Leading In Challenging Times by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

As COVID-19 continues to be a major disruptor in most businesses around the world, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccination programs are occurring in most countries, even as new strains of the virus are sweeping through different regions.

In the first few months of 2020, leaders in all areas of life were talking about a “return to normal.” Now, after more than a year of lockdowns, business closures, social distancing, and work from home requirements, business leaders are talking about returning to a “new normal,” which is yet to be fully understood. Still, it will not be the old normal.

Leading the Way

Leaders today are still navigating very challenging times. There is the challenge of continuing to motivate employees, many of who are dealing with homeschooling of kids, health issues with loved ones, and losses due to the pandemic. There is also the challenge of trying to lead without having a clear understanding of what the new normal will look like. This can be unsettling to both leaders and the workforce, with everything feeling tentative and experimental rather than solid and secure.

There are ways that leaders can support employees and their companies even in times of confusion and chaos. Top leaders routinely implement these techniques into their management style and create workplaces that are supportive, caring, and also demonstrate a clear path and goal.

  • Develop and share plans – while long-term plans may be a challenge, setting specific goals and objectives on a weekly or monthly basis is important. When businesses have clearly defined and shared objectives, people see progress, have a sense of accomplishment, and have a clear direction of where the company is going.
  • Model transparency – it can be difficult as a leader not to know the answers. However, being transparent and providing information that is accurate, even if it means acknowledging the answer is not available, is more effective than trying to ignore a problem or issue.
  • Looking for opportunities – even in times of chaos and challenge, top leaders look for opportunities to expand their business and to move into new markets. People follow effective leadership that is making strides for a better future for the business.
  • Compassion – recognizing and acknowledging the challenge for both employees as well as customers and striving to address those challenges is also a sign of effective leadership. This is where a top leader is able to prioritize people over processes to develop a positive and supportive workplace culture.
  • Look for silver linings – without being false or Pollyanna, effective leaders are looking for changes brought about by COVID-19 that will help to structure the new business normal. Working from home, reducing travel by holding virtual meetings, and spending more time focusing on the human side of the business are all positives in many business environments.

The new normal may look very different for some businesses and companies. Leaders who work with their teams, obtain input and ideas, and listen to employees and customers are ideally positioned to effectively bring these positive changes to their business model.