“I hate the term ‘new normal’.” Steve Armstrong insists, indicating that change is inevitable and those in leadership positions must not be complacent. “When you’re the leader… you are always accountable.”
Armstrong is a MRU Continuing Education instructor and author of You Can’t Lead from Behind. He will be a keynote speaker at Resilience & Recovery: How to survive and thrive in a new normal on June 25th, 2016. His presentation, Organizational Resilience will offer professional advice from his experiences in disaster recovery operations ranging from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 to this year’s Fort McMurray wildfires.
“You cannot be strategic and operational at the same time.” Armstrong proclaims.
Whether dealing with natural disasters or economic crisis, he endorses clarity and risk assessment for businesses hoping to survive the situation and thrive in the aftermath. “You can’t focus on day-to-day while looking forward to the future.” He reiterates. “When I was leading giant operations, I had tactical leaders. I pulled out of day-to-day… I looked weeks and months out.” This division of resources is a luxury that many smaller businesses dealing with a struggling economy can’t afford. To which, Armstrong identifies, “You have to block out a period of time in the morning to be strategic. Try to surround yourself with folks that will help you think that way.”
To all leaders, he advises, “Be 100% focused on your objective or mission.” His military background serves him well. “The second rule is to make sure that everyone working for you knows the objective. The rest,” he concludes, “is how to get it done. You can motivate and manipulate… engage people and protect them… but always treat people with respect and dignity.”
The mission provides the foundation on which to make decisions; and Armstrong has had to make some tough ones. “If the mission is clearly articulated then employees (like soldiers) have three levels of consensus… ‘I can live with it’, I can’t live with it’, or ‘I’m all in’.” The last of which is the team all leaders would like to build; a team who pulls together and operates best in a time of crisis.
Ethos is a Greek term describing the characteristic spirit of culture. In business, that can refer to everything from the integrity of leadership to corporate culture, team-building and trust. “If an organization doesn’t have ethos,” Armstrong exclaims, “they’ll never build it in the crisis.”
In his book, he describes a time when, in service, he was asked to jump over the edge of a cliff, landing site-unseen. He was tested to place his trust in his commanding officer, and, due to the trust that had been established, he didn’t think twice about taking the plunge. This type of established trust in leadership he explains using a military adage, “Always explain the truth about what and why something is happening so they (employees) believe you when you don’t have time to explain.”
Whether he likes the term ‘new normal’ or not, he is a leader who is certainly prepared for it.