As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sunni Lampasso.
Dr. Sunni Lampasso is an Executive Coach, Consulting Psychologist, and founder of Shaping Success Consulting. Using her background in psychology, she helps executives and business owners get to the root of what’s getting in the way of further success. Whether it’s something they’re doing, or something they need to do more of, Dr. Lampasso helps clients reach their full potential by assisting them to develop and implement a plan with actionable steps for change.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My first career as a clinical psychologist developed from my desire to help people and my curiosity about why people do the things they do. Early in my career, I experienced challenges as a new leader and starting my own business. From these different experiences, I developed a passion for wanting to help people successfully navigate times of transition. This passion became a calling, and I transitioned into consulting psychology and executive coaching and founded Shaping Success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I was a new leader, I never laughed at my mistakes early in my career, because I didn’t know they were mistakes. Now, looking back, it’s funny to think about the unrealistic expectations I set for myself. I felt that I should know everything, and I was afraid to ask too many questions. I feared being vulnerable and tried to limit asking for help and admitting when I didn’t know the answer to a question. Now I know that vulnerability is a necessary skill for success as a leader — it’s ok to be human, make mistakes, and not know everything. And, being vulnerable and authentic helps build trust and connections with others.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The person who has helped me achieve success with my consulting practice is a colleague who later became my coach and mentor. I had wanted to transition to consulting psychology and executive coaching for many years, but I didn’t know where to start until I decided to work with an executive coach. This decision was a game-changer for me. My coach partnered with me to create a roadmap for my new business that aligned with my values and strengths. Having a coach for support and accountability during the process kept me motivated, focused on goals, and helped me to deal with challenges along the way.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
The mission of Shaping Success is to inspire growth, discover potential, and cultivate success at an individual and organizational level to create a more caring and productive society. The exciting part about my work is that helping one leader or business owner change their behaviors and increase their performance can have a widespread effect. It also impacts others working in the organization and the customers they serve.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Leading a team when the organization was experiencing financial difficulties and staffing cuts was difficult for my team and for me. My approach during this uncertain time was sharing my feelings of concern (while maintaining a sense of hope) and outlining what steps the organization was taking to deal with the challenges. In addition, I offered support by having open discussions with team members and providing a forum for them to talk about their feelings and concerns. As a leader, communication from an empathic place helped keep my team grounded and focused on our mission.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
During the early years of my career, there was a time when I considered giving up. However, the motivation to keep going came from getting in touch with my ‘why’, which was helping people. Refocusing on my why helped me maintain my drive, identify what was in my control, and then make the necessary changes to move forward.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is open communication. Keeping your team in the loop with what’s going on, using active listening, and engaging in empathic perspective-taking can keep team members connected and engaged.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
The best morale booster is caring about your team members. Showing empathy and concern for your team can boost morale, increase motivation and keep team members engaged. Caring also includes providing regular feedback, showing appreciation, seeking opportunities to develop team members, and willingness to learn from team members.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Communicating difficult news should always begin with perspective-taking. Truly stepping into the person’s shoes and understanding how they would think and feel when they hear this information can help you think about your approach. In addition, using perspective-taking to anticipate the needs of team members and customers can help a leader communicate more effectively.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Planning during uncertain times can be challenging. However, planning can also help leaders and teams navigate unpredictability. Setting goals and establishing a plan that aligns with the shared vision can help keep the team productive. However, as things change, flexibility is required–the plan will need to be reevaluated and adjusted. Expecting unpredictability and change can help keep the team on track when challenges arise.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Albert Einstein’s quote, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” can be a guiding principle during turbulent times. It challenges us to find opportunities and maintain a sense of optimism that can be lost during times of uncertainty.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
During turbulent times, I’ve seen three common problems: losing sight of the vision, not being flexible, and failing to communicate. However, using the vision to stay grounded while making decisions and prioritizing open communication with your team at all times can reduce the risk of these three mistakes.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Maintaining growth traction is an ongoing business challenge, which is especially challenging during turbulent times. Staying the course and keeping the vision top of mind can help you keep pushing forward. It is also essential to complete regular organizational behavior checks that assess behaviors, goals, and measurable objectives. The data from these checks can help you determine what’s working, what’s not working, and shift accordingly.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Psychological flexibility is an essential skill that can help a leader be highly effective during turbulent times. It refers to the ability to stay grounded in the present moment while being aware of your thoughts and feelings and making decisions that align with your values. For example, a leader who believes in honesty and integrity but feels anxious during a challenging situation recognizes the anxious feelings (without letting them cloud decision-making), refocuses on the present situation, and makes decisions for the team consistent with the values of honesty and integrity.
- Resilience, the ability to bounce back from stress, helps leaders to be effective during turbulent times. Milton S. Hershey is an example of a resilient leader. After failing multiple times in business, he kept trying and achieved great success. He led his team of builders through The Great Depression, and despite his business failures, he built a chocolate empire and started a school for orphaned children.
- Vulnerability. Showing vulnerability as a leader can help create trust among teams and prevent a breakdown in communication during turbulent times. For example, if a leader acknowledges that they reacted emotionally during a stressful time, it makes them more relatable to others. Knowing that a leader is not perfect and willing to admit mistakes increases trust and connectedness during turbulent times.
- Empathy is also important for leaders during turbulent times. More specifically, empathic perspective-taking is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, understand what they might be thinking and feeling, and anticipate their needs. For example, if a team member is having difficulty providing care for their parent with dementia, a leader might offer a flexible work-from-home schedule to accommodate their needs.
- Optimism helps leaders and their teams to keep working toward goals during challenging times. Leaders who take a glass-half-full approach instill hope in their teams that help them get through turbulent times. I worked with a leader who viewed funding cuts as an opportunity to find new funding sources, and this motivated the team to generate creative ideas for fundraising.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” by Albert Einstein. As I mentioned earlier, this is a guiding principle for me during difficult times. In my life, this quote became a guiding principle that helped me navigate physical illness and recover from burnout.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Readers can follow my work on the Latest News section of my website www.shapingsuccessconsulting.com or follow me on Instagram @shaping_success