Why do you need to stay relevant? What makes it important for business leaders to stay relevant, especially in times of crisis?
Well, the current COVID-19 situation is very telling about the times that we live in. While many businesses have been moving towards becoming more active online and using technology-backed tools to be more agile, this COVID-19 situation has really pushed companies to literally switch how they work within weeks, even days. Businesses that were not able and ready to make this switch have suffered tremendously during this period.
But at the same time, some businesses have made the transition quite smoothly and have been able to keep the business running remotely with employees working from home. This has been possible not only because of their use of technology-backed tools but also because of their ability to rejig their operating model quickly. More importantly, this has been possible because of the leaders at the helm.
In this post, I will share four specific steps for you to take to innovate your way out of this crisis. So, read on!
COVID-19 is a test case for leadership. While the leader’s primary responsibility is to keep the team safe, cohesive, and productive, what should the leader be focused on in the midst of a global disruption like this? I believe that every crisis is an opportunity for innovation. Crises present us with unique conditions that allow innovators to think and move more freely to create rapid, impactful change.
We are seeing this already playing out. Around the world, beermakers and distilleries have shifted production to hand sanitizers. In Italy, a start-up engineering company began quickly using 3D printers to create the valves used in ventilators. Fashion businesses are producing protective gear, gowns, and other supplies for hospitals.
When we look back to this health crisis, I am sure we’ll see the impact it had on innovation in many sectors – be it medical devices, healthcare processes, manufacturing and supply chain innovations, collaboration techniques, education, and so on. Service businesses in particular are likely to see a lot of innovation in how services are created, packaged, and sold.
If you believe the world will go back to being what it was before the pandemic, I’m afraid you are sadly mistaken. Once customers, businesses, and employees are exposed to a certain way of operating, it will be difficult for them to go back and work as if nothing changed. Actions taken during the crisis will shape how companies perform in the long run. Some companies may even continue to pursue opportunities first identified during the crisis.
A very important point to remember is that reputations are built — and lost — during times of crisis. Companies that are demonstrating good citizenship by helping with shortages, or by making major donations, are probably hoping that consumers will remember their actions when the economy returns to normal.
Companies that treat their employees or customers badly during a crisis will face major challenges rebuilding when the storm has passed. Similarly, if leaders in business segments fail to lead the way in terms of innovation and customer service, it is inevitable that other competitors will emerge with better products or platforms.
Eventually, how a business responds to such vast and dislocating change depends on how the leader views the situation – as an opportunity or as a disaster.
So how have you and your company tried to innovate and adapt during this time of crisis? How are you trying to stay relevant in the market? In the next segment, I’m going to talk about some specific approaches that you can adopt to manage this crisis and opportunity for innovation.
So, we were talking about how important it is for leaders and businesses to reinvent and innovate during a crisis. But remember, rapid change is an ongoing process – not just linked to a crisis. Change emanates from changing customer expectation, entry of new players in the market, the introduction of new-age technology, socio-economic factors, new laws, and also changes in executive management or structural transformation of organizations. A crisis only accelerates the pace of change. So these approaches that I am going to share now are relevant, whether you are facing a crisis or not.
One of the key leadership challenges in day-to-day organizational life is inspiring engagement and generating momentum towards the goals of the organization. This becomes even more important in times of crisis as there is a big jump in the nervous energy present in the workforce. Leaders who can harness this energy and focus it on a clear purpose in resolving the crisis will be able to lead the team to success. They will be able to tap into a wave of new ideas, as individuals feel compelled to share insights, they normally would keep to themselves. They will be able to lead their team from fear to a clear shared goal. After all, courage is defined as the ability to overcome fear for a good purpose. In this way, a crisis has the potential to create the organizational courage to take action in support of a purpose that would be unthinkable in times of calm. Also, know that this constant effort to get the team aligned around a purpose will pay dividends even in normal times.
When organizations want to find opportunities to innovate, they usually bring in an external consultant to get an outside perspective and fresh ideas. A crisis can actually play that role very well because it brings to the fore the vulnerabilities and problem areas in the organization which may have been ignored earlier in the drive to keep growing the way things are. When a crisis hits, we are compelled to confront the truth about whether our systems work or not. They make us question our disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans. Being able to zoom out and see things for what they are can suddenly throw up opportunities for operating more efficiently or serve our customers better. A crisis is a good opportunity for you as the leader to give a hard look at why you do what you do and whether you do it in the best possible way.
Organizations, over time, tend to fall into a familiar and predictable way of operating. The very rules that help the organization become more efficient can keep it from evolving and responding rapidly to opportunities thrown up by change. A crisis changes all that. Companies are forced to do away with bureaucratic overheads of review and approval and allow for fresh thinking to be applied quickly to address the challenge. So, how are you responding to this crisis? Are you still trying to stick to the old and familiar ways of taking decisions? If yes, then, believe me, the organization is in for some rough times. What you need right now is for communication to move upwards and downwards and sideways without any barriers of hierarchy because through these communication channels, you get valuable inputs for your strategic decision-making.
A crisis brings with it a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. This can lead to a paralysis of action as leaders and team members grapple with their worries about losing out on things that have been important to them thus far. But dealing with a crisis demands movement and change – the pace of ideation, decision making, and implementation all increase dramatically. If a leader gets trapped in focusing on how to protect what they have rather than identifying what opportunities the crisis is throwing up, they will remain stuck in the present – or an analysis paralysis situation. On the other hand, if leaders choose to focus on quickly creating experiments, seeing what happens, and experimenting some more, they will encourage the freedom to test different thinking, to fail fast, to learn, and to move forward – in short, to innovate.
