How successful leaders are responding to COVID-19 business implications
As the world is wrestling with the unforeseeable implications of the coronavirus pandemic, our social and economic fabric is under severe stress. For most businesses, COVID-19 is unlike any crisis that they might have faced in the past. The urgency to respond has forced every business to rethink how they operate if they are to obtain any chance in navigating these new challenges. Times like these need leaders who must act quickly to minimize the risk to their employees and business operations while looking forward to creating a promising future. Beyond the crisis, they must ensure that their organization has invested in the right capabilities to adapt to the “new normal.”
A resilient leader is a person who sees the most challenging crisis as a hurdle that you can hop over, not as an impregnable wall. That has been a hallmark of successful leaders. It is a remarkable ability that will help their companies recover quickly from a crisis and transform it into an opportunity to grow their business. Resilience is a learned ability, and it must be acquired, built, and developed by all business leaders.
This article will present a detailed guide on leadership practices that will help business leaders respond effectively to the present crisis.
1. Do not narrow your focus
When faced with severe stress, the human mind tends to narrow its focus. Perhaps it is a survival mechanism, but it restricts your field of vision to the immediate foreground. Leaders must intentionally pull back to take a broad and holistic view of both the challenges and opportunities. Remember a bend in the road is not always the end of the road. Well-focused focused leadership fosters well-directed management.
2. Do not panic
People do not follow leaders. They follow models of behavior. They look to their leaders for courage and strength when faced with challenging situations. Remember, your fear is contagious. Even if you do not say it out loud, people can understand and sense your fear. You cannot expect people to pivot if the leader is not positive. Aim to stir up energy in others, not fear. Empower your people with courage so that they can help in business recovery.
3. Turn the crisis into a stepping stone not a tombstone
Do not allow the present crisis to paralyze you. Resilient leaders get ahead of challenging situations when they welcome inputs from others, admit their own mistakes, and stay open to suggestions. They take steps to adapt courageously. Resilient leaders must be willing to take risks confidently and experiment new ideas. It is easy to be stuck in the same routine until situations like this pandemic require organizations to change or die. Leaders who are not afraid to make bold decisions are the need of the hour.
Perhaps you must put a hold on large initiatives and expenses. Just do it. Do not depend on your past strategy. Those strategies may not be relevant now. Assess the ground situation often. Extend your antennae across the entire operative ecosystem. The best way to accomplish this is to create a network of local leaders and influencers. They can assist you by giving you updated information about the sentiments of employees, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.
4. Do not fixate on what is closed
Managing a crisis like COVID-19 can be thrilling for some leaders. However, that can be a trap where you might feel the urge to micro-manage the present. Resist the temptation to take over. Instead, use your experience to provide necessary guidance and support. A leader fixated on micro-managing will disrupt the rhythm of employees. Though managing the present is important, fixating only on one aspect hampers the growth of your business. It is like being bent on opening a closed-door when your house is on fire instead of running out via any other open door or window. Similarly, instead of micro-managing, a leader must take advantage of other employees by delegating responsibilities and trusting people while making tough decisions.
Such trust starts with transparency: a willingness to admit your ignorance, and the track record you have built over years. Building such trust helps you develop positive relationships with your employees and customers. The fact is, a leader may be willing to make a dramatic change, but they aren’t going to make much headway without positive relationships to support that change.
5. Rest, refuel and recover to rediscover the new win
One common mistake most leaders make is determining what to do without considering all the facts. The only thing that is certain about today’s crisis is uncertainty. All the facts may not be available or clear within the expected time frame. However, leaders must refrain from depending on their intuition or previous experience to make decisions. Resilient leaders better cope with uncertainty by continually collecting information and observing how well their response is working.
Think of it as a long drive where a vehicle needs rest, refueling, and recovery before it continues onwards. In practice, it means that leaders must pause from time to time, assess the situation from multiple vantage points, and anticipate the possible outcome before they act. This prevents leaders from overreacting to new information as it comes in. True, there might be times when leaders will have to act quickly and decisively. However, leaders must take time to stop, assess, and anticipate before making further moves.
Two behaviors that help leaders in this regard are updating and doubting. Updating involves considering the fresh perspective of the team. Doubting involves critically considering if their decisions require modifications, adaptations, or the possibility of discarding. This will help leaders develop new workable solutions.
6. Avoid over-centralization
Situations like this pandemic increase risk, ambiguity, and uncertainty. This may scare leaders into becoming controlling and overbearing. They might create new layers of approval even for minor decisions. This might result in everyone involved becoming less responsive and frustrated with each new constraint. Instead, organize and determine which decision you will make and which you can delegate. Have clear guiding principles and guidelines.
7. Anticipate and welcome structural changes
The current pandemic has accelerated structural changes at a quicker pace. For example, the possibility of remote work was slowly evolving before this. Today though, worldwide, most businesses have learned and understood the increased efficiency of communicating and coordinating over the virtual platform. Keep pace with the changes.
Case study: How Fingent created an inspiring and collaborative digital workplace for Sony Mobiles? Click here to download
8. Do not disregard the human element
The present crisis is so intense because it is affecting people. A leader may forget that the coordinated efforts of their people go into the daily metrics of share price, revenue, and cost. Create an environment where people are collectively motivated to contribute to their shared success.
A crisis such as COVID-19 forces people to think of their own survival first. They might be bombarded with many anxieties concerning themselves, their work, and their families. A resilient leader will ensure a hands-on approach to this instead of assigning such as communications to legal staff. One of the most vital aspects of a leader’s role is to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Leaders must pay careful attention to the struggles people are facing and take measures to support them.
9. Communicate effectively and powerfully
Communication during a crisis is either overdone or underdone. George Bernard Shaw once said, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” An overconfident talk may raise suspicions about what a leader knows and how well they are handling the crisis. Distance working can create communication barriers as well and a team will look to their leaders for emotional reassurance and practical direction. This makes it important that leaders communicate frequently and thoughtfully. This will assure stakeholders that they are coping well with the crisis. Ensure to make your why’s clearly known to all involved. Let others know about what you are trying to do. Keep communication open and transparent. Communication also means that leaders listen and pay attention to differing opinions. They allow other team members to express their views firsthand.
10. Keep up the routine
Whatever happens, good leaders ensure that their teams are always active, working, thinking, learning, socializing, and innovating. Even if it is virtual, their teams are on the move. When working at a physical location, work involves chatting, socializing, laughing, and making friends. Leaders do well to find ways to do these things even remotely.
11. Welcome feedback
The most resilient leaders are concerned not only about their personal development but are more interested in the development of others. They recognize that everyone can contribute better if they learn from their strengths and weaknesses. Sharing constructive criticism plays a major part in this as well. The leader who welcomes feedback, negative or positive, is most likely to coach others well.
Leaders, you are models
Across the world, COVID-19 is testing business leaders in every aspect of their role. The consequences of the present pandemic could last for a long time. It could present greater difficulties than anyone could ever anticipate. Resilient leaders focus their attention on leading beyond the crisis toward a more promising future as they manage the present well. The prolonged uncertainty and ambiguity are added reasons for leaders to embrace the best practices discussed in this post. The best leaders establish and reinforce behaviors that can support their organization during this crisis and after.
Contact us to know more about how Fingent’s leadership supports customers to ensure business continuity and enables employees to engage effectively during the current pandemic.