Strategies for Turning Adversity into Opportunity – Part One

May 13, 2020

Faced with change, adversity, and stress, leaders have a responsibility to create a climate in which people can thrive. To help you prepare for that challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner identify six actionable strategies to strengthen resilience and fully engage people during uncertain times.  Adapted from their book Turning Adversity into Opportunity, the following three strategies will help get you started.
To implement each of these strategies, identify a situation you and your constituents are currently facing. Pause and reflect on the questions associated with each strategy and engage others you are working with in exploring how to broaden its application to address your collective challenge.
Strategy #1:  Broaden the Context
This challenge is occurring in a larger context. Change and transition have happened before. Adversity has been overcome.

  • What's the bigger picture here?
  • How can we help others understand what's happening in the environment, and how is it affecting the business
  • How can we educate others about the broader context?
  • How can we get people to see that we’re not any worse off than others before us?
  • How do we give people time and space to discuss their answers and gain perspective?
  • What can we do to frame what is happening and what is being done in ways that give people hope? 

Strategy #2:  Defy the Verdict  
People need to know what's really going on. They want to know the truth. And, while resilient leaders “don't deny the diagnosis,” at the same time, they "defy the verdict" of doom. 

  • What is going on right now?
  • What is truth, and what is a rumor?
  • What are we clear and unclear about?
  • How can you get clear?
  • What is possible?
  • Where’s the silver lining?
  • How do we communicate the message that we can overcome these difficult circumstances?
  • What are some innovative opportunities that we can now explore?

Being willing to defy the verdict and giving people reasons why, are critical to keeping them focused on what is possible.

Strategy #3:  Fully Commit to What's Important
Change demands our full attention, imagination, and effort. People need to know what's most meaningful and important. And research suggests that there is a significant measurable impact on people’s performance when their values are clear. 

  • Why are we doing what we’re doing?
  • What’s the larger purpose?
  • Why does what we’re doing matter?
  • What are we really passionate about?
  • What important shared values and beliefs can we emphasize to keep people engaged?
  • What are some exciting possibilities for the future?
  • Who’s counting on us?
  • Who cares about and depends on the quality, innovativeness, and efficiency of our efforts?

Being fully committed is what keeps you and your constituents on track and willing to struggle through the hard times.

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