With a pandemic at hand, plenty of things have gone wrong. But as I work with my clients, I also notice some things that are going right as leaders work to strengthen their organizations. Leaders are taking actions and initiating changes that will improve their businesses, not just during difficult circumstances, but into the post-pandemic future. Here are six amazing, effective actions leaders are taking right now:
- Building Closer Connections: Leaders are maintaining and enhancing connections in the workplace at a time when most people are working remotely, and usually alone. Online meetings and phone calls contain more immediate, in-the moment conversations about feelings, priorities, and actions, which helps employees feel connected, often more so than before the pandemic hit. Discussions about what is happening for people right now, today, are the most powerful conversations. The question “how are you?” is sincere, and more important than ever. With closer connections, teams are much more connected and clearer about their purpose. Leadership is also more visible: it is clearer what a leader stands for, what they’ve got, and how they react to a pivotal moment. These connections are setting fertile groundwork for a future beyond this crisis.
- Risk Taking: Leaders feel that the time is now. Many who who were cautious before are jumping in and trying new things. (For an extreme example, consider the fast-track development of vaccines). I’m seeing more innovation and faster progress on new ideas. That’s very cool to watch. I also notice risk-taking in how leaders are showing up in meetings. I’ve observed leaders feeling less hesitant to say something on their mind, or share an idea, because they feel less concern about what others will think. They tell me they are noticing results from speaking up like this, and are enjoying the experience.
- Reflecting: Some leaders have more time to reflect. These leaders may have reluctantly slowed their pace, but in doing so are recognizing new efficiencies and thinking of new ideas–developments that can lead to faster progress in the future. Pauses to reflect in times like these can also help develop our own leadership, allowing us the ability to learn about who we are, what we stand for, and what we are made of. Ultimately, this will help us define how we want to show up, and do it with more clarity.
- Demonstrating Care: Did you always mean to show your gratitude and appreciation for an employee, colleague or boss, at some later date? Right now, many of you are showing that appreciation with a lot of heart. Leaders are also showing more empathy. There’s a human need to protect and care, and people are feeling more of a need to come together and share that. As a result, leaders are leaning in more than ever to their work. If one foot was out at work, it’s now in, and if both feet were in before they are really in now. I believe more demonstrated care is going to lead to more engagement, and better business results.
- Sharpening Goals: Keeping employees clear on goals and priorities is often the number one challenge. Not anymore. Right now, the top goal is to keep people safe and healthy, and other priorities have shifted accordingly. Crystal-clear goals and priorities are much easier to rally around, and this is a great lesson for us all to take into the future. A compelling sense of purpose can create excitement, even euphoria. How can we all shoot for that sense of camaraderie and shared purpose in the future, when the goals don’t feel as obvious as lives or businesses on the line?
- Finding Meaning: I have observed that this action is emerging for individuals right now. Now that people are clear about the important goals of safety and survival, many are starting to long for a deeper sense of purpose. Not everyone can return to the goals and aspirations we had before the pandemic, but without growth and personal goals we can become uninspired and even stagnant. This emerging need is a call for leaders to look inward and remember what gives them meaning, and use that guidance to set goals for growth beyond safety and survival. If each leader could work on a stretch goal for the year, that would create guidance within organizations. This is also a call for leaders to show up with direct reports to offer empathy and express a desire to help employees continue working towards their aspirations.
I believe carrying these six actions into the future will strengthen organizations and businesses for years to come.