When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and persisted, many businesses were taught a lesson in resilience. The pandemic uprooted short-term and long-term plans. Organizations ran into completely unexpected conflicts. In this environment, the leaders of these organizations needed to demonstrate resilient leadership. Otherwise, ineffectual responses to the crises would lead to breakdowns in human capital, structural cohesion, and even social responsibility.
Resiliency in leadership is much easier said than done. Obviously, every leader understands the necessity of powering through organizational crises. If they didn’t understand it before, then the COVID-19 crisis definitely demonstrated it. However, how exactly does an individual integrate resilience into their leadership? In an equal vein, can leaders even achieve resilience six months into the global pandemic, with no real end in sight?
Our team at Wing has developed five key tips for you to begin establishing a culture of resilience within your organization. Through the implementation of these steps, you may be able to hold together your talent, structure, and ecosystem in light of COVID.
- Acknowledge Uncertainty with Your Team
- Engage in and Model Courageous Conversations
- Be Open to Altering your Business Model
- Value Trust
Acknowledge Uncertainty with Your Team
It’s no secret that your team members are feeling uncertain about the future. The pandemic has caused uprooted any individual’s life to varying degrees, and leaders have to understand and acknowledge this. As a leader, you’ll have to comprehend the myriad challenges that has caused team members’ ambiguous plans for the future.
Without acknowledging this loss of familiarity, leaders will not be able to extract the most efficiency out of their talent. Team members, especially at this point in time, need to feel supported in a season of loss. If an organization wants to remain resilient in the face of external adversity, then they must instill that same resiliency within their team through support.
How exactly does a leader acknowledge and bridge across uncertainty? Besides ambiguity in the future, many individuals are confronted with extremely toxic stress. Leaders have to realize that they are not just curing uncertainty but also curbing this stress.
Immediately, the first step is transparency and empathy. Leaders need to have a closer relationship with their team, now more than ever. This can be achieved through establishing one-on-one conversations and team huddles that engender intimacy despite a virtual system. For more tips on how to communicate clear support for your virtual team members, check our article on it here.
However, transparency and empathy aren’t the only steps that a leader needs to take. Another step to implement is to establish clear expectations and lay out goals. This combats uncertainty by providing structure to the workplace in a time of ambiguity everywhere else. This structure can be a strong boon for alleviating the stress that comes from working life in a pandemic. It also allows for a feeling of accomplishment by the team members. If they can definitely see an endpoint, they can also declare success in their projects when they reach that point.
This is the first group of steps to achieving a resilient body of talent. With these measures in place, along with the overarching value of empathy, organizations are prepared to further tackle other steps which may instill resilience within operational facets of the team.
Engage in and Model Courageous Conversations
Resilient leadership doesn’t just require an empathetic organization, but it also requires a courageous one. Many companies and teams are seeing diminishing returns, which in turn has led to much hesitancy in decision-making. Systems of feedback, normally delivered in person, has broken down as well. In the same vein, it just seems like much more of a hassle to communicate negative information virtually.
However, in these uncertain times, leaders have to continue to be extremely courageous. Even with incomplete information, one must value speed and bravery in operations. This relates to the previous point of uncertainty. This tip, however, emphasizes the leader’s ability to deal with internal uncertainty. Courageously moving forward with uncertain information is a necessity in this time of constant concern and caution.
By bold leadership, I mean the willingness to make hard decisions and to communicate them. Delivering truthful messages and feedback is more important than ever for a resilient organization, and it is important for leaders to both give and receive honest communication.
Consequently, there are some steps leaders can take to move forward with this concept. Firstly, leaders have to be open to addressing head-on the difficult conversations about layoffs and company performance. Obviously, negative news can be incredibly unpopular, which means many leaders in the pandemic have been cautious about broaching the subject publicly. However, being able to communicate these negatives effectively and in a forthright manner is important for resilient leadership. It takes courage, but it subsequently builds greater trust within your team.
Conversely, it is equally important for leaders to be open to feedback. If you want your organization to remain open to adversity, then you have to model these difficult conversations. Repeatedly ask your team for feedback and loop them into conversations where they can be critical of you. It may seem painful, but it is courageous, and promotes greater resilient leadership.
Be Open to Altering Your Business Model
This tip is tied in with the previous tip of being courageous, but is more geared towards the organizational outcome. Especially for businesses, playing offense within the pandemic is important for company success coming out of the pandemic.
COVID-19 has unequivocally upheaved many businesses. In response, many individuals are desperately clinging to old directions, waiting to “brave the storm” and to eventually return to a sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, this has proven so far to be a fool’s errand, as the pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it has irrevocably changed quite a bit, business processes among them.
Consequently, leaders have to be more flexible than ever if they wish to achieve organizational success. Virtual work, for example, is becoming more and more normalized. Is there any aspect of virtual work that has actually proven more effective in these times, and is there a way to keep that around even after the pandemic? If that’s the case, what cloud or digital technologies will be necessary for these changes? What virtual talent management systems will need to be set up? These questions are important to ask because they allow resilient leaders to steer the company towards a more accurate business model.
Another possibility? Altering the way your team is organized, especially around tech. COVID has definitely caused breakdowns in silos, and has allowed AI and technology to fill in gaps in cross-functional teams. Are you noticing these trends and moving forward with AI-human hybridity as an emphasis?
These questions and changes demonstrate resilient leadership, as the heads of these organizations are not sitting back and instead are actively using this crisis to learn and evolve.
According to Deloitte’s Consulting branch (as well as common sense), trust is the currency of resilient leadership. Greater trust among communities and organizations builds stronger responses to crises. This is no secret, and consequently, it is important for businesses especially to value trust both among their workforce and the general ecosystem they revolve around.
Why is trust important right now, especially within external circles? Recent research shows 62% of customers who “highly trust” a brand buy almost exclusively from that brand. This is heightened by pandemic tensions, when individuals are much more prone to falling back to comfortable decisions. This means that it is a perfect time to establish further trust with clients and stakeholders, which can be leveraged for stronger performance.
Of course, trust on the internal end is important too. Employees who trust their employer are much less likely to leave the job and much more likely to approach leadership with feedback and concerns. And, as mentioned earlier, this feedback is important for courageous conversations that lead into resiliency for the entire organization.
The best way to establish trust outwardly is to continue to support social causes and communicate external influence platforms. Obviously, your organization has internal issues to deal with and prioritize. However, keeping open communication and constant support with stakeholders is incredibly important as well. In fact, I would say that building this currency of trust is the most important external step of resilient leadership, as it affects not just your organization but everything your organization touches in its ecosystem.