Can business leaders and managers really hope to escape crises of confidence in today’s context, particularly in Europe?
How can we find the energy and the confidence needed to lead others, when our teams and their members have been under stress, because of performance pressures, leadership transitions, and/or organizational changes? When the future around us is unpredictable and may seem hopeless?
In my experience, the first condition is to ensure that we have – and provide other team members – the opportunity to consolidate our self-confidence, taking the time to step back, to accept our strengths and weaknesses and to master our own stress. It begins with understanding our stress factors and how we react in adressing the problem or dealing with our emotions. It requires identifying our adaptation strategies – eg integrative problem-solving, temporary avoidance, problem denial, addictive behaviours… – evaluating their positive/negative impact, and broadening our options.
Next comes the need to re-build trust amongst our team members and in their relation with other teams and stakehoders – customers, suppliers, shareholders…
It takes a shared understanding of the perceived breaches of trust and of the unconspicuous misbehaviours which may have eroded trust over time. It takes hard work to restore relational trust in its three dimensions – speaking plain truth; respecting fair relational ground rules; and making the best of available competencies to cope with emerging situations.
Last but not least, when the conditions of trust are assembled, it becomes possible to rebuild confidence in the future, within and around our teams. My preferred approach is to foster collaborative work on an inspiring project, which provides a sense of purpose, mobilizing resources and energy to adress business issues and to reach a truly challenging ambition, and which provides stability at the same time.
Too many organizations seem to believe that financial objectives or operational targets are enough to drive motivation. Too few seem to understand that having a clear business focus, respecting chosen fundamental values and deploying shared management principles matter for sustained performance.
Teams that have managed to overcome a crisis of confidence need to take some steps to prevent further crises. The next challenge of the team is to revisit regularly and without complacency the collective project. The challenge of individual team members is to monitor their contribution to the delivery of the project and their impact on relational trust within and beyond their team.