To me, Leadership is synonymous with coaching and mentorship! The job is to guide toward the agreed definition of success by providing information and pushing (sometimes gently and sometimes with a big swift kick in the pants) a person or team past their comfort zone to achieve what wouldn’t be otherwise. I’ve been on both sides receiving this push and providing the push; as a player, an employee, in management, and as an owner! At times it can be fun, rewarding, and exhilarating; while other times it can feel annoying, burdensome, and exhausting. The point is, at some point, all organizations, teams, and leaders will have to push their people and team through tough times, crisis, and change… but how to do it?
The biggest mistake I see when leaders and organizations begin to push through crisis and change is…. They forget to manage the ebb and flow afterward; wanting to stay at full throttle because they enjoy the pace of production and its generated revenue… It becomes intoxicating! I’ve worked in companies that became short-staffed; so, everyone pitches in to get the job done… because the job got done… the company fails to hire extra staff and that pitch-in pace becomes the norm.
Companies needed to survive through COVID-19… and managed to do more work with fewer people; made more money than expected, but continued to operate with less workers, at a break-neck pace, and burnt out their people. Deadlines need to be made, the pace picks up, and stays that way forever!
My senior year as a college football player, our linebacker unit got a new coach. He was a great man, tough, and a Pitbull in human form, Lol! We were pushed to our limits physically every practice from endurance training to hitting. This proved to be great in pre-season; making us hungry, fast, and machine-like. However, the pace continued into the season and throughout the season I literally felt myself wear down and then start to break down. Back then, I didn’t have the leadership skills I have today and as the leader of the linebackers, I failed my team by not speaking up. Late in the season, I was injured and missed two games. Upon my return; we were in a meeting reviewing game film and the coach said… “Wow, Andre you look fast”… and my thought was, “Yeah, I wasn’t getting murdered in practice for two weeks and had time to rest”. Yes, it makes sense as a team and an organization to always have your vision, expectations, and standards set on high. It also makes sense to know how to push and when to let up!
Gather to Explain
When the time comes… not “If the time comes”… WHEN the time comes to push a person or your team past their comfort zone, it helps to gather them to explain. Be transparent as to what’s going on, why it’s going on, what the new expectation is, and brainstorm ideas on how to do it; including them into the process of the push. Perhaps they have an idea that blows your socks off and it only makes sense to go with it. Perhaps you may have to help fine-tune their idea. Or, their idea is not a good fit and you share the bigger picture and challenge them to fit it better; enhancing their leadership skills. I have found most people want to be good at their jobs. They may not agree or like what’s going on or why it’s occurring; however, they tend to appreciate transparency and having the tools necessary to be successful!
Remember, “The Push” is meant to help succeed through a time of crisis, deadline, or drastic change… it’s time-limited and not meant to be the norm. Most managers, employees, and team members are willing to rally for the win; but when that pace becomes the norm… people will begin to burn out at different paces. One of the saddest things is when an “Inspired & Motivated” employee burns out and leaves… or burns out and stays! When they become bitter and stay, over time they begin to recruit… and that’s not good for the future of your leadership… Be Mindful!
Set a proposed time-frame for the push… is it a month, a quarter, a year? What’s a “Win”, how do we win, how long are we doing it this way, and what’s the progress we’re making? This requires increased connection with your people! In times of crisis or crunch, it’s likely those in management will disconnect, fade into their office, and run the world via email and demands. In our new remote-work world… it’s even easier to do just that. When “The Push” is necessary, it’s important to stay connected with your people; as it’s amazing how much more people will do for you, with you, because of you, and forgive about you and the organization when they feel connected to you!
“Rewarding It” sounds easy and common sense, right? Yes, it makes tons of sense to reward your people for all of the EXTRA they are doing to keep the organization afloat. However, be sure you are rewarding them in ways that matter for them! Receiving a texted “Thumbs Up” or a company logoed Yeti is not it!!!
As leaders, brainstorm reward ideas as a group, include employees and front-line people, find out what’s reasonable, doable, and fair… and implement it. Your people are busting their butts at work and most likely taking it home with them… if not literally… than figuratively, as they return home or shut down their laptop exhausted, complaining to their significant other, perhaps taking it out on their kids, etc. Reward your people and their families; as they are all effected by “The Push”.
Get Back to Pace
This final piece may be the hardest; as it’s so tempting to keep going. As a leader… you want to GO, GO, GO! The organization can become revenue-drunk; intoxicated with making more with less people doing more work. In sports, this may work because they have a mandatory roster to fill and a set number of players, but even they have set Bye-Weeks on the calendar and an off-season.
When the duty is done, the crisis adverted, the change has taken… it’s time to get back to pace! I’m not implying a drop-off in positivity, less attention to detail, lower standards… I am suggesting, you as a leader, work to lead the ebb and flow of your team and work to reset a reasonable pace. For example, through the crisis, you asked an employee to absorb three more tasks, another co-worker’s duties, and extended hours. Can this person now go back to the job they were doing before? Can they receive a new title with new responsibilities and the rewards that come along with it… if they want it?
The point is to get back to a realistic pace. Sometimes, the new pace may be dictated for you, as you may not be the head leader in charge. When this is the case… the goal is to: Gather to Explain, Connect with your people, Reward It, Uphold new standards, and unfortunately adjust your team accordingly; as some employees will move on, need to be moved on, and new people moved it…. But this is another topic for another time!
I hope you enjoyed A Leader’s Push… you’ve either been through this or are about to go through it. Be sure to care for your people, your organization, and yourself as you lead through it!
“It’s amazing how much more people will do for you, with you, because of you, and forgive about you and the organization when they feel connected to you!” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
Enhance Leadership and Work/Life Harmony in your Organization, your Leaders, Employees, and Teams with Andre Young’s Speaking Engagements, Evolve & Lead Training Programs (on-site, online, or virtual), and1-on-1 Growth Sessions! www.youevolvingnow.com