The analogy of the roadway or highway has been used, in terms of "offramping" or "onramping" to describe women who have left their career for a period of time and have come back, but what about talking about unexpected twists and turns or a bumpy stretch of that road or highway? It's not just a recession that can send an organization into change or transition which often has downstream employee impact. The competitive market enjoys a level of flux due to technology and globalization that has resulted in employers demanding a level of unprecedented adaptability. With little time to absorb and respond to change, leaders must guide their business strategy, continue maintenance and navigate their team. Depending on your chasse, you may be resilient enough to absorb the shocks, but here are some roadside assistance to ensure you not only survive the trip but enjoy the ride:
1. Keep your destination in sight
If the destination is clear and your organization is just entering a transitional phase that has resulted in a "bumpy" period, focusing on the ultimate destination is often most effective. This bumpy period could be characterized by a detour that will delay you arriving to where you need to be or perhaps a toll you didn't expect to senior management has now requested. Leaders can likely engage their teams by continuous and consistent communication that: 1. We still know where we're going, 2. This will not stop us from getting there, and finally, 3. We'll expect to arrive by ____. Remapping your trip is important and providing an ETA is critical to ensuring your team stays engaged.
2. Focus on your passengers
If your destination has changed and you don't know where you're going, don't panic! Your team is counting on you to drive even if you're feeling lost. It can be tough, but staying calm, professional, and keeping your eyes on the road ahead is a non-negotiable as a leader. But not withstanding the demands of a changing business, don't underestimate the need to highly visible and engaged with your passengers, your team. Employees who have gone through organizational change often share: "I knew something was going on because of all the closed office door meetings." These are the times to prove your leadership worth to both your organization and your people, so embrace this challenge by being "others" focused. You'll also find it less lonely, both because the interactions will ease your own anxieties and also minimize the risk of your passengers abandoning you on the trip.
3. Fuel up often
Isn't it funny how what you often need most is what you give yourself least? Dealing with organizational or career change requires more energy than managing a role that's familiar and stable. "How can I take a break with everything going on right now?" Remember, you need more energy than ever. Keeping your tank full is different for everyone but the fundamentals of sleep, exercise and eating regularly apply to all of us. Whether you feel it or not, your mind and body are likely in survival mode, so this is absolutely necessary to avoid a breakdown.
4. Ask for directions
Nobody expects you to have all the answers, and don't isolate yourself if you need help. Start with your peers who may also be looking for clarity or have a different perspective on what's happening. Don't use these opportunities to be negative or share rants, "I don't know where the heck we're going!" Being open, authentic and able to reciprocate support will likely result in more productive discussions with your peers which ultimately will make you feel a whole lot better. Remember, if an organization is going to reach the destination, no matter how difficult the road, everyone must been onboard.
5. Take a rest stop
Have you ever been in a car with someone that is constantly asking you to wait until the next rest stop to take a break? Not fun, right? A rest stop is psychological most times, not physical. When you need a break, take one. A rest stop can take the form of leaving your desk or office to eat lunch (and encouraging others to do so) or taking an afternoon off for a team-building. When you are hyper-focused on reaching a destination, a rest stop seems like a waste of time. Pulling yourself from being heads down is critical for you and your team, providing you with context that can make the road ahead less daunting.
6. Plan alternative routes
When faced with unpredictable or uncertain periods in business and one's career, mapping out options often helps "put your back in the driver's seat." Most of us have at least the next year or so mapped out in our minds, so when faced with a detour, it can feel like we're losing control. Pulling over and planning what alternative routes are available is empowering, especially if your options are tied to business change. Map out the "what ifs," and if you need to get your passengers onboard, do it. Back seat drivers starting tell you where you should go when they aren't confident you know where you're going.
7. Mind the speed bumps
Speed bumps are there for a reason. Sometimes we're cruising along and miss seeing them in front of us. That's not their fault, it's ours. Organizations have become more complex, with more processes than ever before to mitigate risks and ensure governance. o instead of seeing them as being a nuisance, be open to seeing them as something necessary to control your speed and maybe help you avoid any accidents. From a career perspective, if you are being forced to slow down for whatever reason, can you use this opportunity to take a breath and recalibrate?
8. Avoid a dead end
Sounds pretty simple but how many times has someone driven right into a dead end street, without even slowing down? Those usually are the times when you're lost or driving too fast, missing all the signals. his is the most frustrating of all situations because you have now realized you've wasted a lot of time. The easiest way to avoid a career dead end is navigate uncharted territory very carefully and slowing down where necessary to ensure you access any reference points to help you to make sure you are going in the right direction.
9. Enjoy the scenery
Finally, every road trip isn't just about the destination; it's about enjoying the ride. Taking your eyes of the wheel may feel like uncomfortable, especially when your hands are clenched tight when navigating through unfamiliar territory. Make sure you are leveraging your peripheral vision to enjoy the scenery, even it's not what you thought it would look like. It may just take your breath away.
Do you have a 10th tip that I can add to the list?