SME leaders cannot just accept the current situation at face value they need to immediately begin looking ahead and planning for the future to make sure they’re prepared for what comes next—even if they have no idea what shape it will take.

It may feel like a time to wait and see how things turn out. In fact, it’s a time to be proactive about the future—yours, your team’s, and your business’s. Here is how you can emulate the best leaders in planning through crisis.

Brainstorm. Gather the best minds and most insightful thinkers both internal and external to discuss what the next few months and year or two may look like. Spend time together exploring a range of scenarios and tracking for each of them how you can move the business and its people beyond the crisis.

What are the opportunities and threats? In the discussion of each possible scenario, include a big-picture assessment of possible opportunities and threats, grounded in awareness that the crisis is changing not only your organisation but also your industry and your customers.

What are your priorities. You can empower people through uncertainty if you hold true to your values and priorities that drive your team’s mission. Those values and priorities need to be communicated clearly and often to all stakeholders. When everything is shifting, people need a North Star to navigate by.

Lead with speed and nimbleness. In unpredictable times you do not have the luxury of playing wait and see—you must be proactive and able to move quickly and confidently in a new direction, with the willingness to pivot the business and make adjustments as events unfold.

Learn from the present while planning for the future. As a crisis is unfolding, you are learning something new at every moment. Make sure the most current information and trends are reflected in your strategic planning for future opportunities and goals.

Gain commitment from your people. Especially if you are faced with moving in a new direction, your people need to fully commit to the vision and plan. That means it cannot be a top-down initiative—their voice and involvement are an important part of the process. Leadership based on collaboration and not control—trusting that people are smart and know what to do—fosters the commitment and energy your team needs to tackle the crisis and to continue a journey of growth when it is over.

Connect vision to mission. Any new vision must meet two criteria: it must be inspiring, and it must be tightly aligned with your organisation’s purpose.

It is easy in difficult times to become paralysed by the day-to-day challenges. But it is the leaders who think ahead with courage and vision who will achieve long-term success.

Lead from within: The best leaders are always building on what is happening today to create a successful future. When a crisis hits, they keep their fears to themselves but share their courage and vision with others.  

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Tibor Mackor is the founder of Better Business Strategies Ltd; a business dedicated to assisting business owners find the freedom in their business, by aligning their vision with the right game-play and timing.