By Dr. Evans Baiya

We can all agree that we are facing challenging times. COVID-19 and public precautions to slow the spread of it have left businesses in a space full of unknowns. And for many people, unknowns equal worry. It is natural for leaders (all people in fact) to feel overwhelmed during moments of crisis, especially crisis that is unpredictable and with many factors they cannot control.

Yet there is possibility, even in times of uncertainty. In times like these, we encourage leaders to work through a very simple model that helps to identify priorities and define proper resolutions within those priorities, which ultimately leads to successful outcomes. It is the Worry-Opportunity-Barrier Model.

Effective leaders embrace the mindset that crises are guaranteed, but how you deal with a crisis is an integral part of leadership. Ultimately, great leaders learn through crisis. The situation either gets better or it gets worse, based on how you handle the most stressful moments. Every crisis brings with it some stressors. It is common for leaders, especially those who feel the added weight of responsibility on their shoulders, to worry. But you cannot worry yourself out of a crisis!

A clear head and an engaged heart are necessary to develop crisis-negotiating ideas, so you must identify your concerns to clear your thoughts. It’s not always about wisdom. Instead, the solution begins with emotional intelligence (EQ). During challenging times, EQ is much greater than IQ.

The bottom line is, never waste a crisis. Each crisis brings an opportunity for something or someone. If you can prepare yourself, embrace the situation, and understand the worry. Here are the steps of the Model:

Step 1: Identify Your Worries

What are you worried about as a leader? Make a list of all your worries, no matter how great or small. Without filtering yourself, write everything down and be honest. Without doing this, you will not be able to get your head clear. Worry can be a cause or a symptom of a problem. Take a few moments to diagnose each worry, but this is not the time to overcomplicate. Deciding if the worry is a cause of a symptom does not need to be complex; it just needs to be clear.

Then prioritize these worries based on criticality over the next 30-90 days. And begin working on the most critical.

Who should be involved in this process? As a business leader, it starts with you, but always seek assistance and collaboration with trusted team members to make sure you have chosen the right opportunity. Ideally you have structured your business in such a way that the people around you understand the challenges you might be facing and can offer sage advice.

Step 2: Flip the Switch

Now that you have identified your worries and the underlying problems, flip the switch: Ask yourself, what opportunity does this worry bring? For every worry there is an opportunity if you just view it differently. Of each worry, ask yourself, “What if we did this?” Crate a list of potential resolutions and rank them based on their ability to address the issue at hand.

For example, if you have identified layoffs as a worry, the layoffs are actually the decision. The real worry at the root is that you are running low on cash to make payroll.

So what are the opportunities that brings? As you look for opportunities to reduce payroll, maybe the solutions you brainstorm are temporary delays in payment of salary, employees working fewer hours, restructuring existing loans to cover payroll, getting assistance from the government or investors, and/or long-term restructuring of the business so you have more cash. This provides an opportunity to discuss these issues and to do something better in the long run.

In that space between worry and opportunity you have to make a decision. Think about a decision that you can execute in the next 60 days and focus on that.

Step 3: Identify the Barriers

Now that you have made a decision, you need to think through the barriers to success. What will hinder you from getting the results you are looking for? Make a list of the barriers and identify simple tools that will help you achieve success. If you are not sure of the tool, identify a person who might have experience with this situation or might help you find a tool.

In the case of our example, you may choose to reduced the work week to 30 hours. The barriers may be that you don’t know exactly how to communicate this to employees, you may not have the systems in place to manage a 30-hour work week, you may need a new method for tracking time, you may need to adjust accounting, you may need to revise your workflow, etc. You will need a system to support the decision you have made. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be a perfect system, just a method you can begin to put in place now.

And remember: whatever comes out of this crisis will allow you to position your organization for long-term success.

If you would like to learn more about this model, and receive a copy of the Worry-Opportunity-Barrier canvas, contact