Now that the lockdown is easing and more and more companies can start trading, many are hoping things will return to a form of "normal". The harsh reality is that this will not happen, apart from the obvious elements of social distancing, masking up, temperature checks and all the other regulations, there are other elements to consider.
Many people will be returning to their workplace to be greeted by a smaller staff compliment. Some will have to take on additional roles as a result. Some business may have had to change their processes and ways of working. The impact of all these changes will determine what kind of leader you are and how you motivate your teams?
During the COVID-19 lockdown, personally, I’ve experienced a mix of improved service levels in some organisations while on the opposite end of the scale terrible service in others. The agile businesses leaders who were able to act quickly and switch to a remote working environment to maintain customer service levels will be the organisations who will see growth in loyalty coming from their customer base. Did so many people have to lose their jobs as a result of COVID-19 lockdown? I question whether this was the case.
Often as leaders and business owners, we do not fulfil our roles of giving feedback to our teams and clearly defining our Vision, our short and long term objectives or even discussing the expectations of our teams. As a result, I think many organisations have used this as an opportunity to clear out dead wood, to do that planned restructure they have been delaying for some time.
Apart from the apparent low morale in teams right now, the remaining staff may be fearful of their future. We all know or should know that unmanaged change can be a downfall of your success. How can leaders turn this period into an opportunity to win the loyalty of your staff and customers?
It is vitally important that you tell both your team and your customers what is happening in your business right now. A customer having dealt with someone for 15 years now being moved to a new contact can harm your business. Yes, no one is indispensable, however, relationships build a business.
2. Share your Vision
Let people know what your plans are for the next six months, and beyond. Will your way of working change? In most cases, I am sure it will. How will this impact your teams? How will this affect your customers?
3. Show Empathy and support
Not only has your business been through changes, but those businesses around you have too. What does this mean for you and your team? You need to be understanding and find ways of marginalising this impact on your operations. You may have to plan a little further in advance, wait a bit longer. You may have to deal with different ways of communicating and forming new relationships too. Don't dismiss people’s fears around the future and their concern for those most impacted by the changes that have taken place.
4. Follow Socrates triple filter test
Gossip and insecurities often come with unmanaged changes. It is your role as a leader or business owner to dispel any form of "gossip" about staff who have left your business and made changes. Always ask, "Is what you are going to tell me something true, good or useful, and if not, then why are you telling me at all?"
5. Be positive
Although it is ok to show your vulnerability with regards to the circumstances we now found ourselves in, it is essential for you as a leader to set the tone. Don't dismiss peoples fears around the future and listen to what they have to say. As a strong leader, you should be able to switch any negative sentiments into a positive outlook. Practice this in your dealings with others and encourage your team to follow.
The path ahead may not look familiar to many, and there may be many boulders to cross. However, with great leadership not only will you be able to overcome the impacts of lockdown on your organisation. This period is an excellent opportunity to engage followers and garner support from your teams.
This may be the right time to grab the helping hand of a coach.
"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." ― Rob Siltanen