Organizations need leaders who will use the changes created by the pandemic, to challenge the status quo and look for new value because we are not going back to business-as-usual.
Disruptions are very much part of the 21st-century competitive landscape, its time to blow up assumptions about teamwork, working practices, and creating meaningful work.
Stop thinking we are going back to normal.
Business schools have published mountains of case studies, citing companies that have were left behind because their leaders looked to the past instead of the future. Kodak, Nokia, Amstrad, Blockbuster, WeWork, DEC are all examples of misguided leaders hoping things would stay the same.
If you are leading a corporation today, you need to step outside your paradigm and ask yourself what stakeholders will need in the future.
- How will the future be different than today?
- What new opportunities exist?
- What new risks?
- And how can my team respond?
You will hear the voice in your head (and voices from your colleagues) push-back with waves of logic, insisting that the business needs to focus on the here-and-now. This kind of logic is hard to defeat because it has certainty on its side; we use past examples to suggest the infallibility of projections. Following the same path is seductive because it looks safe, but, it’s only a matter of time before your competitors find new opportunities to create more value and your business misses out.
Time to get tough – Get the right people onboard
Effecting change requires a team of influential stakeholders that are interested in exploring the future. Finding ways to create new value from the opportunity this disruption (COVID 19) is providing requires open minds. Innovation is a challenging exercise.
“Innovation is hard because the very things that make a company thrive are exactly the same things that make it difficult for them to embrace the new.”
Innovation requires more than the willpower of one individual; it requires not only complementary knowledge and skills that only a team can bring but the willingness to be courageous. To lead a team into the battle for innovation demands that you are strong enough to challenge the logical rebuttals. Call them out for what they are; answers that anyone, from the man-on-the-street to the VP of sales, can make up. What these are not is strategic thinking.
Great leaders will use this time to fight for more from their leadership colleagues. They will not be soft and allow excuses to derail their commitment to new value-generating innovations.
Now is the time to get serious about your team’s culture, challenge everyone to make a choice, either join in the search for innovation or leave the team.
Developing a Vivid Vision of the Future has never been more important
Watching the recent news, we can see the difference between leaders with a vision and those without that kind of clarity. Every employee, teammate, stakeholder, and shareholder deserves to know the vision. A vivid vision gives people emotional security, it provides hope, and encourages people to add structure to their days. In times like these, people want to know they are making a difference in the lives of others. Creating this clarity will give your people the gift of meaningful work.
Make time for the big questions
Conversations about the new normal are not trivial; they are challenging and demanding. As a leader, you have to use your team to create a compelling narrative that tells everyone in your business, and those that depend on your business, there is important work to be done here. Storytelling, in this way, improves how people understand their place, their importance and their purpose. Sharing your vision builds common ground and develops a sense of belonging that creates the bond necessary to enable your people to conquer tough challenges together.
When you have given people the gift of purpose, the next order of the day, is get out of their way. People want to do good work. No one (or at least very few) plans to go to work to do a bad job.
We all know that there will be obstacles that will need attention; no great vision is every achieved in one straight shot. Let the leagues of managers work with their people to map out the plan to get from where you are to where your future lies. Encourage them to plot major obstacles and ask their teams to find solutions that remove or blow up each obstacle.
Inspire everyone to believe in their part. Coach, mentor, tell stories and, above all, show people you and your entire leadership team are engaged and have faith in every employee, teammate, stakeholder and shareholder to do their part to make your vision a reality.
Celebrate Short term wins and avoid premature declarations of victory
In death, we learn to celebrate life. This pandemic is reconnecting everyone around the globe to the values of humanity, compassion and sacrifice for others. Conquering this disruption will generate many wins, big and small. Great leadership will ensure that each win is a reason to celebrate. The power of gratitude will be experienced through the motivation and engagement of others fostering a winner culture.
As every successful leader knows, culture is the key to sustaining a successful business.
It takes leadership to guide people through these tough times, and it takes leadership to give people a vision that gives them purpose and hope.