfectionism is a double-edged sword,” writes Rebecca Knight for Harvard Business Review. “On one hand, it can motivate you to perform at a high level and deliver top-quality work. On the other hand, it can cause you unnecessary anxiety and slow you down.”

The solution, according to former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes, is to have a plan for how you’ll course correct when these thought patterns come up. Understand what it’s costing you to always aim for outperformance,” she explains. “What else don’t you have time, energy, attention, and willpower for? Perhaps your own health, your big goals, or your family.”

Practice transparent leadership

Disruption is a breeding ground for confusion and miscommunication, so it’s critical to focus on clarity as much as possible. As Partners in Leadership report for Inc. “transparency is radical candor delivered in a way that accelerates collaboration.”

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Being a transparent leader means being open and honest with your team. It means keeping employees informed and welcoming their feedback. Your ability to listen during stressful moments and reflect on what’s been said will go a long way toward cultivating trust. “If the leader is open with their message and willing to share details or directions that are trying, the team will be more willing to follow their lead,” Grett Blatt writes for Thrive Global.

But transparency does more than just effectively communicate, it also helps take a lot of the pressure off. “Any burdens the company faces doesn’t have to be on the shoulders of the leader; other’s can now engage in a conversation that can help improve the situation,” he states.

Focus on building a healthy culture 

The Great Resignation is all anyone in the business world can talk about.  One Buzzfeed headline reads: “Americans Are Overworked and Over Work.”

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It’s hard for leaders to keep their cool when a mass exodus is taking place right in front of them. But rather than become anxious about everyone quitting, your energy is best served looking at the underlying reasons—which is likely a bad workplace culture. As a leader, if you provide support for your employees and focus on creating a better work–life balance, it will lead to a higher likelihood of future success.

In a story for Fast Company, Stacy Janiak makes the case for focusing on culture for post-pandemic growth. “Remarkable times call for a remarkable approach,” she argues. “Prioritizing company culture can strengthen the workplace environment while simultaneously enabling growth across the organization’s workforce, innovation, and productivity.”

Self-awareness is key to making progress

Keeping calm and levelheaded doesn’t mean sweeping our fears under the rug. “COVID-19 has challenged our treasured beliefs about what the future will hold,” write the McKinsey authors.

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“Past crises have shown us that it can take months or even years after the direct operational effects of a crisis are resolved to emerge from the long period of disillusionment and grief that tends to follow,” they add. “It’s imperative for leaders to move through these phases effectively so they are able to lead with hope and inspiration.”

Reenergizing for the path ahead will involve adopting a resilient mindset—the ability to not only survive unpredictable events, but to also thrive as a result.

After all, keeping cool is just half of the equation; the other half being maintaining awareness will round out your level of post-pandemic success as a leader.

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Aytekin Tank is the founder of Jotform, a popular online form builder. Established in 2006, Jotform allows customizable data collection for enhanced lead generation, survey distribution, payment collections, and more.

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