Leadership During A Crisis 2.0
It’s been nearly a year since Covid-19 gripped the world and upended life as we know it. The one-year mark provides an opportunity to reflect on the lasting impact the pandemic has had on our lives and business. As we think about 2020, it’s imperative that we continue to adapt our leadership strategies as we navigate new behaviors, patterns and habits.
Last August, I shared my thoughts on the importance of reframing your business plan. Reviewing those themes remains important today as we look at the year ahead.
Themes and Strategies That Still Hold True
Let’s start with a few of the themes that are just as important to consider now.
1. Cutting Costs And Balancing Growth
Growth is a critical component of planning, and it’s important to keep a consistent view of the long-term horizon. As you assess annual objectives, continue to determine what short-term cuts can be made to enable investment back into the company. This disciplined analysis will organically help facilitate growth and create a consistent cadence for the team to be mindful of strategic budgeting.
2. Never Say Never
Prior to the pandemic, the thought of a company shifting its entire operation to fully remote work in just a few weeks would’ve been deemed impossible. However, Covid-19 forced an immediate pivot, where people and enterprises adopted digital ways of working much quicker than many would have expected.
Innovation is often the byproduct of necessity. The ability to be flexible and adapt to this new model proved valuable: Many questioned whether productivity would be maintained from home, but in my own experience, the team at Aura is more productive now than ever before.
This shift may even end up more permanent than we initially thought as many employees simply don’t want to return to offices. Previous aspects of traditional work now seem antiquated, and it’s fascinating to experience this evolution of work in real time along with the rest of the company.
I’ve learned not to be afraid to take on complex problems and lean on my team. They take the opportunity to rise to the occasion and prove that you never know what kind of innovative solutions will arise as a result.
3. Embrace Company Culture
It’s critical to consider the differences between what employees need today compared to a year ago. Gone are the days of in-person events and happy hours, forcing these once-sought-after perks into obsoletion. Priorities, habits and behaviors have shifted, so company cultures need to as well.
Think about ways you can offer the most value to employees during stressful times. Consider implementing a more flexible PTO policy (my company is giving employees a day off on the anniversary of our pivot date to working from home) or offering free subscriptions to apps that address mindfulness, meditation or fitness. Make sure employees know that their company truly cares about them and is prioritizing their holistic mental and physical well-being.
4. Remain A Positive And Steady Leader
The most important lesson about leadership during Covid-19 is to be human, first and foremost. We are all navigating this crisis together and must lean on one another for support. Leaders may feel compelled to put on a brave face for their employees. While staying positive is indeed important, opening up about how you are coping with your own struggles will allow you to connect on a deeper level with employees who may be experiencing the same issues.
New Themes And Lessons Learned from 2020
Reflecting on what we’ve learned from 2020 is of the utmost importance as we give thought to new themes to consider in 2021
1. Identify More Visible Business Opportunities From Changes In Consumer Behavior
The accelerated shift to digital has changed consumer behavior, and companies are modifying their offerings accordingly. We have witnessed a rise in e-commerce, direct-to-consumer models and contactless pickup and drop-off, among other new trends.
Furthermore, work patterns are changing. People are migrating from cities to suburbs for more space, phasing out obsolete ways of working in the short term. However, quickly pivoting to a new style of life and work has presented areas in need of improvement, leaving businesses the opportunity to fill the gaps.
This opportunistic thinking and working extends beyond the corporate world. Consider the vaccine rollout. What normally would have taken years was accomplished in mere months thanks to great minds coming together to attack a singular problem. With this strategy and focus, the level of innovation and results that can be produced quickly is remarkable.
We’re starting to ask better questions, and we’ve shown ourselves that when we come together to solve problems, great things can happen amid the most challenging situations.
2. Prioritize Empathetic Leadership And Take A New Approach To Employee Well-Being
Remote work has blurred the boundary between work and home. Life has become more family-facing and less work-facing. We are no longer able to create a separation between what is going on in the world and our lives at the office. It is paramount that business leaders understand these shifts and are even more in-tune with how employees are coping with world events.
Employee well-being needs to be a top priority. Consider limiting the number and length of daily meetings to allow your employees more flexibility. Shift to a more asynchronous model of work to enable new means of communication and documentation.
Overall, the shifts we have seen over the past year are here to stay. We’ve figured out a new way to work, shop, communicate and live. More questioning is happening. Creative problem-solving is returning to the forefront of innovation, and we are advancing at a faster rate than ever before!
As we dive into the second year of our two-year plan, we must take the lessons we learned from last year and implement them into our strategy so that businesses can keep pace with rapid advancements and thrive in our new world.