Leading through times of chaos – learnings & experiences

Before I start, I hope you are well. Stay home where possible, be sensible, be responsible and be kind to each other.

It is now two weeks of working from home. I have come to expect the unexpected during these unprecedented times, but it doesn’t lessen the impact in any way. I still worry about my family, our community, the health of ATC, the well-being of the people I work with at the ATC, hoping that everyone is able to find a measure of safety and peace as we move towards more uncertainty in the coming months.

Faced with a flurry of urgent issues, I was forced to pivot hard, work on the fly and stay agile so as to establish priority areas that needed most attention. I have found this to be quite challenging but also enjoyable. I have new problems and I am also grateful to be busy. Not all I did was working and I thought I would share some of my learnings with you.

Lead from the heart… don’t lose your head

Show empathy and compassion, face the probabilities and never lose sight of your purpose. My first priority was to ensure that the people I work with are healthy and safe, followed by making sure their economic well-being is safeguarded.

At the same time, I needed to recognise that things will never be the same again and turn probabilities into my favour through actions I could take. It can be easy to lose your head in amongst all this craziness and there were times when my patience was stretched thin.

This is where your purpose shines through and me relooking at my purpose has helped me and my team stay positive while ensuring that we continue to design for our customers’ hearts.

Put the mission first

When you put the community you serve first and connect it to your organisation’s (or your personal) mission, decisions seem more meaningful and easier.

Answering questions like “what the community needs” and “how can we help” keeps you focused, grounded and leads to faster decisions. This may seem simplistic but I am finding it an effective way of working and it keeps me and my team aligned and focused on our best course of action.

Embrace ambiguity and the unknown

We are all dealing with ambiguity, huge change and immense uncertainty. At first, I found it really scary. Do we still have an ATC2020? Can we continue to offer value to our delegates and sponsors?  How will I and the team adapt? Can we survive financially and many others.

My very first conversations were coming out of fear and they were tense. However, I moved past the fear now and treating this as exciting and trusting that whatever we do we can change if its not as good as it could be. 

Accepting the fact that you cannot control everything that is happening is key, but realising that you should and can adapt fast will make you feel more positive about what is to come and set you up to recover quickly when this blows over.

Trust and empathy

Gone is the ability to meet, this is all done virtually now. We are now working with new partners in new ways and you need to build relationships fast.

One of the things I find helpful in building trust quickly is to understand one’s needs – what is important to the person you are working with and what in their minds constitute a win. By aligning these needs with yours, you will find that you can get work done and progress quickly without trying too hard.

Pivot fast

Keeping all the above points in mind I now accept that we must be quick and trust that we are making the optimum decisions at the time. Prevarication right now would really create extra stress and place us potentially in a difficult position.

I am currently reading Neil Daniher’s (former AFL player who is living with MND) book “When All is Said & Done”. One passage that I really related to was his “four stages of life”:

  1. When he started out as a young boy, he was in a state of SURVIVING one of 10 kids growing up on a farm.
  2. When he started to play football and cricket at school he was STRIVING to be great and prove he could play.
  3. After he played and coached AFL football at the highest level he was THRIVING, he had reached his goal.
  4. Neil sadly is slowly dying from MND and now that he has achieved many things, he sees his fundraising efforts to fight this terrible disease as ARRIVING where he can reflect and give back to the community. 

Keeping this in mind I feel the ATC is at the “Striving: stage to get a new digital event up but soon we will be Thriving the Arriving shortly thereafter. I hope you all can stay safe and get through this together in the best possible position. 

Cover image: sydney Rae on Unsplash

Become an unstoppable force for good at this year’s ATC2020 DIGITAL. Tickets on sale now, see you online!

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2 Responses to “Leading through times of chaos – learnings & experiences”

  1. Ross Clennett

    Thanks Trev, I really enjoyed your musings. I agree that trust will be even more important in relationships going forward. We now, theoretically at least, have more time to build trust in important relationships but how many will take this opportunity? I will be fascinated to see the results. Keep well and keep writing, my friend.

    • Trevor P Vas

      Hey Ross, yes it will be an interesting time and we have only been at it for a short while. I plan to keep writing and also doing new things. I am feeling challenged most days but I feel we can do ok whatever the situation. But hey I feel optimistic when the D’s are 10 goals down in the first quarter hahaha


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