There are two types of leaders.
You see this at the executive level, and you see it all the way down throughout an organization with multiple layers of management. Some leaders love spending time “in the weeds.” They think tactically, they hyper-focus on how to get from point A to point B, and they dedicate a significant amount of time to making little tweaks that move the business incrementally forward.
During “typical times”, these types of leaders can be extremely effective in helping a company get better at what’s already working well.
And then there are leaders who, in times of crisis, know not to bother with spending time aiming to make the organization 1% better. These leaders are much more strategic, “big picture,” and concerned with where the business will be a year, two years, and five years from now. As a result, they spend the vast majority of their time thinking about the decisions that need to be made now in order for the company to survive and thrive well into the future.
These are “unexpected times” leaders.
In our world today, the harsh reality is that most businesses don’t have the luxury of only focusing on the day to day. Even the largest, most profitable companies are in “unexpected times” mode, thinking hard about how they can make decisions that will allow them to weather the storm. For some, that means making bold decisions like cutting entire departments or accelerating investments in products they believe will perform well in near-to-medium-term markets. For others, now is the time to really take a look at internal policies, and put less emphasis on administrative tasks and more on the automation of processes and procedures.
Nothing reveals the inefficiencies of an organization like a crisis—whether it be a global one such as the coronavirus, or a financial one, or a sudden shift in demand in the company’s core markets.
Now is the time to be strategic, not tactical.
Ask yourself these 3 questions to determine how you can be that type of leader for your business, right now.
1. “How can we be more proactive and less reactive?”
One of the reasons the coronavirus crisis has affected so many businesses is because many of them did not feel the need to prioritize digital transformation efforts.
I know this because our core business at Reveille is helping big organizations have the proper visibility with content management applications that can measure user adoption, performance, and have greater security visibility. And it wasn’t until the coronavirus hit and companies all over the world suddenly needed to work remotely that these types of products became even more essential. With hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of employees all working from home, companies wanted insights into how users were accessing documents at different levels of the organization, and to be able to have protective measures in place.
The more you can prioritize active management of your core business services, the less often you’ll find yourself scrambling to adjust in moments of stress.
2. “In what ways can we be more flexible right now?”
When the going gets tough, you don’t want to make the people around you feel like you’re “piling on” more, and more, and more.
If anything, the past few months have challenged leaders to get rid of things that aren’t completely necessary to the business, and to be more flexible and accommodating to current circumstances. What does that mean? It means realizing that, while working from home (especially with kids, roommates, your significant other, etc.), it’s unreasonable to expect people to have the same behaviors as when they’re in the office. Instead of expecting people to “log on” right at 8:30 a.m., or worse, expecting them to be reachable at 8:00 p.m. just because they’re working from home, leaders today need to focus less on clocking-in and clocking-out, and more on the key milestones that are going to drive the business forward. Focus on the outcomes, not the process.
Flexibility means spending less time focusing on micromanaging, and more time improving the company’s standing in the marketplace.
3. “COVID aside, how else can the business continue to grow long into the future?”
If you’re always focused on risk (and if all you’re thinking about is COVID), you’re not prepared to transition beyond COVID to the post-pandemic ‘normal’ state.
Instead, leaders today need to be thinking about what changes are happening that give insight into the world we’re now living in—remote work being a big one, along with more distributed, less full-time workforces. With these changes in mind, you can imagine what new priorities will take precedence in the coming years. And with these priorities in mind, it’s then worth considering what decisions you need to make regarding everything from hiring to technology to work culture best practices.
It’s not effective to “build a business around COVID.” But COVID is certainly showing us what businesses will need to look like to remain both resilient and healthy long into the future.