In the words of Laozi, ‘When the best leaders finished their work, their people would say we did it ourselves.’
Are you dealing with a high-stakes decision that needs your attention and decisiveness? Perhaps it’s your subsequent funding round, budget cuts, or layoffs. Whatever the scenario, the ability to lead with focus and clarity will serve you well in turning a high-stakes moment into an opportunity for growth and success.
Leadership is a much talked about topic, but what does it genuinely mean at its fundamental level. A leader is, in essence, an enabler. The ability to ignite passion, trust, and motivation, move past obstacles to achieve a common goal in the path of least resistance. One key aspect of enabling others comes from being willing to learn and grow with your team(s). This comes from employing a growth mindset. A leader with a growth mindset embraces challenges, views failure as a temporary setback, and sees hidden opportunities for the collective, even during times of uncertainty.
Involve others but own the outcome. As a leader, one of the common mistakes is being autocratic, not listening, and believing that your way is the only way. Especially intense moments, when a decision is needed, it is imperative to make space to get your team’s value-add. Diversity of thought will allow for a more robust solution. One way to do so is to include your key team members and mind map through your decision-making process until you reach the desired outcome. By gaining input from each member, you create space for a creative and well-thought solution instead of going solo guns blazing only to rectify your hasty decisions later. Although having inclusive input from your team is vital, the decision still lies with you to own the outcome.
Speak with tact, not impact. One lesson I got from my mentor, Raymond Aaron, is the art of graceful communication. He outlined the underlying differences in junior vs. senior levels of communication. A junior level of communication, whether a leader or employee, relies on transferring data without much tact. Much like a machine, getting information across is the point, not how it comes across. A senior level of communication is love and income. With this notion, knowledge coupled with emotional intelligence is utilized by a leader to create a win-win solution, not a decision based on fear and frenzy. Being a decisive leader matters but not at the expense of your team’s psychological safety. In high-stakes situations, it is essential to address the room with tact, not impact.
Mindfulness matters. Studies have consistently shown that applying mindfulness in leadership can improve stress levels, reducing team stress, improving the working environment, and ultimately the bottom line. Mindfulness, in essence, gives you, as the leader, the psychological capital to navigate through the maze and mind fields that can arise when dealing with high-stakes decision-making while still preserving your and team members’ wellbeing.
7 Tips to Prepare Yourself & Team in High Stakes Situation:
- Box Breathing – also known as four-square breathing, is an excellent mindfulness technique that is effective in as little as 5 minutes in alleviating stress and promoting on-the-spot wellbeing. All you need to do is picture a box with equal sides, exhaling to a count of four, holding your breath for a four-count, then inhaling at the same pace, holding your breath for another four-count before exhaling and resuming the steps again. If it’s good enough for the Navy Seals, then it’s good enough for you.
- Introspection – pausing and reflecting might sound counterintuitive in a high-stakes situation but is the necessary first step to shift thinking from fear to a far-sighted view. The robust capacity for self-examination will lead to an eagle view of the situation, better strategy, decision, and outcome
- Bias Check – we all have them, and if it’s not put to rest, it will taint your outcome
- Acknowledge your Teams Concerns, then Promote Resolve – be truthful, then offer strength
- Create a Co-Creative Role in the Decision-Making Process – teamwork makes the dream work is for all situations, including high stakes
- Complete the Puzzle – make your decision even if your puzzle is missing information or has conflicting information. Ultimately, your decisive approach will fill in the missing piece
- Make your Decision, with Tact, not Impact – your words hold power, so make it count
To close in the words of Simon Sinek ‘leadership Is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in our charge.’
Written by Aden Eyob.
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