The reality of life Post-COVID-19 has not fully manifested itself, and its consequences for our businesses, organizations, economy, and society will play out over the rest of 2020 and beyond. Right now, we really need practical, values-driven, and focused leadership like never before. Going forward, Personal Leadership Effectiveness will be at a premium!
I’ve been putting forth on my YouTube Broadcast, my Podcast and here on my blog that leaders (even the most successful ones) must reinvent and change themselves or risk being left behind. No matter how effective you were yesterday, today and tomorrow are likely to make new and different demands. If you fail to reinvent and adapt, you and your organization will be left behind.
There’s no leadership playbook for what to do in the face of a 21st Century pandemic. We’re all facing threats to self, family, employees, customers, suppliers, business partners, governmental and financial systems, and potentially our social fabric. There are no silver-bullet solutions for what’s yet to come.
So, what should you do if you’re responsible for a team or an organization?
- Educate yourself. If you haven’t before, the time is now, to embed a leadership trait of continuing learning. This means paying attention, keeping your head on a swivel, and lowering your RC Factor (resistance to change). It means not getting pulled into the drama that characterizes the media and then projecting that drama onto others. Recognize that things are changing on a daily or even hourly basis. Today’s realities are quite different than they were yesterday, and vastly different from just last week. Be flexible, be adaptive, and be willing to make difficult choices. Nobody has a crystal ball, but read up on the environmental implications for your your people and your organization so that you can make better decisions.
- The safety of everyone you’re responsible for is a priority. Ensure that you have clear business protocols and expectations in place and fine-tune them as necessary. Work-from-home is only the first step. What else needs to happen in your organization for people to feel safe, engaged, informed, and useful? Underscore that what matters most to is that your people feel physically and psychologically safe.
- Build a clear plan forward for your organization. I use this term quite often: Stay in the helicopter, which means think global and act local, sketching out plans that are as detailed as possible for the longer-term. Recognize that much will change, but at the same time be extremely focused on your game-plan week-by-week and even day-by-day. Things are changing at an incredible rate. Think strategically and adaptively, and be willing to pivot in real time with a sense of urgency.
- Leverage your team. You’re not in this alone and you shouldn’t act like it. I’ve said very often over the course of my career, diversity means tapping into the strengths of everyone on your team, not just a selected few. Bring your team together to ensure alignment on plans, priorities, and contingencies. Engage them in doing scenario-planning. Work with them to differentiate the truly important from the merely urgent and help them do the same with their teams. Ask them how they and their families feel, to help ensure everyone is tapping into your emotional intelligence to lead and manage in the right ways.
- Over-invest in communication. There can never be enough communication, not just now, but ever! You must communicate with credibility and optimism. Be realistic but be positive. With most people now working remotely, set up multiple and new ways to keep in touch. As a leader, pay attention to your communication style and tactics, being deliberate and as visible as you possible. Set the right type and frequency of communication protocols for your organization, which need to be consistent on a continuum. Be clear and specific with your messaging and focus on key themes. Help your people focus on what they can control, not upon what they can’t.
- Be authentic. Don’t forget why people have come to trust and follow you, and tap into your consistency to create calm and focus. In times of crisis people crave familiar. Now is not a good time to change your style. You don’t need to take a chance on being perceived as running for office. Don’t hide bad news. Be honest and if you don’t know, don’t be afraid to say so. There are only three questions any leader really needs to know the answer to: What’s next? Why is it important? How do we allocate resources and people effectively? Other than that, carry on!
- Lead yourself. You’re a human being and you’re stressed like everyone else, probably in ways you may not even realize. Don’t let yourself get to the end of your rope. Take time to make sure you’re as prepared and focused as you can be. Stay balanced: get your exercise, eat properly, and make time for the people most important to you. Your family and friends need your attention and leadership as much as your employees and customers.
Every leader of every organization must balance the needs of and commitments to all stakeholders including customers, employees and their families, suppliers, and local communities. If nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis may bring out which leaders and organizations really know how to do this. Your employees will remember for a long time how they were treated during this crisis. Nothing drives employee loyalty and engagement more than knowing that their leader really cares about them as human beings.
Truth be told, as a leader you should treat this COVID-19 crisis as a defining moment for yourself and your organization. Step up and lead accordingly.