No matter how experienced or talented, none of us had the template of how to lead through this period of COVID-uncertainty. As soon as lockdowns were announced, our business plans become redundant. Product launches, sales promotions, events & conferences and, even team meetings were canceled.
We were all humbled by the realization that we never really had full control of our environment, only influencing how we lead.
It’s been near-on a year since my last article. Over that time, I have been leading my businesses & clients through difficult transitions. Initially, we were frozen by the extremity of lockdown — much like a deer in headlights.
But now, we can no longer use this as an excuse. COVID and its impact on our businesses is now a known-known. By now, we should all have adjusted. Taken the tough decisions. Closed the branches we needed to close. Launched the digital products we needed to tackle to join the internet economy.
Working through chaos, leading my own executive team & being led by my board of this period, I have made some notes that I think can benefit other leaders.
Here below are my notes of how I have been leading through chaos & crisis.
First, recognize that Change requires neither your permission nor your compliance.
No matter how skilled a surfer is, if they surf against the wave’s directionality, they will lose. You have to ride the wave, not surf against it.
My virtual speaking has taken off. I have been in back-to-back sessions with many of my corporate clients, helping them think through navigating the maze of change we are all facing. Here are some golden nuggets:
1. Change doesn’t need your permission.
Some of us think that our organization’s positional power can determine whether or not change affects us. You are not too big to fail. If you don’t make the shift, you need to; the transition will happen to you.
2. First direction, then speed.
Change brings uncertainty & people (the most important resource in an organization) perform poorly during uncertainty. Take the time as the leader to think through direction, strategy, approach & outcomes. Lead by giving direction, manage by measuring execution.
3. First hearts, then minds.
This is the time to tap into the hearts of your people. To understand their individual drivers. To engage them at a personal level & uncover their anxieties, hopes & expectations. Tap into their hearts & inspire them, then their minds to train them for their new normal.
These thoughts rang so loudly in my head after this morning’s session with a client that operates one of the largest pharmaceuticals in the world.
I thought to share them with you & hope that they help those still navigating the crisis to set your compass better.
Remember: at this point, we all know of the impact of COVID. It’s a known-known. You should have adjusted already. This is the time to live by that mantra, “adapt or die”.
Vusi Thembekwayo is a globally renowned public speaker, the CEO of MyGrowthFund Venture Partners (winner of Best Impact Investment Firm 2020 — Africa), & revered business leader.
Global Speaker | Venture Investor | Leader