By Matthew Emerson, Founder and MD of Blackmore Four
When faced with complex issues of change and ambiguity, naïve positivity is often counter-productive if everyone just sees hubris if the face of the daunting and apparent negativity of lived reality. So, let me start by saying that I am not advocating a position of ‘just believe everything will be ok’.
However, there is a need for business leaders to be optimistic and demonstrate optimism when looking at the challenges created by COVID-19. To lead your business into a better future, you must genuinely believe that the endeavour you are making and asking others to make will result in a desirable (or at least more favourable) outcome. There are a few ways in which you can take the opportunity that the COVID-19 disruption created.
Purpose and Belonging
Firstly, like it or not, you have probably been forced to re-evaluate the direction of your business and possibly even the foundation of why your business exists. If nothing else, re-stating your purpose is a positive and powerful way of confirming to yourself, your organisation and your clients or customers that regardless of the circumstances, your business has a clear reason for being.
A refresh or confirmation of your core purpose provides a renewed focus from which you can evaluate business activity and clearly assess where efforts may have drifted away from core business. It is also likely to help focus the rest of your team’s efforts and clarify where there may still be gaps in your collective capability. On a more significant scale, this reflection might also lead you to consider whether your business could be more successful if it acquired or was acquired by a business with complementary capabilities.
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I have been writing a lot recently about leadership and I believe now is the perfect opportunity to analyse your leadership needs in the context of new industry norms and a re-confirmed purpose. What does your organisation need from its leaders going forward? If you can answer that question then you have the basis from which to assess strengths, gaps and priorities for acquisition or development of leadership capability.
This opportunity can be overlooked or de-prioritised in favour of the immediate challenges of maintaining client service, re-organising your team or simply ensuring you have cash in the bank, but someone needs to look beyond today to where your business will be tomorrow and the day after. How you take your organisation out of today’s crisis and into tomorrow’s land of opportunity relies almost entirely on leadership.
You would likely never have planned to run your business in the way that you have had to over the last 6 months, but through that experience you will have collectively learnt new ways of working and reconsidered the benefits of old habits. The opportunity here is to critically evaluate both old and new ways of working to create something that is the best version of your business model. Critically, this needs to embed flexibility of both organisation structure and processes to ensure you are equipped to adapt in the future as well as ensuring you are effective at meeting today’s demands.
There are plenty of skills linked to personal and organisational effectiveness that have become critical requirements for businesses to succeed. Identifying the core capabilities that align with your refreshed ambition and operating model will give renewed energy to those who have newly sought-after skills and provide focus on developing further capability in areas where it is needed.
Although disruptive and personally distressing for those losing employment, a high turnover of employment does create an opportunity for people to utilise their skills and experience in new ways and for businesses, this presents an opportunity to look creatively for the skills that you need but have never been able to find through traditional channels.
I do not welcome the chaos that COVID-19 has bought us and will not overlook the personal and social tragedy experienced by many people across the country and right around the world. For business leaders, engaging in the human impact of this pandemic is a fundamental step in finding a way through it, but there will be a way forward and there is opportunity. We have a responsibility to explore those opportunities optimistically and pursue our future with genuine purpose and endeavour to create renewed meaning for our colleagues where that otherwise might have been lost.