Because of the pandemic, concepts like “remote worker” went from being experimental for many organizations to the new normal all at once. Leaders have to move even faster to remain impactful and relevant. The only way forward is to bring an engaged, committed, and energized team along with you as events unfold. This requires continuous, transparent, and open communication. ABC, always be communicating. All the time. The team has to know what’s going on in the world around them, what their leader is thinking, how the organization needs to change, what “experts” are saying about those changes, and more.
1. Vision is more critical than ever.
A powerful vision keeps people focused on achieving the goal, and the responsibility of the leader is to involve the entire team, communicating the vision both internally and externally. It is a team effort but led by one person or a tight group. The vision answers these questions:
- What business will we be in and who will be our ideal customer?
- How must our culture adapt, and do we have the right people to get there?
- What will be our biggest challenges, and how do we prepare our people?
- How must the organization change over the next 6 to18 months?
- How will we measure and monitor progress and be ready to change direction?
- What will it take to fire up people to act?
2. People are the organization.
During times like these, leaders depend on engaged and driven people to run with an idea and make it happen. It is time to invest more coaching and mentorship into those people and cut loose those who do not fit the new culture you need to build. This is no time to be carrying the dead weight of mediocre performers.
3. Everyone participates in the planning.
Each team member has different experiences and biases, but they all share a drive to improve the organization, and they need to be heard. We have specific ways to get everyone involved by sharing all the things they have heard, thought about, and discussed with their colleagues—but this is no longer a nice-to-have. This is how post-2020 organizations will survive and grow.
4. Foster a bias for action.
The STM sign-off, get on with it, reminds us we must finish planning and start doing, so as not slip into analysis paralysis. With things changing so fast, it’s important not to be stuck with old solutions. Zoom is a perfect example—it’s far from perfect, but it’s easy to use and has become the household name for online meetings. Soon this may be the old solution and your IT department may already be experimenting with the next big thing.
5. Focus on continuous improvement.
We are struck by the fact that old ideas are new again. One new old idea is that teams are not casually created by renaming a department or sprinkling references to ‘teams’ throughout the website. It takes leadership, training, and focused effort to build a team and gain the synergistic energy of teamwork. Leaders with deep experience running successful teams, overcoming unsuccessful projects, motivating teams, struggling with teams, and using different leadership philosophies—share your knowledge! Share the learning!
6. Be Optimistic.
One of STM’s first blogs, “Going Back to Zero,” covers a concept we learned in the 1980’s while teaching Total Quality Management: An external force like COVID-19 returns everyone to the starting line. Whether flying high or floundering at the start of 2020, it’s a new world, and we all get a second chance to get things right.
Effective leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and need to recognize this quality in people they add to their teams. The next 36 months are going to be full of ups, downs, opportunities, and challenges to the best laid plans. If you have a team of engaged and energized people around you, they will meet those challenges and turn them into opportunities.