Whether you know about it, like it or don’t really believe it, the fact is business has become a different animal over the past few years. Companies have had to respond to so many different things in order to remain competitive. The recession. Social Media. Influx of Gen Y into the workforce. Empowered customers who have a voice via online communities. When you consider the number of changes that have taken place over the past 5 years, the shift in how we do business is more significant than at any other time since the industrial revolution over a century ago.

Companies have had to re-structure how they do business internally and move responsibilities around to various people. This has put leaders in a unique position. They are spending copious amounts of time trying to make sure they focus on making sure all these boxes get ticked in the process of running a business. The real question leaders need to be asking is, “Have you adjusted how you lead in this new environment?”

A number of leaders have been so focused on keeping the numbers in the black and customer retention that their leadership has been put in a position to be not much more than a knee-jerk reaction to problems. It has become diminished to some dastardly form of triage leadership. The thing that gets the most attention is what seems to be bleeding the most buckets.

Preventative measures, such as pro-active leadership and the like, are so far off the radar screen they almost seem like a bit of a fantastic dream at times. You may be even thinking, “If you knew how crazy things have been, you would understand I don’t have time for that.” Business isn’t going to go back to what it was so if you don’t have time to lead well now, when will you have time to go back and fix it?

Not to fret or worry. Here are 5 tips on how to keep your leadership game out of the triage business and more involved in your business.

  • Schedule down time – Before you begin screaming about how little time you have now, settle down a bit. This doesn’t have to be hours at a time. I’m confident you can find at least 3 different 20 minute segments in your calendar for next week. That’s 1 hour for the entire week that you can devote to reflecting on what is happening without the pressures of the day-to-day routine. (Not to mention it gives you the opportunity to have your thoughts freed up during your personal time.)
  • Leverage your culture – If it’s not in place, then put it in place. Create and nurture a culture where quality leadership is not only encouraged, but it is facilitated. Maybe you can implement an open forum lunch on Fridays. It gives people an opportunity to somewhat vent (respectfully) about the challenges of the week. It’s a safe place with no judgment where issues remain transparent. Take notes and reflect on that in your scheduled down time. Perhaps some quality crowd sourcing can help resolve the issue. Be creative!
  • Let people fail – When money is tight and changes abound, it’s so easy to pull into a conservative shell and slap a “fiscal conservative” sticker on making everything a pre-defined process. Yep, I’m pointing my finger squarely in your nose. Giving people the opportunity to crash and burn (intelligently) shows that you trust them. It also creates an environment that breeds creativity and innovation. That innovation could be your next great product or process improvement. You never know until you give it a fair chance. When people fail, congratulate them on their initiative then coach them in what didn’t work and why…even offer a few suggestions that would have helped make their initiative more successful.
  • Celebrate small victories – Don’t let yourself get into the habit of only looking for problems…you will always find them. Don’t make it cheesy and patronizing, but acknowledge the efforts of people. Never underestimate the power of recognition and appreciation. You don’t have to tie this to a rewards program. Just show genuine appreciation when people do what they need to do in order for the business to remain successful.
  • Lighten up – Don’t take everything so seriously! Fun and responsibility do and should go together. They are not mutually exclusive ideas. Don’t be someone you’re not, but we can all openly enjoy life and have a bit of a laugh. When we’re tense and stressed our blood vessels constrict and less blood makes it to our brain. Laughter relaxes us and those blood vessels and more blood in the brain means better thinking. Better thinking usually leads to more productive employees. That’s my nerdy scientific reason for having fun in leadership.

What are some of your suggestions for not falling into triage leadership?