Leaders: Hold onto Your Wigs and Keys in 2017
I have no idea if David Letterman or another quick-witted individual is to thank for that hilarious yet odd phrase, but it feels timely as we look toward the coming year. Seasoned Federal employees, especially those based in the DC area, are no strangers to Presidential turnover and the organizational dancing that signals a new administration is coming to Washington. However, that doesn’t mean the process gets any easier to live through or lead others through. And, if you’re new to the government, I’m sure you’re sensing the uncertainty in the air.
Regardless of who’s getting ready to move into the West Wing, it usually follows that a Presidential election creates chaos in government organizations. Departures are already underway, arrival announcements are forthcoming, and everyone is questioning how anything will get done (skillfully or even at all) in the transition. Lately, I see the overtaxed looks on our clients’ faces and hear the odd mix of hesitation, anxiety, and hope in their voices when we talk about what they anticipate 2017 will be like for them and their teams.
All of these very interesting and diverse conversations led me to wonder:
I can’t guarantee the suggestions that follow will solve all of your problems but maybe, just maybe, they’ll come in handy as we navigate through 2017.
#5: Rally your team
It doesn’t matter if you lead a team or are simply part of a team, being able to work effectively with others during challenging times produces better results than trying to go it alone. Especially when so many roles and responsibilities are in flux, it’s important to stay connected to your colleagues for support, information, and to help your organization stay on track towards its goals. Openly discuss what’s going well, opportunities for the team to contribute to the change differently/more effectively, and concrete actions you all can take to help each other stay on track despite uncertainty.
#4: Think critically
Change and complexity breed ambiguity and the tendency to respond with emotion or knee-jerk reactions—but that usually only makes things worse when it comes to resolving issues at work. It is human nature to let a tough situation take over our conscious mind, so we have to learn strategies to focus our brain on how we deal with the situation in a productive, positive way. When we can step back and logically evaluate an issue or situation, it helps reveal the best path forward.
#3: Focus on what engages you (and others)
When more days than not feel like a hike up a steep mountain, you and those you lead or work with will need extra fuel to make it to the next stage. You can drum up that extra energy in a couple ways. Re-commit to current tasks or projects within your role that you truly enjoy, and think about ways you can add even more value in how you do them. Also, take this opportunity to forge relationships that either provide you with more information about the change in your organization or inspire you to find personal motivation when you start to feel drained.
#2: Be mindful during change
Often change (even when you know it is coming) feels like it is being forced upon you. That may be true or simply the way you are perceiving the situation. Everyone processes change a little differently, and you probably know what behaviors and emotions it triggers for you. If so, watch for it and call yourself on it before your reactions start affecting others. This mindfulness will go a long way toward you being able to maintain positive relationships with others, think critically, and stay engaged despite chaos.
#1: Harness resilience
If you have to pick one leadership skill to focus on in 2017, make the choice to become more resilient. Resilience is not only your ability to bounce back but also to bounce forward when adversity shows up. Stress, disappointment, and failure happen frequently in a work environment, but don’t let those times define you or your contribution to an organization. Like most leadership skills, resilience is a learned trait for most and comes from being able to use specific skills and knowledge to maintain balance over time.
Very good things regularly arise from chaos, but chances are you’ll be tested throughout next year. Let us know how you’re preparing for the unknown at work in 2017, or what your top-5 list of must-have leadership skills has on it.