Reflect. Rethink. Reorient.

May 2020   |   Caroll Taiji

Because There is No Normal to Return To

The dramatic disruption caused by COVID-19 calls for an equally dramatic rethink. Guaranteed, the stacks of research that will follow this global event won’t be kind to the leaders who did nothing. Leaders must act. And that includes all of us. Figuring out just how far and how fast to act will be the test of our individual leadership. But, since there is no normal to return to, we should be emboldened to try new approaches. With vision and courage, things could even be better.

Since none of us can afford to stand still, here are some strategic opportunities you can explore with your team:

Seek out markets that are first to recover. Due to their efforts in containing the virus, take a second look at Australia, New Zealand, and yes, even China. Someone on your team should be poring over your customer segments and markets to forecast who will recover first.

Focus on your customers’ essentials. Times of stress induce a back-to-basics response where we focus on securing absolute necessities for the fewest possible dollars. It’s a great time to brainstorm new products and services that meet essential customer needs—the needs we know about and the ones just emerging.

Find competitive advantages in efficiency. Sure, you could simply cut costs by reducing your payroll. But, it’s far more strategic to focus on process efficiencies. This is a great opportunity to engage your people in identifying potential savings as well as new opportunities.

Figure out your next pivot. Yes, we’re all sick of that term. But it doesn’t change the fact that your strengths could apply elsewhere in the market. Try revisiting your core competencies to identify any adjacencies that might now become critical competitive advantages.

Invest in your people. We understand the desire to trim spending during tough times. But, learning and development are the best way to increase the value of your most valuable assets. Plus, access to accredited online training has never been easier or more affordable.

Track the government’s vision for the future. As the health crisis subsides, we’ll see a massive government investment in economic recovery—perhaps the largest since WW2. Time to read between the lines on where the spending will go and be ready for the resulting opportunities.

Take the fight to your competition. As uncertainty and panic distracts, it’s easy to ignore what your competitors are doing. But, it’s often the perfect time to swing big when competitors choose to bunt. Does someone on your team have an eye on the competition?

How about a few considerations for how we work together?

Send fewer back to the office. Quarantine has disproved old fears about working remotely as employees have been accountable and engaged, even amid a global pandemic. Is there a win-win to providing greater flexibility on how and where people work?

Close the digital skill gap. Self-isolation exposed a digital divide within our culture and our companies. Some worked effectively while others struggled or got left out. In the workplace, we all need to speak the language of Zoom, Slack, Basecamp and whatever else comes along.
We should also pay attention to how your customers and clients are adapting to all of this.

Embrace the humanity. Right now, we’re cool with cats, dogs and kids showing up in the background of our status meetings. It’s made us all feel somehow more connected. But, why should that totally change when we return to business as somewhat usual?

A global pandemic on this scale can change our world in dramatic ways, for better or worse. It already has. And no one knows exactly what is yet to come. The best we can do is lead with agility and conviction, grounded in realistic positivity, so when we can’t control the outcome, we can still control our response to it.

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