So there you have it – four approaches to help you innovate and stay relevant despite a crisis. These are
#1 Align around a Purpose
#2 See Systems from Outside In
#3 Shake Up the Organization
#4 Create a Bias for Action
Times of crisis present incredible opportunities for learning and growth. It is a time for experimenting with new technologies and approaches to operating your business. We don’t know how long this coronavirus crisis will continue for or how it will impact our economies and businesses but if we use it wisely as an opportunity for innovating, for learning and growing, we will come out on the other side stronger and more agile.
We've all been there: you invest in a leadership training program and hope to see the promised results. But, months later, nothing has changed. Meanwhile, your team is still struggling with communication and collaboration issues.
Did you know that only 50% of leadership training programs yield the desired results? That's a pretty startling statistic, and one that should serve as a wake-up call to any company looking for increased productivity, better employee engagement, and reduced turnover. The reason is simple: Leadership development programs don't always deliver the ROI they promise because they're often designed in isolation from your organization's specific needs.
We all know that leadership training programs are not a one-and-done deal. They require continual reinforcement and upkeep to be effective. But why do they fail in the first place?
It's not just you, it's pretty much everyone else too. Leadership training programs have traditionally failed because of a few key factors. In this blog post, we will share all that can go wrong so that you can create more effective leadership programs by focusing on what matters most to your business. This way, when it comes time for evaluation at the end of your program, you'll know whether or not it was worth investing in.
Factors that contribute to the failure of leadership development programs
If the system does not change, it will set people up to fail. Research in the 1950s found that most supervisors regressed to their pre-training views after a while. The only exceptions were those whose bosses practised and believed in the new leadership style the program was designed to teach.
Training programs do not facilitate organizational change. Even well-trained and motivated employees are unable to apply their new knowledge and skills when they return to their units which are entrenched in established ways of doing things. In short, individuals have less power to change the system surrounding them than that system has to shape them. Organizations need “fertile soil” in place before the “seeds” of training interventions can grow.
When organizational change and development efforts are championed by senior leaders then training gains the most traction. That’s because such efforts motivate people to learn and change; create the conditions for them to apply what they’ve learned; foster immediate improvements in individual and organizational effectiveness; and put in place systems that help sustain the learning.
Organizations are systems of interacting elements: Roles, responsibilities, and relationships are defined by organizational structure, processes, leadership styles, people’s professional and cultural backgrounds, and HR policies and practices. All those elements together drive organizational behaviour and performance. If the system does not change, it will not support and sustain individual behaviour change—indeed, it will set people up to fail.
The effectiveness of any manager depends on the clear strategic direction that they have from the top management. Many companies consistently struggle with unclear direction on strategy and values, which often leads to conflicting priorities. This creates confusion and dissipation of valuable resources. When senior executives themselves don’t work as a team and are not fully committed to a new direction or acknowledged necessary changes in their behaviour, it is quite difficult to expect the rest of the managerial team to be able to deliver effectively. The problem then is more about the incongruence between what they learn in the training program and what they see on the ground in their organisation.
Sometimes a top-down or laissez-faire style by the leader prevents honest conversation about problems. Employees hesitate to tell the senior team about obstacles to the organization’s effectiveness. This, coupled with a lack of coordination across businesses, functions, or regions due to poor organizational design and inadequate leadership time and attention to talent issues can create an environment where performance will be hindered, no matter how good the training program is.
Hence while developing leadership programs, it is important to start at the top, ideally through a coaching intervention. Coaching of the senior executives will help bring clarity on the strategic direction and values. This can then be cascaded down to the next few layers through group coaching and training.
By addressing management practices and leadership behaviour that shape the system before training individual employees, leaders create a favourable context for applying the learning. The systemic changes encourage—even require—the desired behaviours.
Too many training initiatives rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organizational culture, or CEO mandate.
Context is key. One size does not fit all. Many organizations invest in off-the-shelf programs or send their managers to academic leadership courses offered by well-respected universities without considering the real impact and results they are looking for. While these can be great for the individuals in terms of their personal brand building, it does not serve the purpose for the organization. Companies need to ask themselves what the desired outcome is and how a program will relate to specific organizational goals.
Often, leadership training programs are offered as a one-and-done approach. In other words, you attend a 2-day training and that is the last you hear of it. But while a one-and-done approach satisfies the need to do something, it ignores a critical fact: leadership behaviours and new habits are developed over time. Leadership development is all about creating good leadership habits. As we know habits cannot be changed just from attending a 2-day class.
Effective leadership development needs to be constructed as a learning journey that unfolds over time. But not only this—it should incorporate continuous coaching to help observe and reinforce good habits. It should also provide opportunities for skill practice and application. Nothing can replace on-the-job training and giving real-time feedback.
To ensure success for your team, combine professional development with coaching or mentoring sessions focused on practical application.
So, there you have it – some of the key reasons why your leadership training program may not be delivering the results you are hoping for.
Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behaviour which also means adjusting underlying mindsets. Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioural change—something that’s often missing in leadership courses.
Companies can avoid the most common mistakes in leadership training and increase the odds of success by first doing the groundwork of creating fertile soil for desired change, establishing clarity about strategic direction and values, matching specific leadership skills and traits to the context at hand; embedding leadership development in real work through coaching and mentoring interventions that investigate the mind-sets that underpin behaviour.
For designing effective leadership development programs in Singapore and India, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
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