Under pressure to perform, how can leaders help their teams be successful even in unfavorable conditions? Taking a coaching and mentoring approach is one way to ensure success. In almost every coaching conversation this year, leaders have shared the pressure they feel to deliver big results despite the reality of current economic headwinds and uncertainty in the business world.
In one conversation, a leader described his experience: “Given that people are feeling anxious about the economy, our senior leaders have set impossibly ambitious goals for 2023.” He asked, “What am I supposed to do? Tell my team that they can hit those goals—when I don’t believe it myself?”
This leaders’ reality is not unusual. Leaders are under more pressure than ever to hit their numbers and deliver shareholder value, even when it doesn’t seem realistic. So what can you do? In the case of this leader, he was deeply passionate about mentoring and coaching people of all ages – in fact, his favorite thing to do outside of work was coaching youth basketball.
I asked him: “As a basketball coach, I imagine your team faces situations that feel like impossible odds. What do you do in that situation? Do you shrug your shoulders and tell the team they had better face the fact that they’re about to get their butts kicked?”
At first, he laughed but thought it over and responded: “I tell the team, ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard; don’t look at the clock. Let’s just focus on doing the next thing right. Let’s go for a small win—make a great pass, go for a steal—and build on that.’”
While it may not be a great pass or a steal, when you’re faced with what feels like impossible conditions, look for the small wins. Then, chart a path forward with steps that the team can take over the next couple of weeks to head in the right direction.
As you look to inspire others to get through a year of economic uncertainty, it can be tempting to raise the bar in the hope that people will rise to the occasion. Instead, try focusing on the everyday behaviors that lead to small wins. As these wins pile up, they create confidence, momentum, and progress.
By keeping everyone’s focus on small steps in the right direction, they might surprise themselves by ending up on a summit at the end of a rocky 2023.