Walk fast, don’t run in times of uncertainty

Leadership and change expert Nigel Collin looks at the importance of not rushing decisions or reacting too quickly in times of uncertainty

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Back in the 90s when I had an entertainment business, I was taught never run but walk quickly when there was a problem or crisis. It was during a large event of about 1000 people when one of the performers was standing behind a lit screen and everyone could see their shadow.

Hardly a crisis I admit but one that gave me a valuable lesson in working through predicaments and time of uncertainty.

Seeing the shadow, I started running towards the stage to tell the performer to move, when my producer at the time quietly said to me, “don’t run, walk quickly.” Running (or panicking) does three things:

  1. As you run you are in danger of tripping and causing more havoc.
  2. People will notice you running and assume something is up and panic results.
  3. Your decision-making process goes south as your knee-jerk reaction cuts in.

Good advice for Executive Assistants. Especially now during COVID-19.

Yes, it is important in times like this to act and act quickly, but a measured response is needed to mitigate risk or adding to the crisis. If as an EA you start showing signs of panic so will those around you, including your boss, your peers, and subordinates. When people start rushing decisions, they risk decision being the wrong decisions or worse still damaging ones.

As the impact of Coronavirus takes hold, ask yourself if you are running or walking quickly? Not literally of course, but metaphorically.

As I write this my senses tell me are nearing the end of the first stage of “what the heck is happening and how do we deal it?” which equates to my first response noticing the performer behind the screen. From here I believe we need to walk and not run in response.

The next 6 to 12 months will test the ability of businesses, leaders and their EAs to adapt to change and deal with the impact of the Corona crisis, while still maintaining course. That requires taking decisive action in a calm and non-emotional way. It requires good communication, so everyone knows what expect (well… as best as possible) and what steps have been put in place.

In times of uncertainty, you need to take a preverbal breath because as an EA if you run, you will not just panic those around you, but you risk making bad decisions. As my friend Ray, who works for the Dept of Defence put it ‘Officers don’t run, it panics the troops’.

THE EXPERT
Nigel Collin is a change and leadership expert helping people and organisations make change happen through small consistent steps. He is author of ‘Game of Inches’, an Internationally recognised keynote speaker and executive coach. www.nigelcollin.com.au