I have personal & virtual meetings or calls with business owners or business leaders all the time. It is true that these are extraordinarily difficult times, however I cannot help noticing the difference in mindset that different business leaders have when dealing with similar challenges.
There are those who retract, spreading doom & gloom wherever they go, literally making the situation worse for all. Such persons lose focus, they lose the clarity of mind to think of what needs to be adjusted in their operations to be effective when facing the challenges thrown at them. Their teams end up losing a ton of energy in defending themselves and in trying to survive the negative culture.
Then there are those business leaders who understand that such disruptive and stressful times are often opportunities for growth. Business leaders who grasp the notion that now is the time to change things that have been hindering them for years. Such leaders understand that to do so they need to create new opportunities for people to voice their ideas on how to do things better.Such a positive and growth oriented mindset will serve their business and their teams especially during a crisis.
So you may ask me, how could such a positive and growth mindset be implemented? Well I can offer some generic pointers which are generally applicable in each and every situation.
The mindset starts with you: As a business leader you need to first embrace this positive mindset yourself. As I said in previous articles, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spent his first months on the job teaching people the value of a “learn it all” culture rather than a “know it all” culture. He led by example, sharing monthly videos where he reviewed his top learnings and prompted groups across the company to discuss theirs. Hence the importance of sending the right signals. Both what you say and how you act send critical messages to others. Consider cultivating the much needed learning culture whereby you informally reward progress made and lessons learned and treat any recovery from mistakes as a star performance.
Be patient: Mindsets are very difficult to change. People change their habits, even the wrong ones, grudgingly and so reshaping deeply ingrained work practices will need alot of effort and patience. Be patient with yourself and your people. Remember to recognise effort, even if outcomes don’t yet live up to your expectations. The journey will therefore be long and winding and the lack of immediate and measurable progress can be discouraging. Forgive yourself and be generous with others — try to focus on the effort being put in and the valuable insights you’re learning from that effort, rather than the lack of immediate results.
Revisit established practices: If I could get 10 Euros to whenever I got the reply “Heq…but we always did things this way”, I would most probably earn a decent living just on that. Business leaders that realise that such a profound crisis should leave no stone unturned, have already won half the battle. Such a crisis is an excellent time to encourage your teams to assess and improve established practices. For this to happen, communication is key, whereby much of it rests on the ability of team members to share not only their knowledge but also their concerns and questions. By getting things out on the table, more issues can be addressed. That way you and your team can understand all the issues at play and thus understand what you need to focus on in order to implement any quick adjustment in processes in a successful way. You will also understand what adjustments or changes in practices and processes should be prioritised as they are likely to have the largest positive effect.
Get to know your people better: As you are trying to navigate through such difficult times, everyone needs to chip in his or her extra effort. This will be much easier to happen if as a business leader you get to know your people well, how to rub them the right way, what issues they face at home when juggling between home and work pressures. This will make your team members feel valued and not just another cog in the wheel. People would generally be ready to do more than just an extra mile for a leader that they know respects them and appreciates them.
In essence, while the Covid-19 crisis presents a myriad of new challenges, it also creates new opportunities for leaders to cultivate a positive and growth mindset in themselves and their teams. Though it won’t be easy, the right mindset can help teams to better coordinate, innovate and own their own futures, making it possible not only to weather the crisis, but to come out of it stronger.