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Leadership in challenging times

Guest authors

In the first of our three-part 'Adapting to change' summer series, high-performance team builder, leadership expert and round-the-world sailor Caspar Craven offers practical tips to help you and your firm during times of crisis.

Having sailed around the world twice – once with my wife and three young children, and built up and sold my own businesses, I’ve had to adapt to a lot of change in different environments.

In an uncertain world, I want to share some simple ideas that can help you adapt as a team and help you stay productive, focused and effective.

I’m a massive believer that change creates opportunities and I have a simple methodology, the ‘3 Rs’ that can help you find those new business opportunities first.

Reacting to adversity and relaxing fixed rules

The first of the ‘3 Rs’ is all about your reactions and how you respond to adversity. At the moment, it feels like everything is being thrown at us and in challenging times, it’s important to recognise your emotions.

I like to use a simple formula here: E + R = O. ‘E’ is the event that happens, whether it’s the Covid-19 crisis or a cashflow crisis, ‘R’ is your reaction to that event and ‘O’ is the outcome.

Rather than being overwhelmed by events, which can happen very easily, it’s about dealing with your reaction and being present.

But how can you do that? The first thing is to stop, breathe and aim for clear thinking so you can make the best decisions for your business. When we’re in an agitated state, our emotions can be all over the place and it can be very hard to get a sense of perspective.

Once emotions are more in control, it’s important to work out what the urgent things to be fixed are. As a business, you firstly need to make sure your team is OK. I have a fundamental belief that if business leaders look after their people, the results and numbers will take care of themselves.

Your next move is to get resourceful and make best use of the resources you have then ask for help. Often there are people and resources around us, but when we’re caught up in the emotions of the moment, it’s hard to see that.

We’re all reacting to our new working world, so you may also find it helpful to relax the fixed rules in your mind about how the world was. Look at the reality of the situation you’re facing now and write down where you’re feeling challenged. Then, be curious and work out the different ways to deal with these challenges. This can help broaden the options you have to take the best course of action for your business.

And one of the best tools there is to make the best decisions for your business is, rather than thinking you’ve got all the answers, to have your thinking challenged by other people.

Redefining working routines and creating a simple habits chart

The second of the ‘3 Rs’ is about your rituals. With many of us navigating family life as well as working life, it’s thinking about the things you’re doing every day in terms of your time and your focus.

To make best use of your time, map out the days and weeks ahead and be adaptable and flexible. It’s important to accept you may get less done than normal – although many businesses are finding that their productivity is soaring. But accepting you may get less done can give you more breathing space to think more clearly.

As part of that, curate how much outside information and news feeds you allow in terms of what’s helping you stay focused, and what’s not helping you. It’s very easy to get distracted, so dial it down, including your social media influences, and switch off your devices.

During times of change, I find it really helpful to have fixed points of reference to remind me what the most important things I need to be doing every day are. Creating your own, simple ‘habits chart’, such as time for daily exercise, can keep your points of reference front of mind and help create a sense of certainty.

Focus on strengths and find your superpowers
The final of the ‘3 Rs’ is all about roles and who’s doing what in your team.

One of the most powerful things you can do is find the skills people in your team are most strong at. Rather than looking to build up their weaknesses, find the strengths that each member of your team is fantastic at and then get them to do more of that.

Be open and clear about who’s doing what and make sure everyone feels connected, valued and part of the conversation, otherwise it’s very easy for people to feel demoralised.

That, for me, is the essence for how to build high-performance teams because when we emerge from this crisis, it’s those businesses that keep their teams together and stay focused on what’s most important are the businesses that are going to come out of this faster and benefit from the new opportunities out there.

And find your superpowers. We’re all brilliant at doing one or two things but we always undervalue these skills ourselves. So email six to ten people you know well and ask them what your unique capabilities are.

What’s incredible is that the feedback that comes back from this exercise is always amazing and it’s great to see a pattern of positive responses from people you know and trust. Once you have that feedback, engage your team about the things they do brilliantly and create a discussion to help keep your team focused.

Adversity creates opportunities

There are a huge list of businesses which were created out of adversity and the businesses and teams that will win from this situation are the teams which look after each other and are looking out for new opportunities to move forward.

Because times of adversity always create opportunities.

For a helpful reminder of Caspar’s ‘3 Rs’ methodology, download his short guide.

Look out for the next two of our ‘Adapting to change’ summer speaker webinar sessions: Andy Bounds, communications specialist, on July 28 and Philip Calvert, social networking and LinkedIn specialist, on September 8.


The value of investments can go down as well as up and your clients could get back less than they paid in.

The views expressed in this blog should not be regarded as financial advice.