As Benjamin Franklin famously said — 'If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!' For leadership to provide and instil vision in these challenging times has never been more important. Vision is the antidote to fear in our teams and for those we connect with. As a smart man once said (Albert Einstein) "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." So, whilst living in the very present now and having to make difficult decisions, taking a step back to gain perspective and look at the situation with an open mind and lateral thinking might help us to identify some opportunities to weave into our survival strategy.
Other than a financial analysis of where you are, what you need, and what you might need to suspend for a while, one of the first things to consider is whether there needs to be a shift in your offering. There may be benefits, products and services that you can’t provide or are inappropriate at the moment. Equally you may be able to identify where you may have the resources to add value in different ways and potentially meet needs, or fill gaps. Related benefits, products and services will provide a form of continuity for your organisation and audience. Even if you are providing some of these as online services at no cost, you will be investing in relationship with your audience, creating habits of connection behaviour, which will pay dividends once we move into the recovery and growth stages.
Identifying areas of your organisation that are lacking purpose right now is another critical task. If that’s a member of staff or a team, look at how can we adjust their role (even temporarily) and provide them with a focus. Generally, people are much more amenable to adapting in times of crisis, playing their part in the war effort so to speak, especially given the alternatives!
Not that you need to provide massive motivational speeches, but it’s important to communicate the challenges that the organisation is facing with your team, and that you value their contribution, whether that be a ideas and a proactive approach to solving them or flexibility in implementing change. They equally need to be kept informed about adjustments you are making to navigate through the situation. Think about how the nation is tuning into the government’s daily updates, we look to leadership for direction and confidence. Sometimes a decision might be made that we quickly realise wasn’t the right one and we may need to back-track, that’s ok, keep communicating.
Another interesting exercise is to project into the future to try and predict what the major trends to come out of the pandemic might be. We can see that currently there is huge demand for online resources (home learning for children and video conferencing), online shopping (both from necessity and boredom), computer purchases are up (with the volume of children and adults having to work from home), entertainment and app subscriptions are at an all-time high (boredom again) and purchases of home fitness equipment are also soaring. They say hindsight is 20/20, what could we look back on and see as opportunities we missed, that given half an ounce of thought now we might be able to capitalise on? Shifting the focus from what we can’t do to what we could do will be time well spent, a little bit of vision goes a long way!