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Advice to IT Leaders: Troubled Times Call for Resilience

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As companies move quickly through disruption and fast-paced change, resilience and agility are core elements for standing out among competitors. To help organizations navigate current crossroads and crises yet to come, Cisco sought out perspective from strategic advisor Shellye Archambeau, who shared insight for leaders on how to communicate, keep a “can do” attitude, and carry themselves in times of uncertainty, during a Cisco Live session, “How to Stand Out and Be a Resilient Leader in Times of Crisis.
 
Although Cisco had planned this session well before the widespread protests that have rocked the world in recent weeks, the content is applicable at this moment, more than ever. What we know to be true right now is those in leadership positions need to have deeper, wider conversations about injustice, inequity, and race, noted moderator Shari Slate, chief inclusion and collaboration officer, at Cisco. “What you do as a leader in times like this — it matters,” she said.
 
You Don’t Need to Have All the Answers
Between the protests and pandemic, people are scared. That’s why leaders must stand up and stand out, said Shellye Archambeau, who is also a board member for Okta, Verizon, and others. Employees determine how they should feel by watching what sort of attitudes their leaders have for the day — are they smiling, or frowning? — and how they’re carrying themselves. Nobody knows everything right now, so don’t act as if you do, she advised. “Just show up strong, confident, and communicate,” she said.
 
Communicate and Maintain Accountability
Don’t run and hide in the conference room when calamity hits. Be on the front line, make yourself highly visible, and communicate frequently, Archambeau added. “Even if there’s no news, just assure employees that you’re in control and that they should feel confident,” she said.
 
In addition, be accountable, Archambeau advised. Make sure you’re letting people know that you see them and will continue to see them because you want a team — it’s just not “you,” it’s “us.” After all, you hired them for a reason. “Skills, background, capabilities — they know the company better than you in some ways, so get their ideas for how to improve, how to get through this overall period. Because if you do it as a team, everybody wins,” she said.
 
Have Patience With Yourself
Grief is another prevalent emotion during these crises. People are grieving loss of life or health, as well as a loss of normalcy and freedom. These feelings are overwhelming for any individual, but Archambeau said she wants us to remember that it’s OK to acknowledge them, allow time to grieve, and be sad at the end of the day. Having lost her husband a year ago, she said she knows how hard it is to be patient with yourself. “I got through it because I had that village of strong family and strong friends, but I also knew that my husband wanted me to continue to contribute and add value to the world,” she said.
 
The next time you forget what day of the week it is, remember that you’re the same person you were before the pandemic started — reflect on your blessings and what brings you joy, Archambeau said. Despite what’s happening, remember to lean on your “cheerleaders” for strength to move forward — and if you don’t have one, find one. “Your cheerleader is someone who reminds you how capable you are, how good you are, and how awesome you are, no matter what’s going on. You need people to remind you and shore you up,” she said.
 
In her latest book, “Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers and Create Success on Your Own Terms,” Archambeau shared the mantra that helped her get through the worst of her grief: “I’m still living. I’m still grateful. I choose to be happy.” Another author, Gregory S. Williams, once said, “On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it. Raise your sail and begin.” So, leaders — raise your sails, and begin.

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