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"The businesses that succeeded after each crisis kept their teams tight, reinvented themselves, stayed positive, and were all pulled through by great leaders."

- Barbara Corcoran, American businesswoman, investor, speaker, consultant,
  syndicated columnist, author and “Shark.”

I came across this quote from one of my favorite Sharks recently. The wisdom in each of these points packed some extra punch in light of the current times. And as I read each one, I felt just a little more weight bearing down on my already begging-for-mercy leadership shoulders.

The pandemic. The shutdowns. The plunging stock markets. The months of lockdown. The current volatile climate in our country. And don't forget the murder hornets. (Whatever happened to the murder hornets?)

If I'm not earning all A's at keeping my teams tight, reinventing my business, staying positive, and being a great leader through all of this, surely I can give myself a little break. Right, Barbara? (Although I only spent a few hours with her in the Shark Tank, I'm confident that Barbara's answer would be, "Wrong, Joe!")

As leaders, we have to will ourselves not to throw up our hands and slip into complacency when we're feeling overwhelmed. How our companies emerge from all of this madness will depend on how we lead through it, and your teams are looking to you for calmness, reason, stability, and hope.  So how do you provide all of that in the midst of extreme pressure?

I believe that a huge part of your success will revolve around transparent and vulnerable communication:

  • Stay calm, but be honest. People see right through a game face when it's only a game. If you don't openly and thoughtfully acknowledge the issues, along with how you’re feeling, you will lose credibility.
  • Be the voice of reason, but be willing to listen to and address real concerns. Everyone wants to be heard, and they want to feel safe when speaking their mind. Resist the urge to internalize problems as personal criticisms. It’s way too easy to feel attacked when you’re tired. If your teams feel like you're not listening, defensive, or unwilling to take action, motivation will plummet, and discord will rise.
  • Ensure your teams that circumstances change, but your mission, vision, and commitment do not. The strategy may need some adjusting during tough times, but the rest will stay rock solid. (And when a plan or system is adjusted, overcommunicate the changes and the reasons for them to maintain trust.)
  • Make yourself extra available during times of crisis. If you normally don't take calls on Tuesdays - take calls on Tuesdays. If you normally don't come to the office on Fridays - come to the office on Fridays. Keep your office door open. Make it a habit to walk around the office to touch base and answer any questions. Hold a weekly meeting to update everyone on any temporary changes, progress or setbacks, and allow for Q&A time.
  • And finally, when you're feeling tired or uncertain, don’t hide it. Transparency and vulnerability are not weaknesses. On the contrary, they are like powerful magnets that draw the people who care about you and your company even closer into a circle of concern and solution-seeking. Truly invested people want to help. Lean into the strength that can bring during trying times. Allow them to lift some of the burden.

You are being watched. Make sure what your teams see is a leader on a mission. Make sure they see your heart, passion, and determination. Make sure they see the real you.

The companies that survive are pulled through by great leaders. Yes. But that’s because great leaders build and inspire great teams.

You got this – just don’t try to do it alone.

Joe Altieri is the Inventor and CEO of FlexScreen. His product – the world’s first and only flexible window screen - was featured on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank, where he hooked a deal with the proclaimed “Queen of QVC,” Lori Greiner. joealtieri@flexscreen.com

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BY JOE ALTIERI

Joe Altieri is a third-generation entrepreneur, inventor, speaker, and the President and CEO of his own multi-million dollar company. He learned the value of company culture and building strong teams by watching his father and grandfather operate successful businesses.

During his 20+ years in the window industry, Joe recognized the inherent problems with traditional window screens and dealt personally with constant customer frustrations. Always an outside-the-box thinker, he knew there had to be a better way, so he set up shop in his garage and got to work. After years of trial and error, FlexScreen, the world's first and only flexible window screen, was born.

Since its introduction into the marketplace, FlexScreen has gained international attention and earned multiple industry awards. Most notably, FlexScreen was catapulted to the forefront when Joe appeared on ABC's hit show, Shark Tank, in January 2020. Three of the five Sharks battled for a piece of FlexScreen with Lori Greiner, the Queen of QVC, ultimately winning the deal.

Joe is a firm believer in giving back, and he is generous with his resources and his time. Several years ago, he was honored and recognized as one of Pittsburgh's Volunteers of the Year. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife of 25 years, Alisha. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two very pampered Cane Corso's.

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