The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented disruption across all slices of business, industry, and ministry. Unexpected recessions can force an organization to revamp or throw out the business plan for the year but this circumstance has cut much deeper. Many organizations are having to rethink their entire value propositions or even their main business purpose. In all of these circumstances people are stepping forward into the opportunity to increase their influence or exercise their leadership. Disruption creates vacuums within the former plans and the best ideas will win in filling those vacuums and moving the work forward. How does one keep one’s head and help maintain a focus toward the right next moves in unprecedented times? There are a few tried and true methods that will serve anyone well navigating disruption and wanting to help their organization or business to move forward.

Keep calm— This one may seem obvious but it is not to be forgotten. Disruption brings change. Change threatens people because it may affect their perceived value to the work. This type of existential crisis will cause many to panic and spread panic to others. An influencer can never do this. An influencer has to remain calm and act as if they know exactly what to do, sometimes even if that is unclear to them. One certainly does not have to pretend they have the whole endgame figured out but one can confidently convey a sense of they know the next best step to take. The truth is in most cases that’s enough. When you get there then figure out the next logical move based on what you know from getting to that first step. It is of no advantage to hide away with the intent to build out the entire series of next moves as most likely the situation will change enough to alter them. Focus on the next move and move the team toward it. How do you know what the next move is? The next two steps can inform you.

Focus on team— Take a look at the team. Ask yourself practical questions about how you can help them move forward. What is currently keeping them from moving forward and how can you remove it? What is the biggest emotional hurdle they have right now? What quick wins, no matter how minor they seem, can you get in front of them right now? When thinking about the next step look at the team and determine what you can do to remove barriers, raise their confidence, and how you can best harness each of their talents to move forward. If you ask yourself these very foundational and pragmatic questions about your team then the next best steps will start becoming apparent to you.

Focus on values distinctives— What is it that your work provides? I’m not talking about the service or the widget. I’m talking about what makes your work distinctive? Is it unparalleled customer service? Is it a level of convenience your competitors don’t provide? What your work does that sets it apart is your distinctive; it’s why people choose this service over others. In a time of great disruption the next moves should focus on how you highlight and build your distinctives. Is the reason customers choose your work in the first place still a valid reason for choosing? If so then hunker down and focus on highlighting the distinctive. You could be in spot where your widget is no longer the value it was prior to the disruption but the reason customers choose your business in the first place over others, your values distinctive, will play a large role in helping them choose you again.

Focus on mission— An organization’s mission is a long view reason for the company’s existence. In other words, most businesses and organizations are not founded upon a fad but are instead founded on providing something that is believed to be an ongoing need in the marketplace. Once you have thought through how next steps apply from the values distinctive perspective now think through how it applies toward the long-term mission. The mission of a business needs to be seen through a longer lens than the disruption. In other words, the disruption may have direct effects for 18 months but the business will still be dedicated toward the mission 25 years from now. Energy put toward focusing on the long-term mission may not seem to have the same immediate effect as the values distinctive but are important considerations. Keeping this focus will help make sure that plans made in disruption don’t accidentally take the business off intention of the overall reason it exists in the first place. A quick internet search for case studies will show many companies who because of hasty adjustments to the marketplace lost their way in providing what their founding principles desired.

Disruption is scary and deeply sown in uncertainty. There is no way we can know all the answers all of the time but we can play a role in helping our work navigate disruption and set the team up for success. Being able to provide a calming and assuring voice will help raise the confidence levels of a team and give anyone who can offer this a great chance to increase their personal value and influence within the work and the team. Keep calm and keep moving forward.