All over the world, business leaders are re-building their vision of the future and navigating a rapidly changing social and economic landscape. Strong leadership is needed to move out of the economic shut-down towards surviving and thriving going forward. Leaders that expect their business to return to what was normal before COVID-19 will struggle to survive. Organizations that choose their top priorities carefully, adapt quickly to innovate, and evolve their operations will be positioned to succeed in the new normal. Executives and managers can focus on three critical factors to move out of survival mode and towards a successful future.
Putting People First
In a recent 3-day virtual leadership summit, Reimagine Your Tomorrow hosted by Crestcom International, talent recruitment and retainment expert Kathleen Quinn Votaw, spoke to attendees about the importance of putting people first, both customers and employees. Leaders need to be emotionally available to their teams and able to have hard conversations. She reminded participants that the number one reason people choose to leave or stay with an organization is if they are appreciated and feel seen.
Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last, says, “Empathy is about being concerned about the human being and not just about their output.” Leaders can create a healthy culture by demonstrating real empathy and finding ways to support their teams through this challenging time. Workplaces can offer flexible schedules to staff and provide the technology needed to work more efficiently from home. Or, if they must work in person, businesses must ensure their workers feel as safe as possible and have the safety equipment they need.
Making employee well-being a top priority is vital to creating a culture where teams can thrive. Great leaders focus on clear and effective communication that gives their people the clarity and guidelines they need to make decisions and keep operations running smoothly. Effective leaders are clear about their purpose and mission and communicate it clearly and frequently to their teams. When employees are clear about the greater meaning behind their work, they will have the confidence to perform at their best.
Caring for Customers
Most people would agree that customer service has always been a top priority for businesses. However, providing value and service looks a lot different now than it did a few months ago. Companies must focus on the safety and well-being of their clientele, which means they will need to be agile and innovative to continue to be successful. Many companies have found ways to provide additional value to customers during the pandemic to help and support them through this global crisis. Some are offering flexible payment plans, adjusting the themes of their advertising to promote public health, or providing hard to find items like hand sanitizer, face masks, and disinfecting wipes along with their existing products.
Now more than ever, companies need to find ways to show they care about their customers as people. Best-selling author, business expert, and Crestcom Faculty member, Steve Farber, explains in his book, Love is Just Good Business, “when we do what we love in the service of people, those people feel cared for and valued – because they are cared for and valued. I’m talking about service that communicates a much deeper message, one that says, I genuinely care for you as a human being.” Maintaining positive and genuine relationships with clients will have long-term benefits for any company. Staying in touch with existing clients, even when they are not spending as much, is vital for future business. Retaining existing customers and creating goodwill in the greater community will help organizations continue to grow in the future.
Keep Learning and Growing
The third priority for leaders today is to prepare themselves and their teams for what comes next. As John F. Kennedy once wrote, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Managers will need the right skills to lead effectively in the face of unprecedented challenges and rapid change. Organizations must ensure their teams have the education and experience they will need to grow the business going forward. Now is the time to invest in learning and development to strengthen skills like crisis management, decision-making, accountability, open and effective communication, productivity and efficiency, and responsive problem-solving. CEOs and executives that focus on developing their employees will benefit from increased employee engagement and productivity and will be well-positioned to face the economic challenges ahead.