#026: How to Lead in Turbulent Times [Podcast]

It’s no secret that the last four or five years have been challenging from an economic, technological, and global perspective. In this episode, I discuss five actions leaders must take in order to lead well in turbulent times.

A Ship on a Turbulent Sea

When I speak publicly on this topic, I call this presentation, “Shift: Leading in Turbulent Times.” I use the word “shift” for two reasons:

  1. The world seems to be shifting under our feet.
  2. We must also shift if we are going to lead well.

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While I was the CEO of Thomas Nelson (2005–2011), we experienced three significant changes:

  1. Change #1: The Great Recession
  2. Change #2: The Digital Revolution
  3. Change #3: The Social Media Revolution

Your industry has probably gone through massive change as well. Over the last few months, I have spoken to a variety of groups representing several different industries:

  • The Telecommunications Industry has gone through a massive shift to smart phones and wireless communications.
  • The Mortgage Industry has gone through a massive shift in federal regulation and lending practices.
  • The Media Industry has gone through a massive shift to digital delivery and direct-to-consumer marketing.

And, of course, the phenomenon of social media has impacted every industry. And, if that weren’t enough, you are probably experiencing massive change in your own life.

  • Maybe you’re going through a tough time in your marriage or dealing with the aftermath of a divorce or even the death of a spouse.
  • Maybe you’ve been laid off and are struggling to find work. Perhaps you are under-employed or just launching a business.
  • Maybe you had a health crisis and are dealing with the impact on your family and career.

Or maybe it’s not quite so massive but still change—perhaps you are newly married, just had a baby, or received a promotion. Regardless, we are living in a world of unprecedented change. To lead well in this kind of environment, you must take five specific actions.

  1. Action #1: Shift your perception. You must acknowledge reality. This is the new normal. We’re not going back. At the same time, you must remain confident that you will ultimately prevail. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to this as “The Stockdale Paradox.”
  2. Action #2: Shift your intention. You can’t resist change; you must embrace it. This means taking the initiative—going first—and leaning into it. How you approach change as a leader will determine how your organization approaches it.
  3. Action #3: Shift your direction. In turbulent times, it is easy to lose your vision. You just stop talking about the future. However, your people need to know there is a future and their actions matter.
  4. Action #4: Shift your acceleration. You must recover a sense of urgency. Your responsiveness can be a competitive advantage, particularly if you are a small organization with big competitors.
  5. Action #5: Shift your allocation. Unlike the federal government, you can’t fund new programs without defunding old ones. You have to shift your resources away from unprofitable programs to profitable ones.

Real leaders thrive in turbulent times. They come alive. Why? Because it requires them to grow. They discover abilities and resources they never knew they had.

Listener Questions

  1. Tom Eggebrecht asked, ”How do you lead people who don’t want to be led?”
  2. John Bergquist asked, “How do you handle the stress of change in a healthy way?”
  3. DJ Wade-O asked, “How do you deal with change in an organization when you don’t agree with it?”
  4. Dean Brown asked, “How do you manage well at work when your personal life is rapidly changing and things seem overwhelming?”

Special Announcements

  1. I am excited to announce the publication of my brand new audio course entitled, “Everything You Need to Know to Get Published.” If you have ever thought about writing a book (or even if you have written a book) this course is for you.

    In 21 audio sessions, I cover everything I have learned about publishing in my thirty-plus years in the industry as a publisher, former literary agent, and two-time New York Times bestselling author.

    This week, I am offering a special 50% discount to my blog readers and podcast listeners. But, you must order before 11:59 p.m. on Sunday night, September 30, 2012. I’ll also throw in four FREE bonus products worth more than $150.00.

    Click here to find out more.

  2. I will be speaking four times at three events in the Atlanta area next week. If you live there, I’d love to meet you and shake your hand! You can find me here:

    If you want to explore the possibility of having me speak at your event, visit my speaking page.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: What needs to change in you if you are going to manage change effectively? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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