How to Change Course without Losing Your Crew 

Jibe is a sailing term. It means to change a vessel’s course when sailing with the wind so that the boom swings to the opposite side. Any weekend sailor knows the feeling of having to make a sudden turn in order to catch the changing direction of the wind.

Every leader knows what it’s like to be caught in changing winds also. When there are changes in the economy, politics, or current events—you may have to “come about” or get hit by the boom!

Yet the winds of adversity often cause a positive updraft: people start communicating, ideas are batted about, hidden agendas are exposed, and solutions surface.

Course corrections are standard procedure in sailing—and in leadership. You must learn to change your approach while keeping your overall direction the same.

In those situations, it’s vital to keep your team onboard, up to date, and pulling in the same direction. Joseph D. Allison gave leaders a workable plan for making positive changes in changing circumstances. Appropriately, his points are listed in reverse alphabetical order.

D – Diagnosis. List factors that caused the problem. Until you know what went wrong, you can’t set it right. Confront the brutal facts of your situation, and be willing to admit your own errors if needed.

C – Contingency. Make plans for dealing with similar problems. In other words, answer the question, “What can we do to prevent this from happening again?”

B – Budget. Allow extra time, extra energy, and extra money. Rebuilding is much harder than starting with a clean slate. Recognize that recovering from adversity takes time—and effort. Be patient.

A – Accountability. Enlist someone on the team to check your progress in making changes. The worst mistake you can make in response to a problem is to identify the solution—but not implement it.

Changing times can produce a benefit for your organization if you navigate them correctly. Adversity will focus sudden attention on the core mission. Rather than feeling that you are a victim of turbulent times, purposefully follow the D-C-B-As of the leadership jibe, and you’ll reposition yourself for growth.

What leadership lessons have you learned about dealing with adverse circumstances? Share your answer on Twitter or Facebook!