3 Ways You Can Inspire Confidence During Difficult Times

Do you know how to inspire your team or organization so they follow you? What if there is a challenge or setback? Will they stay by your side, hunker down and fight with you, or head for the hills?

Before we dive into these big questions, let’s talk about the word leadership”.
If you try and Google a definition of the word “leadership” you will be inundated with over 2 billion results! With so many definitions to sift through I have come to like the one by President Dwight Eisenhower best.
Eisenhower said,“Leaders have to decide what must be done and get others to want to do it.” 
The most important part of this definition – and the hardest – is getting others to buy into your vision for the organization and WANT to take action on it. Getting buyin from those who are actually going to make it all happenis the key to success. 
Here is my 3-step process for inspiring confidence during difficult times. 

Step 1: Dealing with Change

As a leader you have to deal with changes in the organization and changes in the environment. No matter if changes are in or out of your control, it can still shake your teams confidence. Distrust and uncertainty can spread quickly and significantly hinder the success of a sale, a project, a team, or an organization. Change WILL happen. A successful leader will embrace that change and chart a new course for their team. This brings me to step 2.

Step 2: Setting the Vision

It is the responsibility of the leader to continually remind their subordinates of the vision for the organization to help keep everyone working towards the same goals. Setting and reminding people about the vision is of utmost importance during difficult times, problems, and setbacks.  Keeping everyone focused on the vision of the organization will serve as a positive reminder and everyone working towards a common goal. When hard times hit, keep your vision in mind, and then implement step 3.

Step 3: Optimism in the Face of Uncertainty

On June 5th, 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower met with young paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division. Eisenhower knew that these men would be parachuting into Nazi-controlled France, in what we now call The Normandy Invasion. Rather than give the men last-minute instructions on tactics or strategy, his mere presence assured them that this plan was going to work. Eisenhower is quote telling his staff in March of that year, “This operation is being planned as a success. There can be no thought of failure. For I assure you there is no possibility of failure.”
As you are leading your team through difficult times never forget that, as author and leadership expert John Gardner said,“The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive!”

We want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments below how YOU have and continue inspire confidence within your team.

Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder & CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

Your 3-step crisis management plan

crisisAs Henry Kissinger famously said, “There cannot be a crisis today; my schedule is already full!”

Unfortunately, crises have no respect for our busy calendars. That is why it is of utmost importance that every organization, big or small, have a crisis management plan.

In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily to a traumatic situation or event, but to a person’s reaction. One person might be deeply affected by an incident, while another person suffers little or no ill effects. Furthermore, the Chinese word for crisis presents a good depiction of its components. The word crisis in Chinese is formed by two other characters — danger and opportunity. A crisis presents an obstacle, trauma, or threat, but it also presents a chance for either organizational growth or decline.

We often think of a crisis as a sudden unexpected disaster, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or other cataclysmic event. However, crises can range substantially in type and severity. Sometimes a crisis is a predictable part of the life cycle.  Situational crises are sudden and unexpected, such as accidents and natural disasters. Existential crises are inner conflicts related to things such as life purpose, direction, and spirituality.  But there is a common three-step approach to leading in crisis that is useful to organize a leader’s thinking and efforts.


STEP 1: Before the crisis — inoculate your organization!  Leaders must “generate leadership” in their organization.

  • Give people at all levels the opportunity to lead experiments or projects that will provide them confidence while assisting your organization to adapt to change.
  • The leader must demonstrate their commitment to ethics and organizational values. This is important to building trust, which will be tested during moments of stress.
  • “Run the plays but encourage initiative”.  Leaders must frequently emphasize organizational policies and priorities, but they also need to provide space for their team to show initiative and take risks.
  • Have a crisis action plan and test it.  Make sure key members of your team are aware of it as well as the organization’s succession plan.  Things may go wrong when the leader is not present.
  • Spend time “managing by walking around”.  The leader must stay “in touch” with his or her organization.  The leader must avoid getting “into a bubble” where only good news makes it way to him or her.

STEP 2: During the crisis — those nearest must act!  Leaders must quickly consider whether or not they have empowered their team.  They should consider the following:

  • A leader’s emotional intelligence that focuses on self-awareness, self-motivation, empathy, and an ability to control his or her fears and emotions publicly is critical.
  • Lead and be seen leading.  Set the tone for the organization.  Remember the team is unlikely to exceed your level of optimism.  One of the most important assets a leader has during a crisis is his or her presence.  Where should they be and who needs to see them?
  • The media can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  In our 24-hour transparent world any crisis may quickly gain the spotlight.  Who is the “face of my organization with the press”?  When I speak to the press have I carefully considered what information I want to convey?
  • Decide, delegate, and disappear.  Leaders must praise constantly, punish privately, and unleash achievement vs. demanding obedience.  You must reduce the “bystander phenomenon” whereby the probability that anyone will act is often inversely proportional to the number of people available.

STEP 3: After the crisis!  The leader must demonstrate caring, lead the organization’s efforts to learn from this experience, and set a new course.

  • Leaders must consider their own as well as their team’s psychological health.  Sadly, we have learned a great deal about PTSD in the last decade.  Consequently, leaders are accountable to engage in self-assessment, seek assistance, and scrutinize the fitness of their team.
  • Establish a process to identify lessons from the crisis and incorporate them into the organization’s plans for the future.  Insure that the entire team is involved in this process.
  • Create a new vision for the organization that provides meaning to what may be negative events while framing a future ideal.  This should consider two questions.  Who can we become? Who relies on us?

All leaders must accept that crises will occur.  Remember Murphy’s Law — Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and will likely do so at the worst moment!  Also remember Schultz’s Corollary — Murphy was an optimist!  Every organization must not only prepare for crises but also consider that a crisis may be an opportunity to become an even better, stronger, more effective team.  Successful leaders seek to inoculate their organizations in advance, empower the organization during the crisis, and learn from the crisis after the fact.   In this regard Abigail Adams, the wife of our second president may be insightful:

“These are times in which a genius would wish to live.  It is not in the still calm of life or in the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed…great necessities call out great virtue.”

   — Letter to her son, John Quincy Adams