HEADS UP! Moving Forward With What’s Left

Last week, I spoke about the fact that crisis is an amplifier.  It takes what was already there and makes it louder.  Whatever cracks were there expand.  Whatever fears, hopes, difficulties and determinations exist are brought to the forefront and in essence, made an unavoidable focus.  I’ve had more than one conversation this last week where we’ve agreed that, in many ways, crisis is a gift.  If you’re open to the clarity it brings you – crisis is a gift.

“Clarity?!”, I hear you say.  “A gift?….”

Well, yes.  And this is how I see it:

Whilst crisis may have had a good chew on us over the past few months, shaking us up out of our comfort zones – the fact is that it has also propelled us forward.  Even if your head is still spinning and it feels as if there are a thousand thoughts and things to address and you’re not sure which one to factor in first; the thinking we’ve done, the hurdles that have presented themselves and the things that have fallen away would otherwise have taken us years.

So, to requote another line from last week’s post, “you’re ahead, not behind.”

If you’re still standing, acknowledge that.  Whether it’s as an individual human, as a team or as a business or organisation – many aren’t.  Acknowledge it.  Even if you feel overwhelmed and anxious about what the rest of the year holds, let alone the next few, just pause for a minute and consider what you’ve already weathered and the wealth of experience (positive or otherwise) that the last few months have gifted you.  Yes, I know it’s been exhausting.  Terrifying sometimes.  Doubtful or deeply painful at other times….  But oh, the growth!

So, how do we move forward with what’s left?  Are you ready to do so?  Are you ready to find clarity, even with so many variables still out there?  Are you ready to take your experience and crisis proof yourself (because who knows how long this could go on for or when it will amplify again)?


1. Reset your goals

The goals we set for this year were looking hot in February.  We were “kicking butts and taking names” in March.  And then.  For many, it’s not even a case of picking up the pieces and seeing how they now fit together.  For most, it’s a total rethink.  Resetting your goals is necessary in order to move forward with some direction.  There is a story my Father told about a sizable aircraft that got sucked up into a thunderstorm and was pummelled by Mother Nature until she was spat out the other side – bruised, broken, navigation antennae destroyed, barely able to fly let alone find its way somewhere.  Whilst it tried to maintain flight, others set out to go and find it, to help it limp to a safe landing place.

For many, that’s where we are.  It’s going to require tipping everything out of your head onto an expansive piece of paper so that you and your team can survey the “wreckage” of what’s left.  What you’re looking for is a starting point.  The things that stand out because they must still be achieved.  Maybe things that weren’t even on your radar in January that, if not prioritised, will leave you vulnerable to another wave of crisis.

Put it all out there.  Discuss it.  Look at what you’re dealing with.  Break it down.  Prioritise.  And if necessary, ask for help.  If you need someone to “come and find you” – having an outside pair of eyes take a high-level view and ask some questions you hadn’t thought of can make the way forward far clearer.

2. Setting Key Focus Areas

Once you’ve put it all out there, waded and chewed through it, and decided what’s actually important, this should give you some idea of what your Key Focus Areas need to be.  When things get fuzzy because there’s so much on the table, it’s WAAAAAY easier to have 3 or 5 Key Focus Areas than eleventeen goals.  Sometimes, there’s a lot to be done and it’s just not possible to prioritise it down to a non-mind-blowing number of goals.  When goals start to look like a to-do list, you’re heading for trouble!  If that’s the case, as it may well re-establishing control after crisis, then setting Key Focus Areas can help with this.  Do you need to digitalise your business to protect from future world shutdowns?  Do you need to buffer-proof your financial plans?  Do you need to reconsider your customer base and its needs?

Setting Key Focus Areas means that individual goals can be grouped under those headings, creating clarity of focus.  If you have various team members or departments, they may all need to head for different goals.  As long as their goals are heading towards achieving outcomes in the same Key Focus Areas, everyone is moving forward together.

3. Establish Key Principles

Resetting your goals and Key Focus Areas is not enough though.  When the next storm hits, you’re going to need some guiding principles to keep you on track.  When steam is starting to come out of your ears again, or you’re running out of processing speed, you’re going to need something to laser focus your decision making and remind you why and what you’re doing.  In aviation, we use the axiom “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate”.  For hours of training, our brains are programmed to spit that out like it’s written on our foreheads, as soon as things get hairy.  History tells us that it’s not uncommon in an emergency for us to focus on the immediate problem and literally forget to fly the aircraft.  Taking hold of the flight controls and using the aircraft’s instruments to establish attitude, airspeed and altitude means we’re fully in control of where that aircraft is going and not open to any nasty surprises because we fixated on the immediate problems whilst the aircraft veered off course.

Once we’ve made sure these top priorities are under control, we navigate – we decide where to go next.  And once we’re sure of what we’re trying to achieve, we communicate that to whomever else needs to know.

Having Key Principles means establishing agreement on what’s important and what you’ll steer yourself by when the proverbial next hits the fan, or maybe just when you need to clarify a tough or complicated decision.

You only need 3 to 5 Key Principles and, ideally if you’re part of a team, you’ll want to have opened up the establishment of those principles in wider team discussion.  What do the team think is truly important?  What’s non-negotiable?  What’s most focusing and defining for your team and how you roll?  Key Principles need to MEAN something to you.  Perhaps these are, as yet, unspoken.  Perhaps unearthing them will be a mini journey in itself.

If you’ve done some work to establish what your core values are, these are very worthy Key Principles.

And so, there we have it: Reset your goals, lock down your Key Focus Areas, and decide on the Key Principles that are important to you and that will help you stay on track and maintain clarity.

One small point I hinted at earlier and that I’d like to bring home, is that if you’re serious about getting this done with clarity and forward motion, it’s worth getting some trusted outside help.  Someone who can look at what you’ve got spread out with clean eyes from a high-level viewpoint and ask some questions you may not have thought of.  I’m not suggesting you get someone in to take over your goals setting process – that’s entirely in your hands where it needs to be.

What I’m saying is that your energy belongs behind the driving forward, and if you have a team of people to do this process with, your energy can get caught up in that process leaving you herding cats with little clarity and resources remaining to lead.  The best way to do this process as a team is to find a facilitator; someone to keep you on track and accountable whilst you and your team focus.

Making Teams Work will be reaching out this week to find three teams and their leaders ready to move forward with renewed clarity and direction on our Leading Out of Crisis Program.  The process I’ve spoken about here is one of the things we do best, and it draws together many layered outcomes that provide insight and clarity if you know where to look.  If you’re already a client and have run a goal setting process with us before, you’ll be eligible for a further discount on Leading Out of Crisis.  If you think or know this is for you, then reach out to the below email address, and we’ll figure out whether it’s a fit.

Now is the time to sort through what’s left.  Now is the time to appreciate what’s been stripped away and what has been clarified.  Even if you need to do some shuffling, now is the time to reprioritise and recalibrate to ensure you’re crisis proof and focused on what needs to come next.  HEADS UP!

by Christen Killick

July 6th, 2020

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