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Crisis Mode: How to Be a Real-Life Wonder Woman in Times of Crisis

Rather than run away from hard situations, Wonder Woman jumps in to lead the way toward a better, new reality

Far from masking the devastation of war, Wonder Woman plunges its heroine, Diana Prince, into a World War I war zone. When she finds herself on the battlefield in No Man’s Land, Diana is ready to jump in and fight. Her battlefield guide, Steve Trevor, fearing for her safety and losing sight of their mission to find Ares, tells her that they are not there to save lives. Her response: “You’re right. But it’s what I am going to do."

Life is pretty tough for a lot of people right now. Hard lines are being drawn. Relationships are severing. Employees and executives are making controversial statements about gender equity and inequity. Whether we are talking politics, sexism in the Silicon Valley, the pay gap and glass ceiling in business, or nationalist racism, people are not happy with each other. The going is tough right now. The good news is that wonder women like you are jumping in to lead the way through tough times. Here are three ways for you to get going.

Catalyze positive change by being strategic and opportunistic.

Just like doctors and nurses can make the worst patients, change agents can be the most averse to change when it happens to them instead of by them. Susan Duffy, executive director at Babson College Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leaders (CWEL), knows this only too well. From the time her company’s warehouse burned down, or when the franchisor for her business closed its headquarters without warning, to when she had to delay an important CWEL program, Duffy has experienced her fair share of unwelcomed and potentially devastating disruption.

When the going gets tough, instead of being paralyzed by fear, Duffy adopts a mindset that enables her to be open to fear and use it as a figurative obstacle to overcome. Her process starts with analyzing risks and trade-offs, followed by capacity planning for fixing what is broken, and finishes with identifying where and when she will need help. “I have built up too much evidence over the years that fear has nothing to do with success,” says Duffy.

Duffy’s Wonder Woman advice on how to get going when the going gets tough: Authentically engage others to look for opportunities that live in the “new” normal while addressing the immediate crisis. “I engage others by seeing the situation from their perspectives, expressing my confidence in our ability to be successful, and letting them know I am scared too and that we will find a way to the other side together,” says Duffy.

Use all of your senses to listen -- then act.

Ask anyone, and they can tell you where they were and what they were doing during the morning of 9/11. Debbie Millin, chief operating officer, Globalization Partners, was a 30-year-old director at a wireless telecommunications company based in Boston. While the majority of the firm’s executive team was in California, Millin spent the day consoling team members while running risk analyses with planning mitigations. When calls that required credit card information from each caller became too much for her team to handle, Millin decided to let all calls through -- without a charge. “I knew I might get fired because we would lose a day of revenue, but my gut told me it was the right thing to do,” says Millin.

Enabling frantic callers to connect with their loved ones, Millin demonstrated that tough times call for tough actions. When you build a career on operationalizing disruptive ideas into full-blown businesses, you have to be tough and decisive. Millin’s approach includes conducting a listening tour and being aware of gut-based reactions to what she hears and observes. “Understanding what each of the players involved needs helps you to navigate and work toward getting everyone what they’re looking for while reaching the overall goal,” says Millin.

Millin’s Wonder Woman advice on how to get going when the going gets tough: Continuously provide clarity on the goal, the critical steps and the nature of work. “First, make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction. Second, look for ways to break down big problems into pieces, and third make sure everyone knows their roles in achieving the goal,” says Millin.

Visibly address fear and change fatigue.

Change fatigue happens when people are faced with a constant stream of shifting sands. Leading through this type of continuous uncertainty requires an unusually heavy focus on optics. You are the person people will look to for their cues on how to act and create meaning from disruption. Everything you do and say means something. People will forget that your life has also been disrupted.

Adopting and visibly acting upon a mindset the neutralizes, allows for ebbs and flows, and where you employ data to create a realistic picture of the current state and the road ahead will enable everyone, including yourself, to stay positive as you look for ways to accelerate from tough situations to a new, better reality.

My Wonder Woman advice on how to get going when the going gets tough: Every disruption presents an opportunity: Will I show the best of me or the worst of me? Using tough times to address big problems, not let fear rule you, and create big change is part of being a wonder woman.