Two key insights for great leadership during challenging times

Two key insights for great leadership during challenging times

Are you constantly contending with competing and changing priorities? Then good. You’re doing something right. If your days are spent solving problems, only to uncover new ones, you’re exactly where you should be. That’s business, and that’s what makes it fun, in the same way rollercoasters are fun. People wouldn’t queue for hours at Alton Towers’ Wicker Man if the track was flat.

But guess what? In the hybrid world we’re all facing, leaders are only going to encounter more problems. A nine headed hydra of problems, in fact, with heads that grow back as fast as you can chop them off. That’s the bad news. But the good news? If you can make peace with that reality, you’re well on the road to getting your head in the right place to learn how to manage, prioritise and never quite resolve all the competing problems you will face.

In fact, I’ve come to see the word ‘problem’ as a bit of a problem itself. It’s a negative word. Yet not all problems are negative, many of them are simply matters that require you to make a decision. And it’s in making those decisions that you will drive your business forwards. It’s a rewarding feeling, resolving things, and creating new ways to move forwards. It’s why you’re the person who does what you do.

And if you can thrive in that kind of atmosphere, then rest assured, you’ll never run out of problems, and decisions, that need to be made, ever again.

In my experience, there’s two factors that will help you adjust, and ultimately thrive, when times are frantic.


“Be prepared” is the famous motto of the scout movement, and it’s just as apt for business leaders. We may have access to subject matter experts, have people on hand who can provide details of the bigger picture we may not be able to fully see on our own. But even so, sometimes things will happen that we simply can’t prepare for.

You might, for example, look ahead to the next trading period, and identify important issues approaching on the horizon. Then you might work back from that point, create milestones, and draw up a list of people who can help you prevent those things from becoming serious problems. And then, halfway through resolving those issues, you suddenly have to go and put out a huge fire somewhere else.

That doesn’t mean your original plan wasn’t correct. It just means some problems can’t be foreseen until it’s too late. If you hadn’t been prepared, and taken steps to resolve those other issues, you’d now be dealing with more fires than you could probably handle.

As long as a huge fire isn’t burning because you ignored smoke over the horizon, you’re doing okay.

Write down your desires.

If something is important enough to need your attention, then planning and preparation is essential. Never wing it. In fact, our research has shown that by following these five steps, you can’t fail to reach your desired outcome:

  1. What event, meeting, or other situation is on your mind?
  2. What will you do prior to the event?
  3. What would you like to happen as a result of the event?
  4. What will you do and say to influence that result?
  5. What will you do to follow up after the event?

And do you know something else? Our research also revealed that when people took the time to write out their intentions, just by committing to that act, they were already 50% more likely to complete the task at hand.

So go on, humour me. If you take nothing else away from this article, just try this quick exercise with me. Think of your most pressing problem. Five step it. I’ll be here waiting for you.

Did you write your steps down? Then well done. Statistically, you’re now 50% more likely to reach your desired outcome than you were before.

Oh, and never be afraid to adapt and amend your plan as you go. Because as I mentioned at the start, those problems you solve on your way tend to throw up new problems just waiting patiently around the corner.

Looking to better manage your competing changing priorities? ABSTRACT’s range of webinars will equip you with the skills and resilience you need to thrive in the hybrid era. ABSTRACT will also be delivering a webinar on Imposter Syndrome on March 2nd, if you would like to come along and gain actionable insights.

Written by Mark Fryer, ABSTRACT

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