Young Leader. Brave New World.

Nothing could have ever prepared anyone for what happened in 2020. So many scenes playing out on the global stage including political division, racial injustice, global disease, natural disasters, and an economic shutdown are just the tip of the iceberg of the trials and struggles that were seen. All of these have occurred before but never all in one year to the degree that was navigated in 2020.

Becoming a general manager at 26 in 2019 already seemed unreal and like something that was going to take some time to learn how this all flows together. When the unrest of 2020 began it quickly turned from a time of learning to a time of hands on experience. There is no playbook on how to lead through these types of situations, but much has been learned over the past nine months. The easiest way to boil this down is to look at three words: communication, identification, and relationship. Learning these principles helped me–and still help me–as I lead through the new normal.

Communication

Communication is the biggest piece of success in business at any point, but becomes paramount in crisis navigation. Success lies beyond simply keeping in constant communication; it requires giving out the most accurate information to the correct people. During 2020 there was so much going on and so much information to be shared, but sharing alone was not enough.  Sharing the wrong information in the wrong tone to the wrong person or group can invite panic. Distrust can also develop within your team if communication is applied poorly. Good communication is the balance of transparency and protection. Understanding the big picture and knowing that not everyone needs to be in that same mindset will be a good approach when sharing information with your peers and your team. By navigating communication channels well, you keep those who need the information informed. Equally, you provide peace of mind to those who might not need to know every detail. However, be careful not to sugarcoat critical information you choose to share. Be clear with the facts and be honest about what is going on. This will keep your team members from being caught off guard later. Balancing hope and reality is the simplest way to sum up communication during this crisis.

Identification

Knowing the obstacles you are facing is crucial to get through any crisis. The more important part of identification rests in your ability to decipher the types of obstacles you’re facing–those you can tackle head on versus those that are beyond your control, but still require you to try and maneuver past them. As a company, we identified the virus as a real obstacle for our teams and our listeners. Our job was to serve our communities and each other safely. Even seemingly simple and dependable things like postal service became an obstacle as the delivery of our daily mail–our life’s blood for cash flow–became uncertain.  These issues forced us to innovate. Drive-in and virtual events became the new normal. Online giving became a need we pushed for on air more than ever. These adjustments were necessary. The changes afoot posed a real threat to the ministry, but we were determined to find creative ways to work through them.

The obstacles that you have more control over may include: in house issues, project deadlines, a broken process, or drafting a COVID policy to help keep your team safe. These are more in your control because they are things you have more of a final say on. Using innovative strategies that you develop to address those uncontrollable situations will become a template for how to make better decisions in the future. Remaining focused on and aware of what you can control–as well as those things you can’t–is an important part in identifying and getting ahead of obstacles that will present themselves during a crisis.

Relationship

People were, and still are, looking for more connection. We long for time with others and face-to-face interactions. Yet, we find ourselves in a new world of social distancing and remaining six-feet-apart. We have learned to rely on routine Zoom calls, just to feel connected. It was the virus that forced people into isolation. Political division and rising unemployment played a part as well. Never was the spotlight so squarely set on the need for true relationships with others. As a leader it is crucial to find ways and the time to build strong relationships with your team. The same applies to other leaders.

Getting to know your team members and working to understand what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, and how their family is coping matters. When you engage with your team you are caring for them well.  When done correctly, they will grow to be more engaged with the mission and vision of your organization.

You can break the ice by taking time to have organized fun. Maybe it is as simple as a monthly treat or playing a game over Zoom. Here’s the key: if you have that relationship–and they understand the why behind what you’re doing–they will engage. Be intentional and be connective…it’s that simple.

As a young leader, 2020 has been a time for me to gain hands-on experience, to lead well, and to draw closer to the team that God has given to me. Take time to understand what your team needs to hear from you, how you can better identify all obstacles in the way, and how you can best relate to your team. These three things will help make you a stronger leader when the world returns to normal…no matter what that normal looks like.

ENCW,

Doug Day
General Manager, Spirit FM
Positive Alternative Radio

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