Being a leader means accepting and confronting challenges. Regardless of their origins, what matters most is how you respond to them.

The coronavirus pandemic challenges all of us. Simply knowing that the pandemic exists doesn’t help business leaders know what consequences they’ll face in the workplace. But, knowing the everyday challenges that have been with us long before COVID-19 can help you thrive as you overcome them.

Challenge 1: The Changing Workplace

The workplace paradigm we’ve used for the past 70+ years is transforming before our eyes. For most people, going to work used to mean getting in your car, driving to your workplace, and spending the allotted time at your desk doing your job. 

That dynamic is no longer true today, yet its replacement seems familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. You might think you know what to expect, but you have to be there to know what it’s really like. 

We have all had the experience of jumping into the swimming pool and being shocked at first by the relative chill. Then your body adjusted to the temperature change after a short while. And then you remember that cooling off was the reason you went to the pool in the first place.  Then you started to play — not shiver — in the water.

What initially seemed like a bad idea soon became preferable. So it goes with remote work: there is no way to avoid taking the plunge. One you’ve accepted that things have changed you can move on to addressing the other challenges.

Challenge 2: Remote Team Building

The primary challenge for leadership remains team-building. You as a leader have to make the effort to ensure that workplace relationships are in good shape, even for remote employees.  You also have to verify that the right systems are in place for them, systems that serve the purpose of your organization. 

Turning employees into partners begins with empowering teams.  That empowerment starts when you actively seek to understand the problems they face.

Empowerment is the direct result of your commitment to the company values you  establish and share. Those values  inform the way your staff deals with difficult issues — how they approach them, think about them, and include other people in the process.  

Remote work transforms the prevailing work paradigm. Team building in a remote environment can be accomplished by applying these values-driven principles: 

  • A results focus – Results can be independent of location and time spent. Seat time— being at work in the same place all day, every day — doesn’t mean anyone reaches their potential. Answering “present” at roll call in school doesn’t guarantee good grades. It takes focusing on the tasks in front of you.
  • Team empowerment – Teams are empowered when you engage the organization at every level. You get more and better results when you focus on effective interaction and engagement instead of exercising control and making commands.
  • Self-commitment – Leaders must adhere to norms and values to guide their interactions. 
  • Commitment to addressing problems – Your commitment to the company norms and values you’ve shared with your teams also informs the actions you take to overcome problems that occur in the workplace.

Challenge 3: The Desire to Avoid Challenges

Leaders always face the challenge of choosing between doing what is right, what is expedient, and what is easy. You may be inclined to think you merely want to get through the pandemic without confronting the likelihood you’ll have to adapt to an unfamiliar environment. Avoidance might be easy and expedient, but it isn’t leadership — it’s merely going through the motions.

True leaders must build capacity to reduce the severity of challenges and their impact on their organizations. The context in which your organization operates changes when the world around it changes. And change is constant. It was true before COVID-19 and will continue to be true. Your ability to lead becomes apparent with your ability to adapt to the changing context.

Challenge 4: Focus and Commitment

The challenges of being a leader today and in the future aren’t really fundamentally different than they were in a pre-COVID world. Your success depends on your ability to remain focused and committed to your values as the context around you changes. Combining values with the right systems and processes gives you the adaptability and flexibility to thrive even as more new challenges emerge. 

Leaders can adapt because they know who they are at their core. Aligning their processes is in their DNA. 

Learn how to create the culture change your business needs to excel by downloading our new workbook: The Innovative Leader’s Guide To Transforming Company Culture…Starting With Yourself