“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” –Peter F. Drucker

In business today we are navigating uncharted waters.

Even the financial crisis of 2008 did not pose as many challenges for leaders as the current COVID 19 health crisis. With such a deep disruption to our work and our livelihoods, “keeping our heads above water” in the form of all the steps that must be taken to preserve one’s business, feels like our only possible course of action. This feeling is reinforced, by now having to figure out how to support employees through furloughs and layoffs.

Recognize the Opportunity

While these are daunting tasks to be sure, in all of this resides opportunities for improving our businesses as well. Keeping the company alive is the first priority. In the near term, it may well require all of your attention as a leader.

Moving forth, however, there will be a point where there is a space to look creatively into the future. Great challenges force us to consider our reality with a different lens. Imagining how one can navigate the reality of the COVID 19 crisis and leverage the disruption towards the improvement of their business will be the challenge for successful leaders in the coming months.

Improving Internal Capacity

When the horizon for our business is obscured by factors that feel out of our control, looking inward for improvement and efficiency can be a rewarding direction to focus one’s energies as a leader.

Examining the current systems and processes that are in place, with a critical eye toward improvement, often uncovers a number of possibilities for cost-savings, improved customer service, and overall efficiency.

Looking closely at the customer experience in a time of relatively slow business can provide the time for carefully examining each step in the process.

Taking time to compare the performance of internal teams and how well they work together toward common goals, has the potential to pay off handsomely by eliminating friction and redundancy in the future.

The lull in productivity can essentially be used to “re-tool” the internal systems with an eye toward ensuring that they “serve” the intended purpose and goals of the business.

A Team Effort

Enlisting the help of team members in a careful and focused manner to assist with the process of examining such systems can also provide benefits on many levels. Three key benefits include;

  1. Inclusion in the process of improvement sends a very clear message that the leadership of the company values the input and suggestions from its team members.
  2. The act of listening closely to those who perform the day-to-day tasks will grow the trust that the team has in their leadership.
  3. Focusing the efforts of the team in a time of crisis on the future productivity of the business also sends an important message. What team members hear is, “we are planning on being here when the crisis ends, better and more efficient than before”.

Moving Forward

In summation, these steps can inspire confidence and communicate hope in a very difficult time. Positioning one’s business well for the future is one of the primary roles of leadership.

Yet, what do we do with employees who are idled by the crisis? If there is an intent to preserve the connection with employees during furloughs or partial layoffs, one strong step that forward-looking companies take is to invest in professional development for their employees. Cross-training in certain skill areas, focusing specifically on the capacity of teams to work together, and making action plans for the recovery are all steps that leaders can consider for active and meaningful engagement of teams during downturns.

Framing this investment for our team members as “building their capacity to perform” is a very positive way that leaders can take positive action during a time when others may feel paralyzed.

These steps may not completely replace the work that the employees are losing while not serving customers or producing a product, but it will convey to team members that the company and the leadership care about them.

Sending a message of hope to team members, which is backed up by actions that demonstrate caring, is a step that will position your business well for when the crisis subsides.

To learn more about improving your organization’s systems and culture, read more of our blogs here!