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It Takes Courage Leading Your Team Through Adversity

Updated on June 19, 2013

Leading Through Adversity

Adversity can come in All Shapes and Forms

Here are just a few samples: unreasonable expectations from "The Business," ridiculous demands from Customers, unreachable goals by your Leadership and finally difficulty collaborating with other teams that are causing your team grief.


Are you having trouble leading your team through adversity, and the stress, frustration and feelings of being singled out for failures you didn’t cause are becoming too much to bare?

Do you feel like giving up and looking for another job every time things start to get difficult?

I can totally relate with how you’re feeling and would like to talk you down from that high ledge and give you some sobering advice.

Four Assumptions to Consider

First, whether you agree or disagree, information technology isn’t the same cup of tea it was five years ago. It’s changed drastically and it is only going to get harder to keep up with all the changes that are fueling the SaaS, PaaS and mobile road maps and plans.

These goals are on everybody’s road map right now, and every company that provides software or online services is “full steam ahead” just trying to keep up.

Second, like most managers who are employed by companies struggling to get their leadership in alignment, you are probably feeling unsettled about your job and future. Not to mention, you’ve watched many of your peers getting walked out with a cardboard box filled with their personal belongings, right?

Third, you’ve been watching and have noticed the trend of all the companies in your community that are re-organizing. It’s not a warm feeling knowing that there are so many confused companies out there that can’t seem to figure it out fast enough. Not to mention you’re having you own challenges getting your team to see the bigger picture and get it together.

Finally, you’ve already changed jobs too many times and it’s time to settle down, but you’re having a major midlife crisis managing through the adversity you are dealing with.

Does this sound familiar to you? Once again, I can relate to the struggle of leading through adversity because the things I listed are the battles and struggles I have been going through, too!

Here’s what I ask myself all the time:

1. Can I do the job I’ve been hired or asked to do?

This sound like an easy question to answer because you may have a lot of technical experience and think that’s all it takes to be a good IT manager. Wrong!

Having technical experience is valuable, but it’s less than half of the work you will do each day. Can you do the job includes dealing with angry customers or bosses.

It can involves scheduling meetings and facilitating discussions between multiple teams that are in conflict over sometimes things that are petty or insignificant.

For example: how quickly a team can issue IP addresses? Don’t laugh, this happened to me!

It can involve being asked to sit as a witness while your friend is being counseled by HR for telling someone they look like they have put on weight. Don’t laugh!

If that hasn’t gotten your blood boiling yet, I could add many more but my point is this - can you do the job – if you can then do it!

2. Will I do the job I’ve been hired or assigned to do?

Again, this sounds too easy to say yes to, right? Let me tell you from my own experience that letting someone go will almost ruin the best of men and women. It will have you up thinking about these people at 2 A.M. wondering how they are doing.

The word “will” implies you will take action when you need to.

  • Will you turn the cheek when someone higher up the ladder takes credit for your accomplishments?
  • Will you go the extra mile to help another manager that has gone out of his way to make your team do more work than they needed to, only because he was a control freak?
  • Will you terminate that person knowing they have a family to support?
  • Will you do your job when it’s not easy?

A lot is implied by saying you “will” do the job and that is why leading through adversity is not easy because you can bet someone will target you for doing the right thing.

3. Do I want to do the job I was hired or asked to do?

If you’re still hanging in there, leadership through adversity requires you to “want” to do the job, otherwise; you will fail…

I’ve known people that have expressed to me they want to be an IT manager because they’d love to deal with all the cool technology IT teams are responsible for managing.

Not trying to be mean, but it took every bit of strength in me to not burst out and laugh out loud!

Don’t get me wrong, I believe people that say they want to be an IT manager, but before you start down that career path, I suggest you find a few people you can talk to and get a better understanding of what you will have to do.

I’ve only covered some of the challenges that I’ve encountered, and I’m sure some business cultures have unique challenges that would have already sent me packing with my tail between my legs.

As an IT manager you will only succeed if you “want” to do the job and figure out a strategy to lead your team through adversity.

4. Do I fit the culture of the company I've been hired by?

Most company’s do well making sure they are protected against lawsuits for stupidity. But, that doesn’t mean you will not have to grow thick skin and ignore the constant games and politics that go on at most companies.

As a manager you will be right in the middle of carrying out some of the craziest ideas anyone could conjure up. And even worst, your team may be held responsible when they fail.

Some company cultures I’ve encountered had an obvious inner circle of elite employees that could do “no wrong,” while another's culture had an almost cultish expectation of loyalty. Neither were a fit for me.

Biting Your Tongue!

Biting your own tongue and managing your team’s comments or opinions in some cultures can be very difficult. And unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to change a culture except learn to flow and keep your team out of trouble. This isn’t easy with some teams.

Don’t be surprised how quickly a small comment you make to only your closest friends (that’s right I said closest friends) will find its way up the chain and have you explaining what you meant to HR or your director.

If you haven’t already learned this, if you don’t want it repeated, don’t say it!

Adversity that comes from self-inflicted wounds is the worst kind because you could have avoided it.

I hope you’re finding this helpful?

In Conclusion:

Here is what I’ve learned that helps me lead through adversity: Learn to control your emotions.

Sorry if that didn’t give you an ah-hah moment, but emotions such as: anger, jealousy, envy, pride and a few others will fuel your disappointment. They will keep you stressed and frustrated, which is why controlling your emotions is key to leading through adversity.

Believe me when I say this, I’ve had my share of disappointments because I let my emotions get the best of me at work.

The key is having the courage and strength to manage yourself, and not let other people, difficult situations or bad leadership decisions rob you of your professionalism and respect of other people. If you can do this, you will be okay!

Read more hubs like this: Start a Career in Virtualization & Becoming a High Performance Team

Joe Sanchez has more than 15 years of hands-on experience managing computer and infrastructure technologies, projects and leading staff.

Read more virtualization topics on Joe's virtualization technology blog or check out his eBook: VCP for Hire on Amazon.

Winning Under Fire


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