COVID-19 caught many organizations by surprise. Yet despite being caught unaware, many rallied. They quickly gathered information, confirmed their goals (for their people, customers and the business) and shifted to a path to catch their breath and move forward.
But there were many that weren’t ready. The situation showed the gaping holes organizations have that caused stress, financial hardship and a variety of other challenges.
Life sends obstacles and challenges. We can be disappointed, aggravated or frustrated by them, or we can realize that it is in these obstacles and challenges that we do our best learning, discover our true strengths and learn to be resilient in a changing world. We can look at the stresses, challenges and financial hardships of the moment and redirect our energy to understanding them and using them to move forward. Spending time lamenting, complaining or feeling victimized by something you had no control over is a waste of the energy needed to rethink and respond to a new path forward.
So, what workplace lessons did you learn from your bout with COVID-19? Here are the four major ones I noticed in my conversations with clients.
- You are more flexible than you realized. Even in the chaos, when things got tough, most organizations quickly rallied and got their people home safely, made equipment available and kept their businesses running. You have it in you to respond when things are urgent. You will need that flexibility and adaptability as you consider how to move forward. Notice that you have it and can call on it, despite the external forces that may make things confusing and frustrating. Trust your gut.
- You identified your future leaders as well as those who don’t belong on your team. When you responded to the crisis, some of your people stepped up and did remarkable things. Some acted this way without asking. They say it is in a time of crisis that people show their true colors. Start a list of those who inspired you and impressed you in their response. Watch for those who brought their best ideas, who had a sense of urgency, were selfless and committed to the welfare of employees and stakeholders. At the same time, start a list of those who disappointed you. Who complained instead of responded (in leadership as well as in the ranks)? Who showed up with excuses instead of ideas, were slow to respond or were more focused on themselves at the expense of the team, their peers or others? When the dust settles, you’ll have a clear understanding of who belongs and doesn’t belong on your team. (Remember that we are also at a near 20% unemployment rate so don’t be worried about finding more A-level talent for your team – they are out there.)
- What works and doesn’t work about your leadership style became apparent. As I mentioned, the real you shows up in a crisis. What did your response tell you about your abilities as a leader? Did you show compassion and empathy as you ensured the safety and life needs of your employees and stakeholders? Or did you focus on the bottom line at the expense of your people? Will your employees choose to stay after the pandemic based on how you led during it? Take an inventory of your success attributes and those attributes that were unproductive or ineffective in your ability to engage and retain your team. What will you do more of and what will you look to improve on in the next version of your organization post-COVID-19?
- You now know some things that should and shouldn’t be in your next version of your business. As with your review of leadership, review all areas of your business for what works and doesn’t work. Don’t be in a rush to return to a normal that had many things in it that didn’t work. You have been given a reset. Take advantage of it to redefine and rebuild the areas of the business that were not up to par. This is the moment to brainstorm your new normal, to be a shaper of what you do and how you do it. Do a full 360-degree walk around your business, noting in each area what should continue in your new normal and what should be left behind.
Which of these lessons resonate with you? What else would you add to your list of great lessons learned?
COVID-19, as difficult as it has been, has a true silver lining. It created the time and space to review your organization to better understand – and see – the things that work or don’t work. It is providing the time and space to rethink where you could/should/need to be that may not look at all like where you have been. It is time to create a survive response (to get through the rest of the pandemic) and a thrive response (your plan-ahead team to steer you to the better versions of you post COVID-19).
Rarely do we get a global reset. And we will hopefully not get it ever again. But since it is here, use what you learned in this moment of history to make yourself better.
Use this as a learning experience to get everyone in your organization involved, as well. Have all of your employees look at every aspect of your old way of doing things and ask the question, what could make this better?
Then engage them to build a plan and start to achieve it.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right For Your Business