In a word, 2020 so far has been UNCERTAIN! As a business leader, you MUST understand that creating a feeling of certainty in tough times is among the most important tasks you have. The future of your company depends on how you respond; your company including your staff and the people that depend on them for survival.
In this article, we will share some tips on how to lead in a time of crisis, guidelines on how you can establish a semblance of certainty in uncertain times.
Keep the business running.
The world’s most successful businesses are built on an unwavering focus on their vision and the constant pursuit of momentum in the direction of their biggest goals. The keywords here are focus & direction. In a time when the media is awash with disheartening statistics and updates about deaths and infections, it is easy to go off track, lose hope, and forget about the vision.
A time of crisis is a great time to remind yourself WHY you got into this in the first place and perhaps even put that purpose to a test. Remember that as a leader, your people will mirror your actions and your words and it is in your best interest to be a message of hope.
During uncertain times, people’s levels of anxiety increase significantly as they to find definitive answers on what the future will look like. As a leader, you must provide clarity and direction, and stay open to possibilities and opportunities, prepare for different potential outcomes and be flexible as new insights emerge.
Co-create the future of your organization.
In tough times, the team that sticks together usually weathers the storm. Encourage your team to explore, collaborate, and experiment on as many aspects of your operations as possible. In the same spirit, be willing to slow down and create the future of your company based on what you know and can control with inputs from your key people.
In addition, because of the polarization and stress that most people experience in times of crisis, it is important for you to pay attention to what is unsaid, to the values and beliefs that influence how your people behave. The aim here is to understand the experience of others as it may differ from your own. Understand other perspectives and be willing to change your mind about some of the “truths” you held.
The most effective way to accomplish this is by “over-communicating.” If there are slumps in the frequency of your communication, it will be easy for your people’s minds to drift to worrisome scenarios especially when their worries are justified. For example, rumors about down-sizing staff, rumors about infected colleagues etc. successful leaders in such times need to pick up the rhythm of their communication, with more regular calls, email updates, and even meetings where applicable.
Learn from this experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a brutal reminder to leaders on how challenging it is to prepare for systemic risk. While not as common as other types of risk, systemic risk can bring with it volatility or at the worst, the collapse of an entire industry or economy as we have seen over the past few months.
To most leaders, Business Continuity plans (BCP) used to be a “thing” they mention in passing during meetings but this year has confirmed their importance. A BCP is a process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to your company. If there is a lesson from this, it is that having a well-written plan that details how your business will respond to and resume business after a major disruption is essential.
Now would be a great time to evaluate the impact that this crisis has had on your business and revise your plan to improve all future business continuity efforts. While each business’s continuity plan must be tailored to its specific needs, there are some general lessons learned from COVID-19 that can be leveraged to improve your future preparedness efforts for example the need to prioritize digital migration for your business, safety culture among others.
Even before 2020, the world of work had already entered an era of constant change, and the COVID-19 pandemic has basically accelerated the world’s change trajectory. Those business owners and managers who successfully navigate these periods of change, turbulence, and uncertainty will be the true mark of great leadership.
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