It’s not easy juggling the even-handedness, inspiration and influence, and tough decision skills that are essential to being a great business leader and creating a successful business. But you didn’t become an entrepreneur because you thought this was easy, right?

One of my favorite exercises that I like to conduct with business owners is called “The life raft drill.” It’s a great way of better understanding yourself and your approach to leadership and how to make tough decisions when it feels like your back is up against the wall. Here’s how it works:

Imagine that you’re a ship’s captain, leading a crew of fifteen. The bad news is that your ship has hit a rock, and the ship is sinking. The good news? You have a life raft, and it’s big enough to fit you and your crew. Unfortunately, the life raft also got damaged when you hit the rock, and it’s taking on water. Your crew? Well, they’re beginning to panic, and are looking to you, their captain, for direction. 

As a leader, you’re going to have to make tough decisions, continue inspiring your team, and hold each and every one of them accountable so that they can follow through on their essential duties, and you must do all of this simultaneously

Focus on facts to make tough decisions

Unlike sea captains, as a business owner, you cannot go down with the ship. In fact, your approach to leadership, especially now, is crucial to the business’s survival. You’re also fully obligated to logically and unemotionally assess the situation that you’re in to determine what and who are contributing to your long-term goal achievement. 

Do you see where I’m headed here? As difficult as it might feel, you will face times where you must assess who in your crew is lightening the load, plugging the holes, and pushing you to shore, versus who is panicking, distracting the crew from keeping you afloat, and ultimately dragging you all deeper into the dark water. 

The fact is, you’re in the midst of a business crisis. The fact also is, some of your people are thinking strategically and taking action. Your influence of leadership has inspired them to do what is best for the organization. However, others are becoming a drain on the company, creating distractions and sucking up precious resources. The fact is, it’s time for these latter people to go. 

Hold your head up high, hold the team up higher

This is a critical test of your leadership. This is where inspiration, discipline, accountability, and results become more crucial than ever. Despite facing a business crisis and having to make the tough decision to cut low-contributing resources loose from the company, there’s still plenty of space to be positive with the team. 

By focusing, aligning, and driving the team forward through your perseverance and guidance and transparency, you’re giving them precisely what they need in order to continue the journey toward goal achievement. You are the survivors. You are the team that can stabilize and grow this organization. 

Despite your transparency, your communication, and all the other things you’re doing to keep the business moving forward, there will always be people who question your decision making. Don’t let this distract you from your goals. 

Refer back to your mission, vision, and values statements to motivate you and guide your decision making. You should never worry about the things people might say or think about you, and that’s especially important now. 

How to choose who stays, and who goes

At Cardone Ventures, we have a very detailed exercise we use in-house and provide to our clients to help us assess our team talent by three crucial measures: Belief, Operational Effectiveness, and Leadership.

If you want to experience that process for yourself — and I recommend that you do for the health of your business — then you need to attend a Cardone Ventures event. To be clear, this is a tool that we use to assess our team members in every business environment. This exercise helps us identify training needs, leadership development in the organization, and when it’s the right time to phase low contributors out of the organization. 

Now, despite the tough decisions that sometimes have to be made in organizations when they’re experiencing turbulence, and as much as you should use logic to guide you in your decision making, you still have an obligation as a leader to show compassion in the manner you communicate to those you’re parting ways with, as well as the core members of the team who are staying on board. 

Act decisively to avoid the rumor mill, but communicate with those who are leaving discreetly, out of respect to their feelings. Have these conversations privately and try to conduct them at the end of the day so that there’s no chance of a scene in the office. Give yourself some time to rest, and meet with the rest of the team the following morning in order to update them on the changes that have occurred, what those changes mean for them, and what your plan is moving forward. Use this moment to show your steady hand. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the positive aspects of your strategy. Don’t waste this moment. You can use it to push you all forward, because you’re in this raft, rowing together, and there’s land just on the horizon. 

Are you the best leader you can be, in good times and in bad? Are you a 10X business owner who needs help making tough decisions?

Contact Cardone Ventures TODAY to learn how Brandon Dawson and team can help you scale and grow your business!