Effective managers don’t wait for top-down direction, they set it!
Many managers express their frustration about senior leadership communication – That it lacks clarity and congruency or is short on inspiration. If a manager reacts with passivity or paralysis, she is guaranteeing the delivery of a muddled message. After all, the seeds of team apathy and anxiety are fueled by ambiguity. Managers must proactively engage their teams with a constructive strategy.
Bringing order out of chaos is a manager’s #1 responsibility. A thought-out, action-oriented strategy (even an incomplete one) will always beat a foot-dragging, wait-and-see approach.
“Let chaos reign, then reign in chaos.” –Andy Grove, former Intel CEO
3 Manager Skills and Mindsets for Reigning in Chaos
#1 Develop and upgrade your team’s capabilities. Effective managers leverage chaos to test and develop their team’s capabilities while channeling attention and focus. They take a sustained growth and development view but don’t allow disruption to rattle their team. Purposeful urgency is good, unbridled distress can be debilitating.
Manager Skill: Engage your team in rigorous thinking that stretches and grows members while demanding forward action, such as…
- What do/don’t we know?
- What’s in our control?
- Who will do what by when and what’s our action plan?
- What will we do to make sense of uncertainty?
- How will we leverage our current capabilities?
- What new knowledge and skills do we need to be successful in this environment?
Disciplined, thoughtful action is the antidote for chaos.
#2 Set provincial stretch goals for and with the team. Compelling stretch goals help focus the team’s attention, fosters a feeling of camaraderie, and maintains performance standards and high expectations. Low standards have never motivated anyone!
Manager Skill: Foster collective ownership and accountability by facilitating a collaborative goal-setting process. Motivation is strongly related to feelings of control. Heavy, top-down goal setting can worsen team anxiety and confidence. Striking a balance between quantitative (e.g. beat revenue goals by 15%) and qualitative (e.g. be #1 in growing and retaining customer loyalty) helps galvanize energy and channel focus.
In an unpredictable world, the effective manager knows that goal setting is a powerful process that can buffer the paralyzing effects of chaos.
#3 Be an optimistic, passionate and inspiring leader. Your team doesn’t need ‘rah-rah’ speeches or rose-colored predictions. They do, however, need a confident leader that can set direction, build positive team unity and hold others accountable.
Manager Skill: Communicate a collaborative “we” expectation. Express belief in the team’s ability to conquer adversity. Be passionate about the organization’s purpose. Tell stories of historical challenges that were overcome by strategic discipline, commitment, and unification.
Leadership is not a position. It’s a behavior. It’s the rare combination of driving results while engaging others in a vision worthy of inspiration.
Unclear direction from senior leadership rarely disables the competent manager. They embrace chaos, and employ skills and trusted processes to best manage the turmoil. The most critical ways to guarantee success include adapting a growth mindset, encouraging individual and team performance, and being a leader worth following.
Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve