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 Maiden Manzanal-Frank.
Maiden Manzanal-Frank aligns the stakeholders of on-purpose organizations in Canada and internationally to achieve their impact and growth objectives and do the greater good in the world. She works as a global impact advisor, an organizational development consultant, a public speaker, and an upcoming author on a Global Impact to be released by the fall of 2021. She actively engages the public in the intersection of innovation, impact, and sustainability.
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?
I started in 2001 as a development worker in the Philippines. I remembered how the first few jobs helped me shape who I am as a person and professionally. In 2010, I immigrated from the Philippines to Canada with a mindset to be the best that I can be and help others succeed. From my humble beginning, I learned that patience, hard work, strategic thinking, and perseverance enable me to overcome obstacles and look for learning opportunities in every situation. Past forward, after gaining enough experiences and insights into the development sector, I have embarked on a consulting role to help the on-purpose organization achieve the greater good in the world by aligning their stakeholders.
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?
Organizations that I have the privileged of working with started with a grand vision for society’s betterment. They didn’t think small, nor do they operate from a scarcity mindset. They embraced society’s need and created a compelling vision that spurred them to take action with the resources they have. Winning purpose-driven organizations believe in excellence and strive to provide value for their stakeholders by taking the high road to ethical leadership. They walk their talk and talk their walk. There’s no difference between the importance they have for their bottom lines and their concern for their impacts on society, the environment, and the vulnerable. They continuously grow and challenge themselves to think outside the box and even thrive and create new value amid the pandemic.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The leader’s most critical role is to show a pathway through courageous leadership by demonstrating what changes could be embraced, how to get there, and the benefits of long-term working for the organization even though short-term results do not show much progress. It’s about fostering that belief throughout the organization that they can survive together, accomplish more within their means, and sustain their advantage by being adaptive and strategic.
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?
Showing that ambiguity is not something to be fearful about. Even with predictive science, we can’t simply predict what will happen tomorrow or the next month, or the following year. We keep on believing that we can control events that come into our lives, but we can’t most of the time. The pandemic has opened our eyes to what we can control and those we have no influence on. Engaging a team in this situation requires patience, kindness, and transformative leadership. People go through changes in their lives differently. Not all would have a healthy and more positive outlook to withstand and bounce back from setbacks. Leaders need to apply the latitude for their team to stretch themselves healthily and begin the conversation about what would enable them to cope and even thrive.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Communicating difficult news to one’s team and customer is about being honest and being centered on a purpose that meets the needs of the team and your needs. Also, the communication must uphold respect and also provide a way for graceful transition, whatever that may be. Different situation calls for different communication styles and leadership skills. Theirs is no single formula, so leaders need to be sensitive to the person and the conditions that warrant that conversation.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Planning takes a lot of the uncertainty of the future. These days with the pandemic, the future will be fluid, dynamic, and ever-evolving. Watching out for the general trends in the economy, society, and technological realms of your industry will likely yield ample opportunities to mine the opportunities and mitigate impending risks and volatility. For on-purpose organizations, It’s about using short-term strategies to propel you to plan for long-term growth amidst the changing client conditions and societal expectations post-pandemic.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Embrace ambiguity as an opportunist and a strategist. Turbulent is part of natural evolution. Disruption will be going to be commonplace in all industries and in all spheres of life. Work through ambiguity, lead in crisis, not just cope but to thrive even in a challenging context. That’s the high order of business of organizations that wants to make a greater impact in the world.
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?
- Reaction versus Proaction
While cash is king, chasing monies left and right to survive will elide your impact and increase your vulnerability to short-term risks. Look for opportunities that are already within your reach without burning the bank or going to radical means to financially
- Turning to the past to understand the future
Your current strategic plans are obsolete by now. You are looking at the two-year window of opportunity to make sense your existing strategy or quickly create a new one in this ambiguous environment. It’s also about being complacent with your past success and achievement. You refuse to believe that these could be disrupted overnight with a new product/service breakthrough or a new offering from a competition. Take note, that any of your current strengths could be inadequate to help you overcome difficulties in the future.
- Failure to communicate the risks and disadvantages
Leaders fail to be transparent about what’s going on in the organization for fear of being found out that they don’t have all the answers. Failure to communicate all the disadvantages and the risks your organization faces in turbulent times leads to mistrust and disengagement from your staff and other key stakeholders. If you want them to be with you on this journey, prove to them that you’re on the ball and learning as a leader as well. Through humility and an adaptive mindset, you can provide the calm and stability your employees and stakeholders are looking for these days.
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?
I learned from engaging with various on-purpose organizations in profit and non-profit sectors the lack of balance between operational agility during difficult times and the continuous unrelenting focus on their strategic directions. Both of these streams had to be mastered and balanced even when the economy is not performing well or if there’s another pandemic on the horizon. The best organizations can have short-term achievement in line with their long-term ambitions. Taking off their foot from one pedal can lead them to unnecessary adverse risks.
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.
Based on my 20 years of work experience and engaging with a broad range of people from various organizations in Canada and internationally, I noticed 5 outstanding performance goals that leaders should strive to adopt during uncertain times.
- Sense-making -Constant sense-making is essential for leaders to get hold of what’s coming in the pipeline, what’s current, and what should be considered in the long-term. Making meanings of the macro-environment while digging deep into their capabilities will increase their ability to meet specific challenges without stretching
- Bricolage and improvisation-In a perfect world, the best planners win. In a non-perfect, fluid environment, the improvisers and the bricoleurs get things done with what they have. They are not obsessed with the right path or the proper standards. They get on with their agenda that there are many options and alternatives to getting to their destination. Choose improvisation and relieve yourself of the obligation to follow that one true path to growth, impact, or sustainability.
- Communicating with Impact. Communicate with compassion, integrity, honesty, and accountability with your stakeholder, starting with your staff. Uncertainty creates confusion and tentativeness. Remove doubts and confusion by communicating with impact.
- Build Capacity. In times of great trials, build capacity, build capacity, build capacity. Encourage continuous learning and demonstrate leadership in each teaching moment. People follow leaders who are exemplars of the behaviors they are preaching.
- Don’t beat the dead horse. Eschew mentalities, approaches, and even beliefs that are holding your organization back from operational excellence. Keep improving until you get the right culture mix to advance your change agenda.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can get a lot from my weekly management and leadership blog insights as on-purpose leaders from my website www.globalstakesconsulting.com. You can follow me at my Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/maidenmanzanalfrank and Facebook: @globalstakes
Please stay tuned for more information on my upcoming book on Global Impact Leadership.