Interestingly, although COVID-19 is a concern, it is not a major issue in itself. The rise of COVID has revealed other set of challenges that organisations must overcome.
Here are the three qualities that leaders need to develop during a pandemic or uncertainties:
We have complied these from our conversations with a lot of different leaders from government to private sectors.
1. Pivot into a new business landscape.
The pandemic has revealed the adaptability of an organization. How fast or slow it pivots to a new business landscape and its way of serving their clients.
Plans that were drafted could immediately be overridden within weeks because of government regulation or how safely business can be conducted.
Even team members are responding at a different pace to change.
Adding to this complexity, was the rapid need to digitalise the way of working. Some leaders in Singapore even mentioned that digitalization was a bigger concern than the pandemic! This is because most companies already had adequate safe practices at work.
During this time, leaders have to demonstrate empathy. Understand that it will be challenging for some of your team members to work remotely due to various reasons. More conversations with them will help you come up with new performance indicators and goals for them. And in turn, help you assess effective work when everyone is working from home.
2. Keep communicating in the midst of uncertainties.
This is especially difficult when they do not even know what is going to happen in their organization in a few months’ time.
Some leaders consistently “over-communicate” their intention, plans and steps forward to assure their staff. This is useful because not everyone gets it on the first go. Some miss the details. A few leaders shared with me that they were surprised that team members asked questions that were addressed in previous meeting.
Leaders have to remember to communicate and over-communicate because their team members need to be clear and assured that there is a game plan that the company is following. This breeds confidence in employees.
3. Be honest and transparent.
Some companies are facing a hard time. Revenues have dropped because of low consumer spending. Countries are reporting negative growth rates. This meant that a lot of companies will be affected. It could even lead to retrenchment or “right-sizing”.
Leaders need to be able to communicate difficult issues that they normally don’t talk about when times are better. They have to have the courage to tell their teams that their company is not doing well. They need to explain that team members could be placed on long leave, pay could be cut or retrenchments could be a possibility.
However, this honesty and transparency is not consistent across organisations. Many prefer to choose a day to deliver the bad news of retrenchment and ask their staff to pack their belongings and leave.
This act contravenes the values of most companies, especially when they embrace values like open communication, moral integrity, or “we value people”.
I spoke to a leader who went through such difficult layoffs. He said that morale is severely affected. Employees felt betrayed because there is no early warnings of such retrenchment exercises and an apparent disregard of their feelings.
Times are difficult but it is also an opportunity for leaders to shine.
Leaders need to help their staff transit and pivot to a new business landscape. Let’s keep communicating in the midst of uncertainty and be honest and transparent in the way we do things.