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23 Apr 2020

The military strategy business leaders can use in a time of crisis

Gregory Bayne
The military has an approach to taking stock during trying times - referred to as VUCA. Business leaders today can apply these same principles to effectively manage remote teams during COVID-19.

It may or may not be possible to alleviate employees of stress over financial or professional stability, but it is possible to help them better manage that stress.

In his Tech Fest Webinar presentation, Leading and Managing Remote Teams in a Time of Crisis, Gregory Bayne – Director and Psychologist, TLC Solutions Australia – explained how the military concept of VUCA can be used to lead people through the complexities and uncertainties that the Coronavirus has created.

The top focus points of a leader in a time of crisis are:

  • The quality of the collective output (impact)
  • The level of effort your people demonstrate (engagement)
  • How people feel about how you lead (their mindset)
  • What you say and do to lead (your mindset)

Right now, people are dealing with abnormal levels of stress. Many are merely surviving as opposed to thriving or even simply cruising.

Usually, effective ways to combat stress include catching up with friends, playing sport, going to the gym, seeing family. With social distancing a huge priority, these coping strategies are not as readily available, so it is more crucial for leaders to pay attention to the mindset of their teams.

To assess the mindset of individual team members, there are three questions to consider:

  • What is their base line resilience and well-being level?
  • How much do they swing when they have a bad day or when bad things happen?
  • How long does it take for them to recover and return to base line?

This is where the VUCA approach comes in. The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA to describe the more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous conditions and situations, and to indicate areas that require awareness and readiness.

Here’s how they can be applied:

Times of Volatility require Vision.

Be clear about your purpose and priorities. Set goals for when this upheaval is over. Talk about what things will look like. Discuss best case scenario, most likely scenario, and worst-case scenario to empower people to make plans for the future.

Times of Uncertainty require Understanding.

Be transparent with information. Share (and over-share) what you know you are allowed to reveal. Be transparent if there is significant information that cannot be shared just yet and be transparent about the things you don’t know. Remember, it is better to be honest about the reality of the situation rather than only focusing on the positive and ignoring genuine concerns and challenges.

Times of Complexity require Clarity

Simplify systems and processes as much as you can. Simplify decision-making, simplify expectations, and simplify control. Be crystal clear with employees about what they can do – help them feel more in control.

Times of Ambiguity require Agility

Grant people permission to swiftly adjust to challenges. Push decision-making down the chain. Empower and encourage people to come up with new ideas – this is a rare opportunity for them to experiment.

Overall, the most important thing leaders can do for their teams is to connect with them personally – check in with them regularly and keep them informed clearly and constructively.

View Gregory’s presentation in full to discover in greater detail his insights and advice for leaders and HR managers.



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