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Dr. Fergus Connolly talks about how to lead through unforeseen adversity

Insights from our Small Business Webinar series

If there’s anything the past couple of months have taught us, it’s that uncertainty can turn up quickly and bring widespread change with it. And right now small business owners are adapting to weekly, even daily circumstances beyond their control, working to keep their business operations moving forward however they can.

As a leading expert on human performance, Dr. Fergus Connolly knows a little bit about leading your business through uncertainty and adversity. On our May 5 Small Business Webinar presentation “Blindsided: Leading your small business through unforeseen adversity,” Connolly talked with host Ramon Ray, author and founder of SmartHustleMedia, on what great leadership looks like now. When uncertainty feels as if it’s becoming the new normal, Connolly says that focusing on what you can control can help. “You have a source of power—what you can do now.”

“When people get distracted by things they’re not in control of, they can lose time worrying and complaining about things they can’t affect.” Focusing on what you can control, Connolly adds, saves time and energy.

Years of working with sports figures, corporate executives and special forces teams to optimize their performance has taught Connolly that action is key.

“By focusing on what you can do, and being direct, you can start moving forward. In chaotic  situations, you need to do the best with the information you have. A plan executed now is better than waiting for the best plan. You can’t afford to sit back,” Connolly says.

At the same time, you have to keep a balance. “When something unforeseen hits you, you need the momentum to move quickly so you don’t get blindsided twice. It doesn’t mean you should rush in blindly, just don’t stand still. That’s when negative thoughts can get in.”

When you focus on action, you may make a few mistakes, but you can learn from them, refine your plan, and keep moving.

That can include hitting the reset button, or literally, shaking it off. “You see athletes do this when they brush their hands, or brush off their shorts, says Connolly. “That’s a mental queue for them, a way to set aside a mistake or a negative thought, then learn from it, get going again, and get better next time.” 

Adds Connolly, “The best coaches aren’t complacent. They always have an edge, and that’s about adaptability. As a small business owner, people are looking to you, and they’re going to see you and that’s what leadership is.”

When your employees are struggling, says Connolly, what’s most important for them is they want to know you hear them. “You need to have empathy, understand where they are, and help them pull themselves out of the tough situation.”

The bottom line, Connolly says, is that everyone wants to feel necessary, important, and that they’re adding value. Finding and celebrating small wins with them can help. “The small wins are usually the basics. Get the basics in place and celebrate that.”

When it comes to being a strong leader, diversity matters, too. “If you don’t have diversity, you exist in an echo chamber. You won’t have people who come to you with different perspectives and ideas,” he says. “And if you have a whole lot of clones who think like you do, you aren’t creating an adaptable team capable of coming up with new ideas. Encouraging others develops leadership.”

Another important consideration for leading through uncertainty, says Connolly, “You need people who know you, will be honest with you and support you when you need it.”

Learn why Connolly says that leaning on your sheep dogs—your loved ones, friends and colleagues who make up your support system—is one of the best tactics you can use to manage through uncertain times.  Access the playback of the webinar and additional handouts in the Verizon Small Business Webinar Series

Webinar: Blindsided: Leading your small business through unforeseen adversity with Dr. Fergus Connolly

With Dr. Fergus Connolly

Dr. Fergus Connolly

  • One of the world’s leading experts in team and human performance.
  • Applied performance science with leading sports, military and business teams.

*This article is a partial summary of a webinar session that was held May 5, 2020. The opinions and advice belong to our webinar guest, and do not represent Verizon’s opinions or advice.