If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.
Times of adversity are when we grow. They are the source of our future success. Most people who achieve long-term success give some of the credit to earlier failures. However, it was not really the failure that brought them later success. It was how they handled the failure. One of the defining differences between those who achieve long-term success and those who don’t is how quickly they recover from failure, and what they choose to gain from it.
Adversity is part of the universal human experience. It is not bad luck or injustice. Everyone faces it. Without adversity we could not define greatness. When faced with adversity, embrace it as a vehicle through which greatness is defined and reputations are built.
Every successful manager will eventually have to lead their team through hard times. When that time comes for you, here’s how to do it.
Teach Those You Lead How to Embrace the Benefits of Adversity Just as You Do
First show that you live by the attitudes described above, so employees will see how to embrace those attitudes for themselves. Those who do embrace them will be more successful than those who don’t. It’s that simple. Help them to see that the adversity they face is an opportunity to build their reputation, just as it is for you – a reputation that will separate them from the pack. They can learn new perspectives and develop new strengths that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. They will be able to handle future adversities better, and they will be able to guide others. Times of adversity are opportunities for each of them to build influence, as they are for you.
See Yourself as Their Primary Energy Source
Surviving adversity depends partly upon energy. You provide energy to those you lead through hope, enthusiasm, encouragement and reassurance. These gifts help them to manage the fear they may feel in times of adversity, and to replace that fear with belief in themselves and in their purpose and with a vision of ultimate triumph. These ways you provide energy also build confidence.
In addition to providing energy, you are also helping them to protect their energy. During times of adversity, leaders and companies who panic often deplete the energy of their employees by grinding them up and running them into the ground. Be watchful of this tendency during times of corporate fear.
Maintain a Sense of Purpose
Motivation in its deepest form comes from belief in ourselves and in our purpose. During times of adversity, help your team to maintain a strong sense of purpose by keeping them focused on the value of their mission. Realize that during such times they will often need specific, encouraging direction from you. Once direction is provided, it needs to be followed up with this message: “If we all follow this path, we will master our challenge, and we will all be better off when it’s over than we were before it began.”
Realistically, there may be times when you truly don’t know what will work. How do you provide direction, encouragement and reassurance when you feel as though you don’t know what you’re doing? You can still set a tone of steadfast perseverance. Your reassurance comes from a commitment not to give up – to keep searching until you find the answer. Your message is, “We won’t give up. We will keep trying until we get there. We may have to try several things, but we’ll stick together. We won’t make excuses. We’ll just do what it takes.” Let those you lead see that you are unstoppable.
Don’t Let Them Fixate on the Adversity
In times of adversity there can be a tendency to fixate on how bad things are. A motivational leader leads followers away from this tendency, and keeps them focused on the higher mission of mastering their challenge. We may not prosper as we would in easier times, but we can still do better than anyone else. We can achieve excellence in tough times as much as in easy times. Those who follow you must detach themselves from fixating on difficulties in order to do their best work. If they must fixate on something, let it be on this thought: “Here’s what we need to do to get through this.”
Focus on What You Can Control
Just as your team must not fixate on the hardships of their adversity, they must also not fixate on things that are beyond their control. It is a waste of energy, and energy is more precious than ever when facing adversity. Lead them to detach their focus from things they cannot control in order to focus more intensely on what they can control. Maintaining this mentality is especially important for you as a leader. You need that clarity for yourself in order to provide it for them.
Maintain a High Standard of Communication
Some leaders adopt a bunker mentality during times of adversity. Why would they do that? Often it is fear: fear of making a mistake, of being perceived as helpless or unable to make a difference, of being criticized, or simply of not knowing what to do. Sometimes it is battle fatigue: the leader can’t handle any more hassles, complaints, questions, requests for help, or bad news. They just want to be left alone. After all, they have problems of their own. But this bunker mentality will only make things worse by lowering the level of motivation and confidence even further. During hard times your followers need your presence and your communication more than ever. You have an opportunity to display the kind of selflessness that now more than ever will make you a leader that people want to follow.
Take Care of Each Other
Tough times can trigger an “everyone for himself” attitude in some people. This is the attitude that can turn a tough situation into disaster. Turning this attitude around often relies on the character of the leader. People are more empowered to see beyond themselves when they respect and trust the person they are following. If they trust you with their well-being, and see your commitment to them above yourself, they can put their self-interest aside enough to support you and the team.
Reinforce – in your actions as well as your words – that if everyone takes care of each other you will all be better off, but if they degenerate into an “everyone for himself” attitude things will fall apart.
In times of adversity it is natural for some people to become selfish. Yet those are the times when selfishness can do the most damage. Keep your team focused on the big picture – the greater mission of conquering the adversity, and doing it as a team.
Don’t Compromise Your Standards
Just as people can become more selfish when times get tough, they can also lower their standards. Leaders sometimes look the other way out of sympathy for the employees’ misery. After all, when they’re working harder for less money, someone should cut them a little slack. It’s true, looking for ways to make their lives easier and lift their spirits can be good for morale. But lowering standards is not the way to give demoralized employees a lift. Lowering standards lowers morale and motivation. High morale and high motivation go hand in hand with high standards. Empathy can be combined with accountability to enable people to rise to the occasion, and discover the hero within that can conquer adversity.
Learn to Have Fun
It’s hard to have fun during adversity. But you still have to remember that people do a better job when they’re having fun. While there is no way to have non-stop fun when times are tough, look for any opportunities that do exist to laugh, enjoy each other, and enjoy the good parts of the job. During tough times it is more important than ever for a motivational leader to provide ways for employees to relax, have fun and reduce stress. The last thing people need during times of anxiety is more anxiety.