Time for your CEO to come out of the closet

The stream of dilemmas from our crowd source picks a clear signal of panic within senior leadersip teams. If you can’t avoid it at least have a plan to capitalize on it. When conventional wisdom does not help it is time to take a different embracing approach

Moments of Panic

Everyone of us has experienced moments of panic. The feeling of paralyzing anxiety, the raging heart beat and the thickening breath – everything seems to collapse.

Some might think that panic is caused by extreme situations. But the truth is that panic erupts when we lose our orientation, when something changes and we lose control. It can happen if we are approaching a deadline and suddenly we understand that we are not ready, if we suddenly realize that the assumptions we made are false or if the rules of the game suddenly change and no one can explains the new rules to us.

Leaders in Panic

Accelerated market dynamics, the speed of technology changes, the rates at which new incumbent are changing the rules of the game are the substrate on which panic grows.

The stream of employee dilemmas we are collecting with our crowd-source technology picks a growing signal of panic. Many of the executive management teams I am working with will not admit that, but their employees sense panic.

It is natural. It is expected. The business world around us changes every day. Start-ups lead by a couple of infant entrepreneurs are leaving teams of rock solid executive veterans defeated on their knees. If you are the CEO, you will probably need to reinvent your business couple of times this year and most of your knowledge and experience will turn stale.

Your CEO can’t afford to panic

Google search yields so many business articles explaining why senior managers can not afford to panic.

The arguments are simple and logical.

When you are in panic you are not rationally thinking. While in panic you will probably make some fatal mistakes. You are the leader. People are watching you. They depend on you. They expect you to be stable as a rock, be rational and lead though this turbulent period.

The one thing business schools do not teach a leader is how to panic. The new c-level soft skill is panic

 Conventional wisdom

The common methodologies for dealing with panic attack are focusing on avoiding it. Plan for the unknown. Get ready for different scenarios. Make sure that the peaks of uncertainty and disorientation are shallow and do not cross the panic threshold.

The second class of methodologies tries to get us out of panic mode by providing a real or a fake sense of orientation. Executing some predefined ritual, removing yourself from the flux zone, making lists, preparing plans, anything that will create a sense of control.

But panic does happen!

Make a pancake out of panic

This is allegory on the phrase “Squeeze lemonade out of lemons”. Panic is an opportunity to pivot your leadership capabilities and increase cohesion and collaboration among the leadership team. Many unexpected things, strengths and innovation can grow out of well managed panic attack.

If you are the CEO or a senior manager now is the time to step out of come out of the closet and to prepare and exercise panic mode before the next wave of anxiety takes control.

Panic attack blue print

  • Make a list of the people you feel comfortable sharing your panic with.
  • Prepare a plan how to invite those people into your panic attack. Write down the words you can use in order to invite people to step in and share the load with you.
  • Make a list of sentence starters to use while in panic – “I don’t know…”, “I am concerned…”
  • Practice - Gather your panic mode trustees. Pick a scenario from your list of potential nightmares  and instead of discussing solutions spend at least 5 minutes explaining why is this a nightmare for you.
  • Ask for their help.
  • The most important step of your panic attack plan is after the panic is over. Do not stay in the closet. Step out and have a debrief. Acknowledge your feelings and encourage other to acknowledge their feelings. Document the lessons that were learned and ask for feedback.

You will be surprise by the sense of capability and leadership that will rise out of the experience.

One last thing – Don’t forget to thank your people for sharing their vulnerability with you, before you put on your “made of stone” leader costume.

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