Manage your mindset and scale your leadership actions to the situation, and “only ever be as tough as the situation dictates” per my first CO in SEAL Team.
In previous posts, I’ve talked about a lot of different things dealing with your mindset. You might think that when we talk about growth mindset, fixed mindset, and myriad other mindsets, we’re saying that some are right, others are wrong, and one size mindset fits all people all the time. Just as a leader must learn to connect with different types of people, it’s also important to learn to manage your mindset and scale your leadership actions to the situation. My first Commanding Officer in SEAL Team often would offer leadership guidance to me, and one of my favorite lessons from him was, “Only ever be as tough as the situation dictates.” There’s an entire scale of when you’ve got to be at your toughest and when your softest will be more than enough.
Scaling your actions is particularly important during times like this where we’re all working remotely. You may have one team member who has a blended learning environment in their home and a blended work environment, and they’re trying to get everything put together, while you have another team member who’s totally isolated and has no human contact whatsoever. Each member of your team has totally different emotional needs, and if you treat them the same and think of them as, “They’re just pieces of machinery, and they’re going to get this, this, this, and this done,” you’re going to fail badly. And more importantly, they’re going to be really hurting.
One Size Mindset Does Not Fit All
In a crisis, it’s easy to get stuck in this command-and-control mindset, which often can be woefully out of touch with the needs of the team or people you serve. One minor example is immediately jumping into a professional conversation instead of starting off a meeting or conversation with, “Hey, how are we feeling today?”—and really meaning it! Let’s not forget about both the physical components—“How are we sleeping? Are we eating well? Are you actually healthy? How are you feeling?” and the emotional components—“What’s going on with the home front? What are you experiencing right now? Is there anything we can help you with?”
You have to have a wider skill set to deal with the diversity that comes in through the front door every day. In a lot of ways, you really need to think of people as volunteers. And how you treat a volunteer is very similar, in many cases, to how you treat somebody who’s working with you on a daily basis. And, I want to stress, they work with you—they don’t work for you. Lots of leaders make that mistake in thinking, “Well, I got all these people who work for me now.” No, actually, you’re working for them and you’re there to serve them.
Manage Your Mindset and Scale Your Actions
Everybody responds to crises differently, but people with all kinds of personalities can develop good skills, strengths, and abilities for coping with crises, uncertainties and transitions. It takes practice and learning, but it can be done. To better survive and thrive during any crisis, rely on common sense, be flexible and ready to change course in an instant, stay in the moment, and never be afraid to question the plan—or the planner. Learning to manage your mindset and scale your actions will allow you to transition through all phases of safety, security, and service (the three S’s), by establishing your team’s safety, providing that structure, and getting people to focus on serving others, to own this current crisis and deal with any other uncertainty that will come our way.
Without question, your emotional intelligence—a foundational element of my CARE leadership framework—your ability to empathize and connect with team members and the people you serve is the cornerstone of creating an unstoppable team. It’s about building relationships with other people where they no longer are worried about their backs—they’re worried about your back. And the only way in which that’s going to happen is when they know that you have got their back.
Go All In, Be Committed—People Know the Difference
To every leader out there reading this: don’t get wrapped around the axle, thinking, “Did I get the CARE loop right?” or, “Am I focusing on the right mindset?” Go all in. Be committed. People know the difference. And when they see your commitment, it’s like a magnet, and they will commit along with you, especially if they know you care for them. They will jump for you.
Today, we have an amazing opportunity to build tighter teams. This is a time where you get to have some one-on-one conversations with people and really have a deeper conversation than you would have had before. Use this as an opportunity to get to know people, and get to understand what really motivates them and helps them.