As of today, COVID-19 has claimed thousands of lives across the world and its impact is seen in India as well. We are witnessing a rise in the number of cases in the country; in the backdrop, the government are taking every measure to contain the spread of the virus through a nationwide lockdown, taking necessary measures and emphasizing the increased testing of the novel coronavirus.
During these times, business leaders across industries are faced with a myriad of critical decisions to keep their workforce safe while ensuring business continuity. At the time of this unprecedented crisis, organizations that are playing a critical role in the supply of essential services have additional performance pressures under several constraints.
- The first important aspect leaders have almost worked overnight on; are new safety norms. With employee safety and health at the heart of every decision; new safety operating procedures have been implemented across organizations like temperature checks, health check-ins, modification of shop-floors and transport arrangements to ensure social distancing while keeping the privacy of employees in mind.
- Second, the resourcefulness of leaders has been to test as they have had to display ingenuity in ensuring demand for essential goods is met using minimum resources. Organizations have seen leaders adopting fresh approaches to manpower management in shifts and rosters; minimizing their manpower use in each shift.
- Third, there is a natural struggle and dilemmas in everyone’s minds when they leave their homes for work; and hence how leaders engage & communicate with employees in these times to act as ‘inspiring catalysts’ with empathy and transparency becomes critical. It is how leaders appeal to the hearts and minds of employees with honest communication and a fair approach to help them perform their duties despite these everyday struggles; which has proven to be the most decisive factor in these times.
- Fourth, as the situation is emerging, we are moving our focus from being collaborative to being boundaryless. We see leaders working together across functions and now even across organizations quite seamlessly to respond to the situation leveraging technology. This is bringing teams and organizations closer together to leverage collective wisdom all while respecting remote working and transcending the challenges that come with it. This boundaryless working has become a need of the hour to ensure all possible opportunities and threats are being mapped; and we adopt a flexible mindset based on authentic information and emerging everyday situations. In this kind of crisis situation where dealing with uncertainty has become the new normal, all leaders are going beyond functional boundaries to anticipate change, co-create a range of possible scenarios, and plan for the future; recognizing that some scenarios may not be applicable as the reality unfolds.
Going forward, having strong and agile response teams in place will be an important structural change that organizations will need to take. These response teams will comprise a diverse set of individuals and skill sets with common objectives; even if it means going beyond job description and comfort zones. These teams will need to be decisive and agile in their delivery of output with clear foresight on emerging trends and a hawk-eye on changing market behaviors.
We are just starting to see a new resilience in our way of work across teams; recognizing that the organization's survival in these uncertain times would be dependent on leaders who do not dwell much on yesterday's developments, but those who would continue to look ahead and plan for a more secure tomorrow. Planning for the worst scenarios but hoping for the best and staying optimistic - this would serve well as a new much-needed mindset for organizational leadership everywhere.
While the world debates the ‘new normal’ and we wait for the scenarios to naturally unfold in the health and the economic landscape; organizations must empower and prepare their leaders to successfully navigate what lies ahead.
Like Brian Tracy said “True test of leadership is their ability to successfully navigate a crisis” and we are witnessing the true test of leadership today.