Rapid Change Demands Frequent Reassessment

What’s working today may need to change tomorrow
With work and home life reinvented nearly daily during COVID-19, the top priorities you laid out for your team yesterday may not even apply today. And what your boss once most relied on you to do may bear little resemblance to what she needs now. In an environment of rapid change and uncertainty, successful leaders reassess frequently to determine how changing circumstances demand new responses.
 
The world of lean startups, where young companies strive to rapidly determine if a business concept or product is viable and use early results to quickly adjust, is a great source of inspiration for navigating today’s hyper-fluid business environment. The approach relies on a model of build-measure-learn where new ideas are quickly developed into a minimally viable product that can be rigorously tested and early learnings used to drive the next iteration.
 
Speaking in a recent webinar on Leadership During COVID 19 hosted by Nation’s Restaurant News, Michael Osanloo, CEO of Chicago-based Portillo’s, echoed a similar sentiment. He said the thing he most hopes to take away from the crisis is the ability to pivot and execute quickly. “Don’t be afraid to change your mind when you have new facts,” he said.
 
Consider these ways of working and leading that are especially well suited to the times.
 
Work short term but remember the long game
The pandemic combines the upheaval of immediate crisis with the strain of long-term disruption. Huge fires arise everyday that have to be addressed, such as how to safely and effectively re-open restaurants that face different guidelines in all 50 states and around the world. Still, while working through the ramifications of such challenges, a guiding vision that defines over-arching goals is critical to long-term success.
 
Empower the team
The shift to remote work immediately created the need for team members to function with greater autonomy and managers to focus on results more than process. “Leaders who focus on building trust, flexibility and resilience into an adaptable workforce culture are helping their employees be the best version of themselves,” according to a COVID 19 Action Guide created by the IBM Institute for Business Value. Help employees focus on what they can actually control and then allow them to take charge. Consider expanding your capabilities as well through online learning via WFF Connect.
 
Position change as the constant
The ways in which we used to see the workplace as dynamic can seem almost quaint today as pandemic-fueled disruption goes well beyond national borders and industry categories, and settles in for the long haul.  As you craft strategies to address new challenges, remind yourself and your team that there is no such thing as normal right around the corner. People tend to handle change better when they know to expect it and not hope for a magical return to the status quo.
 
Reward the required skill sets
The skills that serve team members well during business as usual are likely very different from those you need now, and that your manager needs from you. Highlight and reward the capabilities you want to encourage — such as flexibility, initiative, tolerance for risk, an ability to handle uncertainty and agility in adapting to changing demands and new opportunities.
 
Think, work, and be unconventional
If ever there were a time for imagination and creativity, this is it. Create a safe environment for team members to push boundaries and innovate new ways of delivering value to customers. New products, services and revenue streams are often discovered in the gaps between what you do now and what you could do in the future.  Consider Nintendo that actually started out selling dominoes and has figured out how to sell fun for more than 100 years.
 
Err on the side of over-communication
It can get a bit exhausting constantly sharing, updating and clarifying up, down and across the organization. But the time you invest in communicating (even when all you can share is that no further updates are available) is likely to drive high returns. Remember that a key part of effective communication is listening. Giving employees the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions can decrease stress, increase engagement and better position them to be effective contributors at work and at home.
 
“When people feel that somebody actually cares about them as a human being, they will be inspired,” shared author and leadership expert Simon Sinek during a CNBC interview.
 
Keep yourself well informed as well by digesting company alerts and monitoring reliable sources of pandemic information, such as the Daily Situation Report from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Leaders who can mimic the lean startup approach of build-measure-learn will increase their likelihood of finding new ways to contribute in a world where the rules change daily.

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