“Leadership is where we can make the most differences and, in the meantime, fulfill our mission efficiently” (Bin Yang, 2016). While pursuing our respective missions as leaders, we face setbacks and battle with conflicts, both internally and externally. Navigating through these trying times is crucial to the sustenance of any business.
Even minor setbacks have been known to cost huge companies vital time, productivity and profits. It is therefore imperative for leaders or entrepreneurs to have the capacity to absorb the shocks that come with setbacks and separate their human wiring from the push through which that setback came.
Bin Yang, Managing Director of The Prince Synergy, a leading consulting firm that solves the hardest issues in leadership, competitiveness, and performance discuss the Whole System Approach to building efficient leadership that can stand against setbacks.
“Leaders are needed the most in the storm. What makes handling setbacks and failures the most challenging is when individuals need to be resilient, see what they COULD NOT, learn faster, and restore energy quicker, etc., as setbacks and failures can shut down their mind and body. Positive thinking and motivation, the common approaches, are too general. To prevent setbacks and failures or be highly effective in the storm, individuals need to stay close to their talent, as training cannot create genius, and sustain their stability in turbulence on top of mental and technical stability. Once they develop the skills to handle the worst, their whole system has reached another level. Leaders should leverage the new power to prevent setbacks and failures and achieve more than to recover from setbacks and failures.”
I have come to learn from my own experience that setbacks can be debilitating and can cause levels of destruction that cannot be anticipated. One of the key things that I have also learnt is that, what separates good leaders from great leaders is the fact that great leaders receive the setback and respond using all the leadership quotients available to them instead of reacting to the setback. There are many setbacks leaders deal with on a daily basis. They may be financial, operational, emotional or mental to state a few. They all negatively contribute towards the demise of the business and to the stagnation of the leadership process. The leadership journey is always paved with opportunities and obstacles.
A value-led response would therefore help in guiding the navigation and resolution process. This is paramount to the health of your business. In this article, we will look at some of these setbacks and how leaders can take a real journey with the setbacks strapped to their backs as they keep going regardless of how heavy the burden is. All of us have had some professional setbacks such as prospects breaking off at the very last moment after a seemingly agreeable interaction, clients jumping to the competition or teams not getting along. How does a resilient leader respond to setbacks?
CommunityToolBox defines a setback as “an event or specific series of events that impede your forward progress as an organisation or leader.” By nature, leaders and entrepreneurs must be eternal optimists. Only those who expect to succeed can survive the emotional, social and financial storms that are inherent in running a business. Some key setbacks I identified along my journey and for those I coach is the following: firstly, leaders for the most part do not take time to develop and invest in their executive presence.
Executive presence is not only the most critical soft skill that a leader must have; it is also the tool that is able to cushion a leader in any crisis. Secondly, top talents and teams who are not developed across both hard and soft skills is another key setback. The development of soft skills is also key when it comes to the team’s ultimate success in addition to all the hard skills that the team uses.
Lastly, not knowing your market or not recognising the evolution and disruption of your market quickly enough is another key setback that leaders face and must spare no effort to overcome. In this period of the digital revolution and ‘speed of light’ growth, leaders and their organisations must continually keep their eyes open so they can be ready to meet the needs of their markets and audiences as they evolve.
GoBankingRates, also state five setbacks most small business leaders and entrepreneurs face and must overcome. One common setback entrepreneurs and small businesses face and must overcome is an unscalable business model. Creating a business model with enough built-in elasticity to grow is a deliberate action; one that many leaders and entrepreneurs either overlook or attempt too early.
According to Inc., before you attempt to grow, you have to identify your core users, ensure that your product reaches market fit, identify the marketing channels with the biggest return on investment and develop the resources to make scaling possible. Another setback to overcome is hiring the wrong people.
Every business has a limited capital for personnel, so hiring the right people is critical. Leaders should only hire people who can do tasks that cannot be automated. Look for people who have more than one skill and can play different roles. Finally, put a premium on talent that brings ideas to the table; creativity is a crucial and undervalued trait.
Furthermore, losing key clients is one major setback leaders and small businesses must overcome. Clients leave for greener pastures, as part of a change in strategy or simply to cut costs. For you, it might be your biggest client, but for them, you are probably just one vendor out of many.
Leaders and entrepreneurs must also overcome the setback of losing key employees as well. The problem with hiring great employees is that they have options. Whether they found something better or simply want a change, every business loses crucial employees who they believe to be irreplaceable.
Last but not least, one setback leaders and entrepreneurs must overcome is insufficient cash flow. Cash flow deficiency is the final nail in the coffin for many small businesses. These are very real setbacks that can spell the demise of any leader, entrepreneur or business if not handled strategically and tactically.
Here are four tools that can be helpful for a leader’s journey as they adapt, pivot and navigate their setbacks.
- ASSESSMENT, ACCOUNTABILITY & RESPONSIBILITY
Self-awareness is a key aspect of knowing who we are, our capacity and capability; and knowing how or what is able to impact our progress. For every situation that we face, we must first accept, acknowledge and appreciate the situation – the 3 ‘A’ principle. This is the deepest form of assessment to understand – not focusing on how painful the situation is but focusing instead on the learnings and the lessons. After this, rather than being a victim and blaming other people, you become accountable and responsible for the situation. This enables you to quickly rise up as a leader, take up a setback, strap it to your back and keep moving to look for the resolution to what has happened.
- DEVELOP AND ESTABLISH YOUR EXECUTIVE PRESENCE
Executive presence is the unique ability of a leader’s substance to be felt, to be seen and to be heard. That substance includes having gravitas also known as ‘grace under fire in the midst of the most difficult crisis, speaking truth to power and being inspirational when your team and organisation needs it most.” It is the true test of the leaders’ depth and heft and the true reflection of their influence. Many leaders, both aspiring and potential leaders prioritise developing their executive presence by proactively seeking the support of coaches and professionals way before any setback happens.
- CONSOLIDATING HIGH-PERFORMANCE TALENT AND TEAMS
A high performing team is a team that has gained mastery in the blend of both hard and soft skills and putting those skills to utility across the entire spectrum of the business. Many organisations emphasise the development of hard skills, which are indeed core to the day-to-day activities of their business. However, soft skills, also known as vocational skills, are also very core if not even critical. Mastery is about blending the two in a continual learning environment. These teams are crucial in rising up to the task when setbacks rear their ugly heads.
- MARKET ANTICIPATION
It is very key that leaders stay close and nimble enough to anticipate the next need of the client to ensure that they can align, meet the needs of the client and grow as the client grows. Most leaders and businesses lose sight of where their clients are going, and what happens is that the clients change but the organisation does not change to be on track with them. By anticipating the market, leaders are ahead of the pack when it comes to customer needs and satisfaction.
As the life of business and organisational culture continues to revolutionise, leaders must evolve from just being resilient to leveraging setbacks as they come, and level up at all stages for continually powerful results.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Soft Skills Expert and Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.