The disruption that businesses across the world have faced during 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been exceptional. If you add to this the challenges that leaders were already facing from climate change, digitalization, AI and financial and political uncertainty, it has been a challenging year.
With disruption comes uncertainty; for leaders, businesses, and for employees of those businesses. When anxieties are high, job security is precarious and working outside of their normal environment has become the new norm, your team needs the reassurance that you are there to calm, inspire and motivate them for the long term, and that you have a plan.
Though this year has been the exception rather than the norm, disruption is part and parcel of business life and gives us opportunities to pivot and explore unexpected opportunities. No matter the degree of disruption, as a leader, your job is to redefine the disruption, not respond to it.
How business leaders have reacted to these challenges will define the success or failure of their organisation for years to come.
The challenges leaders face post COVID-19
Primary Strategic Challenges
Once we get to a point where the COVID-19 risk is manageable and businesses begin adapting to a new normal, organisations will have to contend with reduced demand and shrinking markets as a result of economic contraction and reduced incomes.
Businesses will have no choice but to reduce costs so that they can maintain profitability, and the logical option is to cut their headcounts. Though this will have a positive impact on short-term profitability, business leaders will need to look at alternatives like outsourcing some key functions, so the longer-term impact of reducing headcount won’t hurt profitability and growth.
Though remote working isn’t new, when whole organisations are faced with working remotely, productivity and communication can suffer especially for employees who are used to being office based.
Initially, employees who are unused to remote working may struggle with the lack of collaboration and a sense of belonging. Collaboration tools like Slack can make a big difference to address that, and they can also help with early productivity problems.
Leaders need to still be ‘there’ for their remote employees by leading virtually. Moving scheduled meetings to video calls and hosting meetups to encourage a feeling of inclusivity will help ensure that teams are kept on track and leaders don’t fade into the background but are an active part of their remote employees’ lives.
Rapidly Changing Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic is constantly evolving and changing many aspects of business life on an almost daily basis. Leaders need to be able to adapt and change like never before, as failing to be responsive can leave you looking insensitive or worse, ineffective.
Leaders need to be seen as change managers who are open to change and are keen to enthusiastically inspire their team to embrace the changing business landscape and deploy new strategies that allow them to not just survive but thrive.
Overcoming the challenges of uncertainty through clear direction. Three points to overcome the challenges.
Implementing change is always challenging, but when change is forced upon businesses, leaders need to focus on investing in their employees, being purpose driven and persisting until the change is successful.
The challenges of implementing change
Adapting and transforming have become essential business skills for leaders during 2020, and to do this effectively it is important to focus on people and not processes.
Changing systems and processes isn’t enough, you need to utilise your people focused skills to connect with your employees and take them on the change and transformation journey with you.
Knowing how to put yourself in your employees’ shoes, to understand how they feel about change and uncertainty and then deliver compassionate, collaborative leadership that allows everyone to achieve the organisation’s goals.
Understand your and your people’s motivation
If you want to achieve the required change, you’ll to not only be personally motivated but your employees will need to be strongly motivated to ignite the change process and drive the success.
Effective change managers know they need to understand what motivates their team and themselves and identify the ingredient that works for each employee.
For example, the ‘Star’ enjoys recognition and visible perks that are linked to their position and wants the opportunity to shine.
By identifying from the nine primary motivators what drives each member of your team and using that to put them into the right role, you can drive productivity and performance
Communication helps to change mindset
Effective leaders tend to be high-impact communicators who can create great relationships with their employees that help them manage the changes and uncertainty.
Constant communication gives employees the confidence and practical tools to create an attitudinal shift in behaviours and change their mindset as they need, which in turn will help to drive the change and ensure it is sustainable.
Businesses will undoubtedly be facing their biggest challenges this year, but leaders that disrupt and redefine their leadership strategies will be the difference between the organisation thriving or sinking in the new disruptive business landscape.