By Perminus Wainaina
Has COVID changed the way you lead and manage your team?
It has been a unique moment for CEOs and managers, with many having to change how they lead in different and out-of-the-box ways. Although these changes may have come out of the need to survive, they have potential beyond the crisis.
So, what has changed? How can you, as a manager, lead with impact through these uncertainties and even post-pandemic?
Move from managing to enabling
In a moment of crisis, everyone looks to their leader. CEOs have felt this even more strongly during the pandemic.
Employees have looked to their leaders for direction amid uncertainty. In a normal environment, this would not be the case – with many looking to their managers for leadership and strategy setting as well as culture and decisions.
Managers have had to enhance their leadership impact differently, to maintain morale among their employees.
The truth is, the people you are leading have big expectations of you. They want you to be perfect and often forget that you are human. But the more human you are with them, the more trust and empathy they lend to you. They understand you better. That gives you the ability to do so much more, as people give you the benefit of the doubt.
As employees adjust to major change, leaders are called upon to communicate with clarity, provide continuity, and empower the organization with a sense of purpose. And they must translate that purpose into action.
This, I believe, is a permanent shift.
Rethinking the art of the possible
During the pandemic, many organizations have accomplished what had previously been thought impossible.
Textile factory, Rift Valley Textiles (Rivatex), had been struggling to stay afloat, pre-pandemic. Less than a year after its re-launch and at the start of the pandemic when many businesses were shutting down, it increased business by providing well-priced quality face masks.
Delivery companies too reported an increase in sales as online shopping picked up with people placing orders for a diverse range of goods including groceries.
Within a week, companies went from having their staff working in offices to having them working from home. This is a shift that required systems and policy transformation that under normal circumstances, would never have been thought possible.
In an instant, popular video conferencing company ZOOM became a household name with many managers using it to communicate with their employees who were working from home.
The unprecedented scale and speed of the pandemic played a huge role in pushing for some of these feats, but it is remarkable what organizations have been able to achieve.
These achievements have come partly from people working faster and harder and rethinking.
Harness the real power of peer networks
The strains of an ongoing situation in which no one knows the answer led many leaders to rack their brains in a bid to find a way to stay afloat. It was difficult to calm down, and many were left feeling stressed.
Now, however, amid social distancing, many managers are getting closer and supporting each other. They are intent on accelerating problem-solving together by building on one another’s ideas, creating solutions to use in the workplace, sharing notes, and moving forward having learned what works best.
Having CEOs and managers spend more time laterally will prove useful not only for responding to the current pandemic but also for addressing emergent issues and unlocking higher levels of business performance and innovation impact in an ever more complex and uncertain world.
For you as a leader, to leverage such interactions in the future and accelerate impact on shared challenges, you will have to continue to approach every opportunity with a learning mindset, and an open-minded commitment to ongoing development.
In the end,
We are all under an unprecedented mental strain that we are not designed, evolutionarily, to deal with. We deal well with acute emergencies experienced in groups. However, the pandemic is a long-term, slow-rolling crisis of uncertain duration involving multiple unknown factors. Hopeful news notwithstanding, this all remains true and will for some time.
Leaders who approach the post-crisis world intending to develop leadership impact with new attitudes and habits will not only be better able to successfully navigate the immediate aftermath of the pandemic but also be better set up for the future.
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