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3 Best Practices for Leaders in Uncertain Times

The challenges keep coming. We’ve restarted our businesses in central Texas, but at a much-reduced capacity. And based on the news you and I are reading, many, many businesses and industries continue to operate at run rates far below optimal. Perhaps just as challenging is that none of us know what a “New Normal” may look like and when it will arrive.

Boxer Punch

How do you and I lead when we are dealing with day-to-day challenges and months of on-going uncertainty in front of us? Here are three simple leadership best practices for us to keep front-of-mind.

1. Keep your bigger purpose and the longer game in mind
Our swim schools save lives. Last year, our four franchise Aqua-Tots swim schools did more than 120,000 swim lessons for children in central Texas. Our work is vital: year-in and year-out Texas has more childhood drowning incidents than almost any other state in the country. It is imperative that we find a way to keep doing our vital work. And, as the ultimate leader of our small businesses, I need to find a way forward financially and operationally that will ensure we keep doing our vital work this year, in 2021, 2022 and into the future. Leader – what do you need to do to keep the bigger purpose and the longer game in mind for your organization?

2. Continue to build team resiliency and redundancy
We’ve got a great team of managers that lead our central Texas swim schools. As “Chief Culture Officer” my job is to help them stay motivated and focused as we “build the plane while we are taxiing down the runway.” Therefore, as a group of managers, we’ve spent more time on the phone and in virtual meetings than ever before. We started out in mid-March with daily meetings, then slowed the rhythm, but we still have at least two Microsoft Teams meetings each week. I’m also more purposeful about my 1-on-1 time with each of our managers weekly. Leader – what is your “influence rhythm” to invest resiliency within your team members?

Another reality you and I need to face? – Your team may go through staffing changes. You may need to make hard decisions about “keeping the right people in the right seats on the bus.” Furthermore, some of your former team members may self-select to move on. Fellow leader – how are you building redundancy into your team for these types of unforeseen changes?

3. Stay in tune with your customers
We are a retail business. We work hard to have a robust social media relationship with our primarily-young-family customer base. We have a weekly schedule of postings, and interact with our families actively on Facebook and the other social media platforms. Additionally, in the past two+ months each of our central Texas schools has engaged in at least two full-scale phone calling campaigns to the hundreds of their customers. We also sent out an enterprise-wide survey, and looked closely at the11+ pages of comments and notes we got back. Leader – how are you getting the pulse of your customers? How are using their input to direct your teams’ efforts?

As in most things pertaining to leading well, there’s no secret to leading in times of uncertainty. It is a simple-yet-not-easy mandate:
• Keep your bigger purpose and the longer game in mind
• Continue to build team resiliency and redundancy
• Stay in tune with your customers

As leaders, we are all adjusting to new-and-constantly-changing ground rules while the game goes on. Keeping these three simple best practices in mind will help us and our teams survive and thrive in the coming months.