In the numerous conversations I’ve had with leaders during this pandemic crisis, one common thread seems to appear: no one was prepared for this and no one has the official ‘playbook’ for how to lead during this time. That said, as we navigate the complexities of the situation, a number of lessons are emerging that we can all benefit from. The Yale School of Management shared their thoughts on this in the article Lessons on Leading through a Pandemic and we’ve summarized 3 of their insights here, along with our own ‘2 cents’:
- Be ready to improvise. As we’ve outlined in a few of our RealityChek® Conversation videos, this time requires an incredible amount of flexibility, ingenuity and a focus on shorter-term goals. The landscape is changing rapidly, and those changes impact what businesses can do and how they need to serve customers. At the Canadian Management Centre for example, we’ve pivoted from classroom programs to online and we’re actively creating new processes, procedures and policies, in response to new safety guidelines, that will allow us to reopen our classrooms. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to plan too far down the road as so many variables remain unknown. In the meantime, there is no lack of innovation taking place within businesses large and small. Within weeks of the sheltering in place requirements, several companies pivoted incredibly quickly to not only change their products and services, but to change in ways that supported the health and well-being of people around the globe. Check out this top 10 list to be inspired. The beauty of this pandemic as it relates to innovation is the ‘permission space’ many of us have been granted to take risks, make mistakes and try things we previously thought could not be done. When the alternative is to become extinct, we become a lot more open to change. So, take advantage of this time to rethink how you might leverage the talent on your team to be of service to your clients in new ways.
- Prioritize empathy. The importance of empathy has been a topic of conversation in leadership circles for years. However, this pandemic has changed the way we view and value empathetic leadership. Suddenly, all of us have been affected by the same crisis, albeit in different ways, which has created a common fear and also a common connection between us. This has led to very different conversations than were happening pre-COVID-19. Conversations have become more open, more authentic and more vulnerable as we’ve been forced to acknowledge the impact of the pandemic on us individually and on the people we lead and work with. As stated by the author of the Yale article, “Right now, showing empathy is the most important thing you can do for productivity, performance, innovation, retention—for any meaningful outcome.” Check out this video by Kristi Hedges to see an example of what empathy sounds like in action.
- Make peace with uncertainty. The human brain is wired to keep us safe. Which means that inherently, we respond to uncertainty as a threat. This constant threat of uncertainty resulting from the pandemic has created a mental health crisis, which obviously has challenging implications for our workplace environment and organizational results. On the flipside however, uncertainty can also unleash creativity as we attempt to respond to changes in our environment with different possible solutions. If we can tap into that creative side and embrace the fact that this uncertainty can lead to transformational changes, changes that can make us better and stronger, we’ll be able to better capitalize on this time of transition.