It’s been said that the only true constant is change. Equally as inevitable is crisis. In business and in life, it tests us at every turn. But, as with change, if we learn to expect it and stay semi-prepared for it, we’ll be able to not only manage it effectively, but to grow from it — and even grow our businesses and careers in the midst of it.
Here’s proven advice from a few corporate executives (true Women of Power all!) who have managed their share of challenges, setbacks, and hurdles in ways that enabled them — and their companies — to come out on top.
You have to lead through crisis. Don’t bury your head. Get out there and make sure you know what’s going on. Continue to train and rally your team while keeping expectations high and making them clear. Speaking on this point at a Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, Susan Chapman, Senior Vice President, American Express Global Real Estate and Workplace Enablement, said, “My team knows I’ll take a bullet for them, but I won’t tolerate surprises or bad behavior.”
Be realistic. Don’t overpromise. Keep perspective and remain focused. The goal is to be honest and exceed expectations, so remember the basics and execute with excellence. It’s okay not to have all the answers. You can communicate expectations within parameters that say, we’re just not sure.
Always remember why you are there. There will be bad meetings, bad days, moments when you question yourself, your team, your strategy, and your ability to see things through. When everything gets crazy and you hate your job, says Chapman, check in with your answer to “Why am I here?” Be very clear on it; understanding your larger purpose will help you shed negative distractions and stay on task.
Never let them see you sweat. Keep your temper in check and be deliberate in managing your stress — even as you pull out all the stops. Past Women of Power Legacy Award honoree Joyce Roche often urges her mentees to “Be the duck! On top of the water you’re calm, but beneath the water you’re paddling like hell.”
Don’t get discouraged. If you do, says Nationwide Chief Administrative Officer Gale V. King, you lose and whoever or whatever got you to wins. “You can’t say,`I’m going to take my marbles and go home.’ If you do, you’ve given your power away.” King, who appears on the February 2014 Women of Power cover of Black Enterprise Magazine, insists, “You have to have the hard conversations about what you need to keep doing, what you need to start doing, and what you need to stop doing. You may not like the answers, but those questions will ensure that the conversations are constructive.”