Leadership in the time of COVID-19
Things were going as per the plan a few weeks back and each one of us was doing pre-planning for the coming quarters. Hell broke loose with the Covid-19 pandemic that took the entire world by surprise and suddenly the projections had little (or no) relevance. Business projections, F2F (face-to-face) client meetings, employee orientation programs, and many more things from the to-do list had to be put in a new ‘need-to-do’ list.
The Coronavirus has upended every aspect of the business, irrespective of the sector they operate in. Leaders in organizations are performing a macro & micro level audit of their operations and market to endure the COVID-19 storm.
Crisis moments create opportunity. Problems and crises ignite our greatest creativity and thought leadership as it forces us to focus on things outside the norm.
– Sam Cawthorn
Like any entrepreneur, my co-founders & I have also witnessed a significant number of challenges when we bootstrapped our business. This was way back in 2001, but the fundamentals of business still remain the same. The next level of growth was kickstarted with the launch of TekGeminus, an organization with deep-rooted expertise in the utility CIS (Customer Information Systems) and AMI (Automated Metering Infrastructure) implementations.
We have come across many ups & downs when running the organization and every experience helped us in bringing the best out of all the entrepreneurial leaders within the organization. With Covid-19, uncertainty has become an integral part of everyone’s lives and looks like that baggage will stay with us for the rest of 2020 (and perhaps the parts of 2021).
Employees across several industries are under a lot of stress and string of bad news with each passing day making matters worse for them. In times like these what leaders need to pull their socks up and adopt a more humane approach to their leadership. The worldwide crisis in business is due to a pandemic, which is completely different from the crisis in business witnessed due to a temporary slowdown, bad planning, wrong investment decision, or any other factor.
The stress and uncertainty caused due to Covid-19 are taking a toll on the mental health of the employees (Source) and many of these might be experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, etc. for the first time! It is important for leaders to be more transparent with their employees, vendors, and customers. This is time to unlearn the old way of doing things and learn the art of over-communicating with all the stakeholders connected to the organization.
Within TekGeminus, our teams are like close-knit families. Once the lockdown was announced and our employees started working from home; our leaders ensure the wellbeing of their team members by having frequent communication with them. We realize that employees are battling the crisis in an attempt to work from home and it is the leader’s prime responsibility to keep them motivated during these unprecedented times!
“You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”
I’ve heard this twice today. I think it’s an important distinction worth emphasising.
— Neil Webb (@neilmwebb) March 31, 2020
We are increasingly encouraging the small ‘l’ leadership (Source) as individual contributors with no formal leadership titles can get into the act of the game and display their leadership traits during these tough times.
You do not need to have a title to be a leader
– Mark Sanborn
With business dynamics changing rapidly due to Covid-19, organizations across the globe are compelled to take corrective actions to cut operational costs, which also includes layoffs in unavoidable circumstances. Many times, contractors face the axe as they are not on direct payrolls of the company. Irrespective of the decision, managers & leaders should follow a human-centered communication approach.
From the beginning, we have ensured that there is no formal distinction between a full-time employee and a consultant. A couple of engineers (mix of permanent and consultant staff) who were given offers, joined TekGeminus family during the lockdown period. Despite working from home from day one, they are contributing positively to the
organization and share good rapport with other teammates. Such actions imbibe confidence in the new hires, as well as the existing employees, and leaders should leverage this opportunity to stand-by their employees when they need them the most!
One critical thing that Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is, that essential commodities are of utmost importance and everything apart from that is just fluff. The after-effects of Covid-19 will stay with us for a long time and organizations (with due inputs from employees) should work together towards reprioritizing nonessential business and personal aspects of life. In a nutshell, leaders should look at avenues for enhancing capital efficiency through simple improvements.
Though sectors like travel & hospitality industry, entertainment, consumer internet (B2C), etc. are worst hit by Covid-19, the bottom line is that no sector is unaffected due to the pandemic. Apart from taking corrective measures, that aid the organization in becoming more capital efficient, it will become necessary for leaders within the organization to look at pivots that can add substantial value in the post-Covid world.
Societal norms, changing consumer behavior, and other compounding factors will shape the new normal that will be with us beyond the crisis. Leaders should focus on the dynamically changing needs of the customers in the new normal.
Organizations should look at alternate sectors that are likely to be less affected due to Covid-19 and that will witness growth post-Covid-19. The pandemic has not only sparked innovation in companies (Source) but is also considered a booster for digital transformation.
Many non-essential sectors (e.g. over-the-top [OTT] streaming services, online gaming, etc.) have flourished during the pandemic. On the other hand, many essential sectors (e.g. public transportation, electricity) are affected by the pandemic & subsequent lockdown.
To gain a lead in the market, it is important to focus on solving the lingering problems in the currently ‘flourishing’ sectors. While this step might help in achieving the revenue targets, preparing and executing a plan to service the ‘affected essential sectors’ would aid in driving revenue and value in a world where Covid-19 is really a thing of the past.