Leading During A Pandemic

January 19, 2021

The historic challenge for leaders is to manage the crisis while building the future. ~ Henry Kissinger ~

It seems we’ve been here before. And we’ve not just survived the crisis, we adapted, we grew, and we thrived. And we will again, with new technologies, new attitudes and new opportunities for our leaders, team members and Clients.

Many, but not all leaders, now recognize that the crisis of the COVID -19 pandemic actually grew their company’s culture faster and in ways none could have predicted, nor facilitated without the emergency. The fierce sense of urgency now revealed new skills and abilities in workers previously latent. Colleagues forged new relationships with a surprising focused energy that foreshadowed new ways of doing business in a post-pandemic workplace. Workers realized that the only way they were going to get through this emergency and remain employed was to work together. And they did with raw honesty and commitment. Leaders must provide an environment for them to do the same.

Leaders must recognize this new challenge- the pandemic is not over, and recovery may last longer and be more difficult than dealing with the initial emergency. This is clearly a marathon, not a sprint. Recovery in 2021 will involve innovation, renewal, and change- not returning to old habits. During the initial emergency, the integration of digital technology clearly surged, and companies, workers and Clients benefited.

Start there: What did your team learn during the emergency? What worked and what didn’t? What if this happens again? What should change? How can we change faster if needed?

Once those questions, and others that may arise specific to your business are answered, step back and re-assess. Remembering you can’t step into the same stream twice. So, don’t try. Now is the time to recalibrate your team. Team members have already demonstrated new skills and abilities, even new protocols that have proven to be more efficient and thus successful. Finding those improvements and formally resetting them in the assigning of roles and responsibilities will begin to build an infrastructure that will strengthen a post-pandemic business.

Adapting plans and goals using this new infrastructure may also prove challenging. Some of your team members will simply want OR even expect to return to the way they used to do things, when COVID is over. It is apparent this is not possible, so modifying goals will be psychologically stressful. Abandoning old plans and hopes sometimes looks like quitting when it is fact being strategic. Combat this potentially narrow-mindedness by focusing on the positive outcomes and lessons the pandemic actually brought. Have discussions about what you and your team members learned. Celebrate your successes caused by the innovative solution forced upon us all during the pandemic.

Smoothing this transition will be challenging. With remote work becoming not just popular but necessary, it is difficult to meet the human need for socializing. Leaders will need to create spaces and opportunities for colleagues to reconnect. While the days of chatting by the water cooler are long over, the basic desire for casual conversation with real connection is not. People need and enjoy the opportunity to find out who is getting married, having children, hosting graduation parties. They support one another by putting together small food drives for colleagues who are sick or have sick family members. People lift up one another during times of struggle and spread joy when sharing celebrations. This connection creates a synergy, a loyalty that does translate into productivity and self-satisfaction. Leaders are challenged to facilitate this both online and face-to-face as their companies and staff emerge from the pandemic.

Leaders have earned their positions by being able to see not only the bigger goals and objectives of their companies, but by also using the smaller structures in place to propel their people to success. Emerging from COVID-19 is no different in this regard. Be open-minded, flexible, strategic and respectful. Most of all, be kind.

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