I know I am not the first and I will certainly not be the last to say, “Holy crap, where is the 2020 reset button!” For me personally, it has required packing cars to be ready to evacuate from bush fires; then getting the gumboots out because of floods and now, as I write this article in isolation, COVID-19 has arrived. I could say, “What’s next!” But I am not sure I want to think that far ahead. Our world as we know it will continue to change because of these events. The one thing I am personally sure of is that we will come out the other side with new learnings, experiences and, of course, optimism. The Winston Churchill quote, “When you are going through hell: keep going,” somewhat resonates at the moment.
The other thing that resonates with me is that we will need strong leadership to navigate through these challenging times and when we begin to reshape our future. I believe our current situation should be used to our advantage to do some soul searching; challenge our current position and plan our future. To do this, you need to take a positive position and mindset to think through three phases:
According to the dictionary, reset means ‘to adjust or set something, so that it is ready to work again or ready to perform a particular function.’ Now is our time to mentally and physically reset ourselves and our teams in preparation for changing the way we approach our markets and/or the way we provide products or services to that market. To do this, we may also need new skills.
If we need to do things differently, I am sure we will need some new skills. We need to look at ourselves and our teams and define what new skills we may need. Ask yourself; “Do I need to do anything different as a leader?” “What new skills will my team need to be successful?” In a leadership training course that I completed recently with the Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML), previously known as the Australian Institute of Management (AIM), three pillars were used to describe their approach:
- Manage Self
- Lead the Business
- Lead Others
We can re-invent our approach through innovation, change management and continuous improvement. In the current environment, nothing should be off the table. Now is definitely the right time to change; all you need to do is identify what you want to change and get on with it. Is it a new product, service, delivery method or something that has been forced upon us that has made us think differently? For me, it will be to redesign and roll out digital sales training which will be far more cost effective and efficient for my customers moving forward.
Many of you will have heard me say that ‘leadership is ownership’ and we must own the outcomes of our decisions and the execution of same. In challenging times, you must have critical communication on what you are trying to achieve out of doing things differently and why you are doing them. What is critical communication? Put simply, it is communicating early and often with accurate, concise and deliberate information – challenging yourself to think, “How will the message be received by the team?” “Does it tell them ‘why’ we are going down an unfamiliar path?” If you do not know the answer to a question, don’t lie. Tell the team you do not know, but will endeavour to find out.
The other thing that is critical during times of uneasiness or when travelling through the unknown is to be flexible and give your team your time. I am very sure that even though many of us are working remotely, we still want to feel part of a team and be responsible for the results and achievements within the business. Having profiled over 600 sales individuals over the last 12 years, I can tell you that given the nature of their role, salespeople dislike being alone or isolated. It is not normally in our DNA and we enjoy the social interaction. So, as a leader, giving your team more of your time may come at a productivity cost for you, but it will deliver the humility and empathy that is required to keep things focussed on your common outcomes. I am, of course, assuming that we will still be in some form of isolation when this is published or that we will be getting things going again.
The last aspect of leadership through uncertain times is maintaining and driving greater resilience. We may go through unexpected setbacks or disappointments, however we need to be able to handle these with the appropriate tools and conduct ourselves in the right manner. For those of you who have not seen the video clip of Neale Daniher’s ‘Life is Tough’ that is being shared around social media, I would highly recommend you take the five minutes it runs for to put things in perspective (link to video below). Some tools you can use to build resilience within your teams include:
- Create a conversation that digs deep and focusses on and celebrates the wins.
- Develop the attitude that it is okay to fail, providing we learn and continue to develop ourselves.
- Focus on the positives and practice gratitude for the good things in our lives.
- Help bring the team back to the tasks at hand, reminding them they have a purpose and support them.
- When your team feels unsupported, they may feel stressed, but your support will ease that tension.
Lastly, at whatever stage of COVID-19 we are at when you read this article, remember we have a lot to be grateful for and that if we are not on the rebound now, we will be soon. Take care, stay safe, push hard and great things will happen.