Founder at SoulScale and Part-Time Million Dollar Chiro Practice.
How can we navigate uncharted waters? That’s been the burning question since March 2020. Employees are looking to their leaders for direction, stability and, most importantly, answers. For a leader of a company during such an unpredictable time, providing answers to your team may seem nearly impossible.
The first time I journeyed into uncharted waters, I was 16, and my family immigrated from Iran to the U.S. Our once comfortable and stable life shifted quickly to living in poverty and uncertainty in Los Angeles (my parents brought their whole life savings from Iran, which only lasted a few months in the U.S.). Every step taken was a matter of trial and error. For example, when we arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, we didn’t speak a lick of English and had no idea what to do next. So, I took action and figured out how to order a taxi, explain where we were going and pay for it. Answers seemed to be nearly impossible to find, but overcoming those challenges led me to become the successful business leader I am today.
2020 took me back to that time period. But this time, I wasn’t alone. Everyone across the world was navigating these waters together, trying to take the right step, learning to speak a new language and creating new rules along the way. The main thing I learned about being a leader, which applies more today than ever, is that unrest is the key to unlocking a successful leader.
Here are what I consider to be the three secret weapons every leader must have in their back pocket to drive a successful business during an unpredictable 2021.
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When things don’t go according to plan, a natural reaction is to point the finger at external factors. The pandemic is a reasonable cause of our problems. It’s important to remember that it explains the situation but does not justify how we react.
When we first moved to America, as much as I grieved the loss of our family’s financial stability and my old home, I quickly learned the importance of holding yourself accountable for your situation. My parents worked 24/7 to support our family. However, I took it upon myself to assist my family financially, hoping to be someone my younger sister could learn from.
I apply the same sense of accountability with my team today. I’m accountable for finding the means to keep our team afloat. The easiest way to do this is by having a clear goal. If you are on the fence about what you want the end result to be, there will be a lot of wrong turns along the way. Instead, envision what you want the end result to be, and don’t navigate away from it.
My 16-year-old self envisioned learning and speaking English fluently. I didn’t speak for the first two months; I absorbed the English language and culture, and then I began speaking and communicating with my classmates. Deciding your end goal is the hardest part. The steps to get there come easily after that.
“I never want to feel this way again.” Many come across this feeling in their lifetime, but few know what to do with it. I was working my first job at a fast-food joint when my friends came in to eat. After taking their orders and serving them, I noticed they left a tip: a handful of pennies.
This was my first “I never want to feel this way again” moment. I believe it’s what drives the best leaders to create the best solutions, even if it hurts.
That day, I learned the importance of resilience. Most importantly, the fire in my gut started to burn. From then on, whenever something in my life left me feeling uneasy, I took that unease and used it as fuel. No longer would I fall victim to my circumstances.
We’ve had almost a year to come to terms with this pandemic, yet many may continue to struggle without a solution to get rid of the unease. I’ve learned to use that fire in my gut for production, rather than destruction, by pivoting.
Whether it’s pivoting in our tools and strategies or pivoting our overall mindset, turn every single doubt into a question to ignite this fire. How has your company survived so far? What is your advantage? How can you use today’s latest tools and resources to take this advantage to the next level?
Once that fire appears in your stomach, you may wonder, “Well, what do I do now?”
My answer to you is to always come from a place of empathy. I quit the fast-food joint and began tutoring. Helping other students pass classes became my main source of income during high school. My reputation for helping others preceded me, and I was able to hire more tutors under my belt. I was able to pay for most of my college education by helping others with their education. I used the moment I felt so low to figure out how I could make others feel high.
Your employees are the most important aspect of your company. And when you come from a place of service, of wanting to help their lives, your role as a leader and the health of your overall business are likely to grow.
The advantage to being an empathetic leader is the ability to anticipate your employees’ problems. It’s a chain reaction: I want to help my employees. My employees want to help me. My business grows as a byproduct. I’m not motivated by money, but rather what money can do.
Think about how you can pivot your business in 2021 through an empathetic lens. How can you show up today as the best leader possible? What can you contribute to the bigger picture to make everyone’s jobs a little easier? When was the last time you checked in on the company workload and overall morale?