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The Gifts in the Shadows

For coaches, practitioners and students of leadership, extreme challenge is a stress-test that provides deep insight into individuals, teams and clients. Personal capability develops in the crucible of difficult, disruptive times.

I’ve outlined six best practices to help my high-performing and high-potential executives, entrepreneurs and C-Suite clients manage through challenging circumstances.

Best Practice #1: Understand your cash flow.

· What kind of access to cash or credit do you have?

· What does your cash flow position look like in 30/60/90 days?

Cash flow is the top priority. It is a company’s oxygen and without it, all the leadership models and advice in the world are worthless. According to Alignable, a third of small businesses in the United States have less than a month of reserves on hand.

Make sure you’re not one of them.

Best Practice #2: Take a position on the transition.

· Is it a 20% salary cut across the board? A 30% reduction in working hours? Split shifts? Cancelling all non-essential activities? All of the above?

· Or can you see it out?

Don’t wait for circumstances to evolve in order to act. Estimate where you need to be and implement, quickly. Reacting to the environment instead of taking a firm position can erode morale and traumatize your team.

Make sure to move boldly and with purpose.

Best Practice #3: Conduct a mental triage.

· What will definitely change?

· What will definitely not change?

· What is yet to be determined?

Sorting knowns and unknowns is useful during uncertain times because it provides a practical guideline without which, everything can appear to be in a state of chaos. Even “We don’t know enough yet to make a decision” may provide a sense of stability. It’s better than letting people fill in the blanks themselves, often with worst-case scenarios.

Make sure the variables are clear.

Best Practice #4: Communicate frequently, clearly and openly.

· Why are certain decisions being made?

· How do we make sense of this specific situation?

· What are the next steps?

Bringing people into the process helps build connectivity and gives them more control of their world. Instead of worrying, employees can channel their anxious energy into productive tasks.

Make sure you’re transparent about changes.

Best Practice #5: Lean in to your experience.

· What have you accomplished through past experiences?

· What knowledge have you gained?

· Which capabilities and capacity did your past experiences enhance?

Even though these new circumstances are unique, you do have reserves to pull from.

Remember what it took to be successful in previous situations and make sure to draw from that today.

Best Practice #6: Determine what can you do today.

· What can you do that you could not have dreamed of doing before this crisis?

It’s too early to discuss a “new normal.” We are still transitioning between past knowns and future unknowns. Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff, said, "a serious crisis…is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before." He’s right.

Make sure to focus on today’s new accomplishments.

The Shadows

Uncertainty leads to fear. Acting on fear contracts our thinking (we focus inward) and our actions (we delay them). Ultimately, circumstances define us instead of the other way around.

But if we choose to listen to fear, in the shadows we can find out who we are, unearth capabilities and a capacity we hadn’t used before, and discover a deeper wisdom.

A leader’s role is to help others weather the storm through eliminating outdated and inefficient systems, structures and mindsets in order to shape, rather than be shaped by, the future.

Keep looking for the gifts in the shadows. They will serve you powerfully in the light.

Jamie Ramsden is a certified executive leadership coach and founder of Adastra Consulting ( A former Chief Executive, Jamie has been coaching C-Suite and Senior executives around the world for over fifteen years.

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