Leadership - 07.26.2018

Leading Through Disruption

How should you handle times of disruption? Follow this game plan for leading from the front.

Tony Hunter Author: Tony Hunter

There is nothing more difficult for a leader of any level than having to lead a team effectively through times of change. During periods of disruption, employees are worried about their jobs, customers question the company’s sustainability, and talented managers consider alternative employment.

Trust me, I know…

I felt this pressure as the CEO of Tribune leading through times of intense disruption. I understand the temptation to crawl under your desk and assume the fetal position. I felt the desire to avoid the hard discussions and touchy issues. The reassurance that “this too shall pass” is ever-present.

So, when this happens to you, what should you do? It’s time to lead from the front.

Leaders are expected to remain courageous and confident regardless of the circumstances. This doesn’t mean acting like you have it all figured out, or that there are no concerns — it means knowing and acknowledging the threats and situation, confidently building a plan with your team, and maintaining a calm, measured presence.

Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great”, helped me lead from the front, by laying out this game plan:

  • Confront the brutal facts head-on; get “real” about the circumstances.
  • Share your findings and the implications with all your employees. They already know what’s going on and sharing the facts with them will help build the trust you need.
  • It is critical to upgrade your executive team with agents of change.
  • Get your team on or off the bus; every one must decide if they are “all-in” on the new plan or not.
  • Increase communication more than ever before. If you think you’re communicating too much, think again.
  • And finally, build a plan that addresses all facets of the business; including where you will make “bets.”

After using these points to develop your own plan, acting with speed and focus are key components of driving change effectively — inaction is deadly. In that spirit, good leaders make bets on ideas and people.

Bet on the right people to lead the change effort. Recognize those ready to drive change in a collaborative, decisive manner and put them in key roles. Encourage ideation and forward thinking. Ask for recommendations on what to do and (just as important) what not to do.

Then make your bets on your key strategies and allocate time and resources accordingly. When you can, place the best people on the biggest ideas. Then ask others to manage the core business as efficiently as possible. This will create a highly engaged and effective management team.

Most of all, embrace the responsibility of leading from the front. Get in front of your employees, customers, and community. Take ownership for the poor outcomes and share the credit for the good. Your organization doesn’t want a leader in a corner office. People are watching your every move, literally. That’s why leading from the front is so critical. Be authentic, humble, empathetic, confident, and transparent.

Sound easy? Not at all. But accomplishing anything great is hard work… that’s why they call it work.