Leading Forward: Unexpected Silver Linings of COVID-19

Since February we’ve all stayed close to the news and today we continue to learn of the various effects the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has had. There’s no doubt of the impact it’s had in our lives, and even in the way we will consider our day-to-day activities and habits moving forward, but the impact on business has not been all negative. I believe that COVID-19 and the mandated transition to a work-from-home environment has had some unexpected positive upsides that leaders should pay attention to and cultivate as we navigate our paths forward.

Over the past three months, I’ve observed several consistent transformations occur within businesses that actually can have a positive effect on organizations. Think about your experience over the past few months:

  • We shifted to a wartime mindset: As the pandemic hit, corporate, organizational, and individual mindsets, attitudes, and objectives instantly aligned to reevaluate the workplace from a healthy perspective. We found everyone from CEO to part-time interns discussing new business concepts, delivery methods, process innovations, and even business model and role efficiencies. We set priorities as a military unit would shifting from a peacetime to a wartime mission. We led by focusing on the health and equipping of our people, then sustaining our business, all while maintaining our focus on accomplishing the mission at hand.
  • There has been a near flawless implementation of technology: Almost overnight, we experienced close to 100% adoption of remote working platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and RingCentral. The pandemic accelerated us beyond the painstaking typical corporate process of assessing, selecting, implementing, and onboarding new platforms and applications. In addition to experiencing the basic use of new technology, we’re experiencing the use of these communication platforms to transform how we serve clients and effectively run our businesses.
  • Individuals and organizations have a new-found discipline in time and priority management: While some still haven’t realized it, there has been a wholesale shift in how we look at our calendars and set our priorities. We’ve been forced to be more proactive in planning and scheduling and, as a result, we’re reevaluating and shifting priorities across our organizations.
  • A culture of innovation is being nurtured: With so many variables now in play, companies are breaking out of their historical mindsets and models and asking for input. Many of the changes we’ve witnessed in our businesses were not initiated by a person in a formal leadership role. Rather, many individual producers have provided new ideas for how to stay safe, transform operations, and how to provide world-class service to our customers. More importantly, leaders are encouraging input from their teams and harnessing the strength of an innovative culture that extends through the ranks.

Now It’s up to the Leader -Let’s Lead!

These silver linings have become transformative, but the setting is already starting to change as we attempt to normalize our operations. If we don’t harness the strengths of these positive effects, we risk losing them all.

It’s now up to us as leaders to lead. While a charismatic autocratic leader may lead forward with positive results championing these effects, I believe that leader will not be able to sustain the underlying unity of the team. These silver linings resulted from changes within each and every individual. Each of us individually aligned our attitudes, mindset, and objectives in response to a common threat. Consequently, we’ve been unified to work toward helping our organizations survive and deliver for our customers. As we perceive the common threat diminish, leaders whose actions demonstrate how they value their teams will transform the unity their teams once had from fear of a common threat to a new unity based on a common bond. Servant leaders, who lead through their actions, serving the needs of their teams, will be able to sustain the positive effects we’ve experienced over the past months.

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