As the UK begins to creep out of lockdown and back to some version of normality, what lessons can leaders and managers take from one of the most intense challenges we have ever faced in modern times?
Be open to change
Many managers learn a certain way of doing things, and then from that point onwards it is that way or the highway. But if lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that our ability to adapt to what is happening in front of us is what will determine whether or not we survive difficult times.
Whether it’s the way you do business with your customers, or how you handle your staff’s working requirements, being able to change will undoubtedly be a deciding factor in whether you grow in a post-COVID world or are left behind.
And there’s no telling where these new suggestions are going to come from. The best changes may not always come from the top. Be open to hearing new suggestions about anything from flexible working to new processes from your junior employees. Your newest recruit may just come up with the best idea!
Focus on your customers
Right now, one of the most important things you can focus on is to define the vision you have for your customers. What do they want? And how can you give it to them in the best possible way?
This may mean starting from scratch. You may have to go back to the drawing board and ask where you want to start. What are your priorities when servicing your customers? By going back to the beginning you may come across a whole new way of doing things that delivers the maximum value to your customers but in a whole new way.
Sounds like something you’d read on the front of a motivational notepad, right? Maybe, but when you’re faced with huge amounts of disruption and the rug has been pulled out from under your feet, it’s important that leaders are able to think differently and, if possible, disruptively. Disruptive thinking and thinking outside the box is all about coming up with new ideas and challenging the comfort blanket we have become so accustomed to.
So many businesses, big and small, have been forced to transform the way they do things in the face of uncertain times and seismic changes. Designer fashion houses have been producing PPE. Respirators and hospital equipment are coming off the production lines of car manufacturers. Food wholesalers are going straight to customers’ doorsteps. Work meetings and yoga classes are happening virtually.
No matter what you’re faced with, there’s always a way of doing things. It may just be business as ‘unusual’ for a while.
Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise
Our time is more precious than ever before, so being able to prioritise what’s important to you and your business – almost to the point of being quite ruthless – will certainly serve you well in the future. Ask yourself, what is most important? What’s going to have a positive impact on your business performance, and indeed the wellbeing of your staff? Once you know what those are, get your best people from across multiple teams working on them so you can get high quality work out the door.
Because it’s not just time that is of the essence. There’s little point in getting a project over the finish line in record time, only for it to be far below your usual standard. Being able to produce work quickly and competently is a tightrope walk at the best of times, but now more than ever credibility is at risk. You will need to prove to your customers and clients that you can continue to deliver high quality work in decent time so that your business remains as relevant as possible to them.
Build your best team
Cross-functional teams are one of the best ways to get projects over the finish line. Having people from multiple disciplines working together, each one bringing a new set of skills, experience and way of thinking to the table can only produce good things. But those people need to be clear on their purpose; what are their objectives? Why have they been brought together? Now is not the time for teams to be siloed – everyone needs to work together to strive for the best outcome for the business.
As a leader, you may have your own assumptions and ways of doing things, but now is not the time to cling to the past. It’s time to throw the rulebook out the window and – for want of a better way of saying things – to think the unthinkable. The world has changed dramatically over the last few months, and the only way forward is through the new normal. And in order for employees to embrace the new changes, leaders need to… well… lead.
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