The rapid outbreak of the coronavirus throughout China has sent the country into an upheaval of chaos. With the nation’s death toll reaching a new high of over 1,100 and continuing to rise, anxiety and confusion have risen with it.
Doctors are overworked, overstressed and are at risk of being infected by the virus with little time to rest. Healthcare workers in Hong Kong are striking, demanding the border be closed — over continued concerns of the virus outbreak.
Hoarding and quick sell-outs of masks have sent those unaffected by the virus into a complete panic. Actually, these masks actually do very little to protect people from this disease. The overwhelming arrival of more at-risk patients than doctors could handle has led the city of Wuhan to build an entirely new hospital — in just 10 days.
Additionally, businesses have been shut down for weeks, plummeting the country’s economy. College classes have been repeatedly canceled, disengaging students who remain healthy from focusing on their education.
Now weeks since the virus’s initial outbreak, the country struggles to fight it while rebooting its economy, its education, and reintroducing its nation back to some kind of normalcy.
When chaos hits, whether it be nationally or organizationally, it hits hard.
We don’t see it coming; so often we don’t have a plan to respond.
So how do we handle chaos in leading our businesses?
Do we even take the time to consider crises before they occur? It may not be possible to know every surprise that may come our way, but we can learn to lead in ways that prepare for the worst.
Here are five ways to learn to lead in the midst of chaos:
- Know Your Risk. Regularly auditing the context of your business is vital and is one of the best ways to gauge and mentally prepare for what risks could arise. Consider what types of disasters you are most at risk for. While we frequently can’t predict what chaos may come our way, we can prepare for the possibilities of what may arise.
- Respond, Don’t React. In the face of chaos, our first reaction is not necessarily the best. To ensure we will have the best response, we must plan how we handle chaos or emergencies when they come our way. It's vital that individually, as a leader, and with your teams, you make the time to consider your response to each risk.
- Focus on Prevention Plans. In leadership and in businesses, small and large, there are ways to prevent chaos and confusion before it even arrives. Once you’ve considered your risks, you can begin to build a plan to prevent many issues from ever being a problem.
- Have Your Emergency Fund Ready. We know that we can be as financially savvy as possible, but if we aren’t prepared with an emergency fund, we are essentially shooting ourselves in the foot. As Dave Ramsey says, "You need that safety net between you and life." Just as in our personal lives, we need that safety net between our company and life — for the sake of our company’s budget and the people we have brought on board with us.
- Don’t Let Worry Control You. In times of anxiety and worry, it's a proven fact that parts of the brain shut down. Research from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences finds a possible correlation between chronic stress and anxiety, and structural degeneration of the hippocampus as well as impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex. Stress and anxiety literally shut down parts of the brain, keeping us from thinking clearly. If you want to lead clearly, you must train your mind to do the same.
Above all, do what you can to prevent chaos. But no matter what may occur in the future, lead in a way that your team should follow. If you are anxious and continually worried, those you lead feel continually apprehensive as well.
Your team relies on and will emulate how you choose to lead.
If you are prepared and secure in your plan, your team will feel secure.
While obviously you cannot control the season of chaos that may come your way, preparing ahead of time allows you to be more decisive, intuitive, and effective in solving problems when chaos arises.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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