Juli Shulem on How To Navigate Uncertainty.
Juli Shulem, M.S., PCC, CPC owner of Coach Juli, LLC is a Productivity Coach specializing in helping individuals who are overwhelmed, disorganized, and lacking in time management skills to reach their full potential. She coaches around skill building, mindset reframing, as well as creating systems, solutions, structure and boundaries for her world-wide clientele.
Could you please share a bit about yourself, your background, and the journey that has led you to become an entrepreneur? What makes your perspective unique on the subject of leadership and navigating uncertainty?
I started my own businesses back in my last year of college - to date I have owned and operated 7 companies. I love having my own business. I started as a Professional Organizer and Efficiency Consultant. I worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses for over two decades before segueing into becoming a Professional Certified Coach and subsequently an Industrial Organizational Psychologist. Since I have been running my own companies and helping clients to do the same, I understand the unique challenges with navigating uncertainty - that's standard protocol for any entrepreneur. Nothing is a sure thing! Not your client base, not your income, not your staff...it is all in flux and learning to roll with that is mandatory to riding the waves and dealing with the challenges. Having been on this ride for four decades, I am certainly qualified to understanding how to deal with that challenge and many more.
You and your business have presumably faced some interesting challenges and changes over the years. Can you describe a key moment when you felt uncertainty was at its peak?
When doesn't a business face challenges??? In one of my companies I was faced with being unable to acquire materials to fill paid orders - so I hustled and found another distributor for the materials in order to manufacture the product I sold at that time. It pushed back production by a few weeks, which wasn't pleasant, but I called my customers and explained the issue and everyone was gracious and understanding.
Communicating with the customer and keeping them in the loop is imperative to creating lasting relationships. Stuff happens - just let people know in a timely manner so everyone can pivot as needed. That company had a twenty-one year run - and my clients were loyal to the very end. I have had the challenge in the past few years of branding and using social media. Shifting from marketing 20-30 years ago to how it is done now was a bit frustrating. Fortunately it was a somewhat smooth transition as it happened at a decent cadence. So although I had to learn the newer process and re-educate myself on marketing strategies and away from those that are no longer relevant, it wasn't all at once.
From your experience, what are the core principles or values that guide a leader during uncertain times?
Keep your vision and purpose top of mind so you can remember why you are doing what you do in the first place. That helps keep you on steady ground. Being a leader requires resiliency and adaptability on every level. Keeping incredibly organized so when you need to make a change you don't get stuck with some detail that should have been in place prior. Keep communication lines open with all stakeholders at all times. Nobody moves well when in the dark - so don't keep staff/team members guessing. Call upon your team for ideas toward a strategic plan - oftentimes a great idea may come from the least likely source. Keep an open mind and allow others to chime in with their thoughts. Then create a strategy and pivot as needed.
How do you cultivate a culture of resilience and adaptability within your team? Can you share a practical example where this culture made a significant difference?
Leaders/Business Owners need to stay positive and available which helps create a culture that is sustainable as well as enjoyable to be in. Leaders exuding confidence will help carry the team - and keep worry and despair from seeping into the framework. Stressed and worried people generally don't come up with stellar solutions to problems. Create an atmosphere of camaraderie and listen to others around you. I have worked with several companies who were going through a major reorganization. I coached many leaders at those times and keeping them strong and positive helped with the transition ahead of them. We all have change throughout our lives - we are in a constant state of flux when you think about it. Helping others to see that change and challenges are normal and that being flexible and staying positive throughout the process will help carry all involved through it with grace.
Many aspiring leaders struggle with the fear of failure, especially when the path ahead is unclear. What strategies or mental frameworks have you developed to overcome this fear and embrace uncertainty as an opportunity?
For myself, in order to overcome any negative thoughts, I remind myself of the historical successes I have had in managing unclear circumstances in the past. I have seen when uncertain or negative situations present, that it can often lead to a wonderful new breakthrough or opportunity. For leaders whom I coach, when they are confronted with an unclear path (and that is more common than not), I help them to adopt a positive mindset at the beginning. I help them consider the potential benefits around this new or uncertain direction. Then they work on creating strategic plans with the various potential directions they can go. I often come up with Plan A, B, C and sometimes even D. Knowing your options ahead of time helps greatly with decisions that might need to be made in a short period of time. If you think through the options carefully before you need them, then when you do, you are prepared.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes leaders make during uncertain times? Can you offer a real-life example where recognizing and avoiding such a mistake led to success?
The biggest mistakes are typically poorly thought out decisions. Those generally come from poor planning and lack of forward thinking. In my own life, I was at a crossroads many years ago.I had some big choices to make and I did exactly what I recommend to others. I wrote out potential roads I could travel on and came up with my desired option and a plan to make it happen. In that state of mind, I also came up with three additional plans should the first one fall through. I was scared because it was all new territory for me. I outlined each step and had a timeline in place. I set about the first plan - knowing full well that if it failed, there were three other options I could fall back on. The other options weren't as good so I was highly motivated to make Plan A work. I was careful and got busy. Plan A worked and put my situation on a very steady growth trajectory and I never had to look back to the other plans.
Looking towards the future, how do you plan to continue evolving your leadership style to meet new uncertainties and challenges? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same?
Coaching the leaders I work with, will naturally evolve with how the business world evolves. In terms of advice, leaders simply need to keep remembering that they are dealing with other humans - just like themselves. Everyone has a life far and beyond the professional life that is visible at work. Situations will always change. Challenges will always present. Leaders need to listen and really hear what is being said - and even be able to read between the lines to what isn't being said. Put yourself in another's shoes and determine what you would like said or done to you if you were in their situation. Be genuine with others. Be transparent and communicative with others and encourage collaboration in order to come up with solutions for the unknowns. And come up with solutions for those situations which may not go as well as hoped - this way you will be prepared for most of what may come your way.
You've clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and grow through experience. Are there any books, mentors, or resources that have particularly influenced your leadership style? How would you recommend others to approach their leadership development journey?
Simon Sinek and Marcus Buckingham are two mentors whose work I follow. In order to develop a powerful and effective leadership style - watch others whom you respect. Not all leaders learned from others - some are naturally stellar at this. When you see a particular behavior you like and appreciate - adapt it into your own tool set. When I was working my way through college before I had my own company, I had a job with a great boss. One thing he did consistently is he thanked every employee for their work at the end of every day. At first I used to think to myself, "you pay us - why do you thank us each day too?" And after I moved on from that job, I realized how much I liked the daily recognition. It was really nice to be thanked every day. I adopted that same idea when I had my own staff. I have seen it create loyalty and good relationships. Decades later I still remember that simple act of kindness.