The current environment has forced a shift in priorities and some areas of focus have been put on hold, allowing executives the opportunity to step up and lead their people through uncertainty. Strong leaders will see this as a time to lead with purpose and decisiveness, but they need to remember to be measured in their approach. Whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic or any other crisis, leaders firstly need to recognise and understand the crisis. Secondly, they need to understand how it will affect their organisation and its people before they respond and act.
People leaders are effectively drivers of change in a crisis, so it’s critical to take time at the outset and assess everything before acting. Further, a crisis naturally moves quickly and in unexpected directions. Leaders need to expect the unexpected in order to be flexible and remain optimistic in their approach.
While a response plan is crucial in a time of crisis, it is equally as important to be an empathetic leader who communicates authentically. This is a time where leaders and managers need to be supportive and ensure their people feel considered in decision making, which will ensure they feel invested in the company’s future. Further, leaders also need to feel comfortable with delegating and seeking the skills of those in their team who can help them to recover from the crisis. The best leaders are those who surround themselves with a diverse skill set of people who are passionate about moving the organisation into the future. Bringing these people on the journey and communicating the overarching goals will be setting you and your people up for success.
The socially isolating nature of how people and organisations have needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic means people may be having challenges with their own mental and physical wellbeing. This may be the case too in future crises, so leaders need to embrace collaboration and transparency across their employees and networks. In practice, this could include providing the infrastructure your people need to connect and collaborate effectively with colleagues and other business contacts. Providing flexibility about how and where your people work will increase engagement and productivity.
Working with your team and keeping communication consistent and open is critical. To ensure this happens, schedule regular updates with your team and help people structure their day particularly if they’re feeling unsure about how to manage their workload and having difficulty adapting to different work dynamics.
Be open to new ideas and ensure your people know that all questions and queries are welcome, especially so people can share without fear of repercussions.
As your market and organisation adapt, you will need to consider your whole of business contingency planning. Think about how you’ll ensure your people and organisation remain strong and effective throughout this challenging environment and beyond. This will include developing plans that are scalable and sustainable for at least the next six months, so there is a strong foundation to build from after the crisis.
Establishing short term goals in the interim is a good start and thinking about a pathway to recovery post the pandemic will prepare your people for the future. On the upside it is advantageous to consider what you can learn during a crisis, and how this can improve your organisation’s effectiveness.
While crises are difficult, they provide an opportunity for leaders and their teams to rise to the challenge. In demonstrating empathy and strength you will help steer your people and organisation towards recovery.