Innovating leadership in the new post pandemic business world

We are encountering a time in history that none of us have lived through. Many businesses have been shuttered and many more are scrambling to figure out how to keep the lights on. It’s going to take everyone at their best to ensure that the organization survives and makes it through what’s coming next.

Every business must take a sober look at their current situation and determine what adjustments need to be made. For those lucky enough to still be operating, one of the first things leaders will look at is current workload vs workforce. If the business workload has been drastically reduced, most businesses will have to reduce their workforce as well.

When looking at ways to scale back our expenses and to become more efficient and cost effective, there’s one area that typically goes unnoticed -- how we lead.

Poor leadership can be incredibly expensive.

During times of economic prosperity, it’s easy to ignore or not see the impact of bad leadership. In a post-pandemic world, it’s going to be essential that every business leaves no stone unturned looking for ways to increase efficiency and reduce unnecessary waste. Even if that means investing in your leadership now, so that you can reap the long-term benefits.

How we lead is directly related to how we think and what models we’ve had. Every leader needs to adopt a mindset that leads to producing results, not sitting back on their laurels waiting for someone else to solve the problems that are in front of the organization.

Let’s walk through 5 fundamental leadership shifts needed by all leaders, regardless of your experience or tenure, in the new post pandemic business world.

When’s the last time you heard someone say “I love to be micromanaged!”?

Never. No one likes it. Most people spend their time pushing back and rebelling against the authority that is being asserted over them. That rebellion comes at a cost and slows down progress.

Micromanagers and those who utilize the command and control leadership style need to immediately seek mentorship on how to more effectively engage and inspire their teams to step up. Those who don’t, need to be managed up or out of their leadership roles because they are a liability to the organization.

A recent video message from Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott Hotels, is the epitome of leadership through connection and compassion right now. Recently out of chemo treatment with a fresh new bald look, he knew it was urgent and important to connect and communicate with his teams. About midway through his 5:49 minute video, Arne chokes up a bit about how much his people mean to him and how seriously he is taking his responsibility as the leader of the company.

If I’m being honest, it made me choke up a bit too. As a consumer, I’m much more likely to now book a Marriott hotel than another one, knowing the leadership philosophy that’s behind the brand.

Those managers who are investing their time and energy into authentic connections with their team and demonstrating compassion for personal situations as many are dealing with various impacts of the pandemic, are building real currency that will pay in dividends in the near future.

When people are stressed out, they are more likely to be extra critical. While it’s understandable, it’s not effective leadership. Criticizing people reinforces substandard work and decreases their performance, as well as their commitment to you as leader and the company as a whole.

Leaders need to do their own personal inner work that allows them to respond, rather than react to situations. The next time you are tempted to criticize someone’s work, take a deep breath and get curious about the situation. What are 2-3 questions you can formulate to ask them before you start in with why it’s wrong? Here are a few to get you going:

  • Can you tell me your thought process on that?

  • Will you tell me more about that?

  • Will you walk me through how you got here?

When you can understand the thought process that motivated their behaviors or actions, you’ll get much further in solving the problem and you’ll be more likely to not repeat the same issue in the future because you can make the necessary changes organizationally.

Without this intervention of curiosity, you are doomed to keep repeating the same pattern that will demoralize your team member and drive you bonkers.

The old way of doing business by withholding information was a power play. In today’s world, great leaders know that true power isn’t wielded over people, but rather comes from within the team itself. Being transparent about the current state of your organization and what your people can do to help out may be just the solution you’ve been looking for.

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments recently held an organizational wide meeting to go over the current status of the company. Their revenues were down ~50% and their projections were that they would be out of business in about 4-5 months at this rate. Traditional leadership would assess the reduction of workload and do a reduction in workforce. That isn’t what the leadership at Gravity Payment did.

They were transparent with where the business was and solicited the team to help them solve how to move forward in the best way possible for their clients and their team.

The team agreed to all take pay cuts, on a voluntary basis at varying rates based on what each person could commit to. They didn’t have to raise their rates to their clients nor did they lay off any staff. What’s more, the Gravity team is being innovative in many ways that is keeping their business viable during these tumultuous times. That’s a successful outcome right now.

Status quo leadership isn’t going to cut it right now. Teams need transformational leadership right now and for the foreseeable future.

At the heart of it, transformational leaders demonstrate a high level of care for their people by engaging with them as a true partner in their success as well as success of the greater whole.

Transformational leadership happens when leaders work with their people to really understand what the challenges are and what changes need to be made. From there, the leader paints a picture of their vision to guide the changes through inspiration, by touching on how the team member benefits, how the client benefits and how it connects to the bigger picture and serves a greater purpose.

It’s a lot easier to motivate team members to excel in their roles and take greater ownership for their work, when they feel a sense of purpose and feel cared about. If you aren’t there for your team, they won’t be there for you.

Businesses that are only out for their own profit and self-interest are quickly going to fall by the wayside in the short-term. The pandemic has brought out what really matters to us and anything else doesn’t really matter right now. With many businesses being brought to a crawl or an altogether halt, it’s businesses who are serving the basic nees of others, who are still deemed “essential.”

Right now is an excellent time to connect to your sense of purpose and be in service to a need that is currently going unfilled.

Many businesses are pivoting their services or their products in order to fulfill needs such as medical devices. A Seattle area furniture manufacturer has converted their factory to lead the Million Mask Challenge to fight the coronavirus. Jeff Kass, co-owner of Kass Tailor, led a pep talk with his team “You just saved a bunch of lives.”

By tapping into their team’s sense of purpose and service, they were able to feel like they could contribute to an otherwise helpless situation. This gives them a sense of hope, which is hard to come by right now.

There’s a new story every day that demonstrates one of these 5 fundamental shifts that are needed in business right now. This is great, because we need all the examples we can get to inspire a new way of thinking and leading.

Take a look at your own leadership and see what shifts you can start making today. If you see a shift that is needed but don’t know how to get there on your own, let me know. I’m happy to help you level up your leadership.

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In service to your greatness,

~Aubrey Armes, PHR

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