Today, the entire world is responding to change: change in the way we work, socialize, communicate, and carry out nearly every other aspect of our lives. In the midst of this pandemic, business leaders have been forced to adapt, overcome limitations, and forge ahead with very little time to prepare. Those with a transformation mindset already had stable operations and the plans in place to quickly adjust course. As we emerge from the pandemic, these businesses will return to stability and their leaders will find it easier to reflect, identify gaps that exist, and initiate improvements. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for the majority.
The pandemic has launched many business leaders into crisis mode and sent them down a path to transformation that they weren’t prepared to travel. In the context of sudden change, they’ve had no time to plan and the normalcy they once relied upon has been upset in ways they struggle to understand. Through this, operational gaps are being revealed. Processes are breaking down. The crisis shines a light on issues that are holding the business back from reaching its full potential.
For these businesses, even if transformation wasn’t on their radar before the pandemic, the journey has already begun. The pandemic has triggered the need for change. If you’re a leader in this situation, you no longer need to ask the question of, “How will I get the rest of the leadership team and stakeholders to agree that transformation is needed?” The world has answered this question for you. Everyone is already looking to you for an understanding of what needs to change, and how you will lead them through it. On the other end of this crisis lies tremendous opportunity.
In this situation, you must seize the momentum and opportunity to transform. As the world moves out of crisis mode and things begin to stabilize, take time to reflect on what happened. Consider how situations were handled, the damage that was caused in the process, and what could have been done to minimize the impact. This post-mortem will be essential and should also include an honest reflection on problems that your business faced before the crisis. It’s your opportunity to put everything on the table. Those who work with you should be well aware of the need to transform since any issues your organization faced before were likely amplified during the crisis.
As you go through this process, don’t limit your reflection to the pandemic. Instead, combine what you learned from the pandemic with any issues that triggered your desire to transform before the crisis. Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions such as, “How do I make my organization stronger, my supply chain more resilient, my employees better prepared, and my management process more secure?” In doing this, you’ll discover what it takes to initiate the best possible transformation and put your business in a different place that will benefit from what was learned in this experience.
Leading a change process isn’t easy. It can be uncomfortable and requires motivating, delegating, applying, advocating, convincing, and mobilizing. It can be intimidating and may seem like moving a mountain. You’ll need strong leadership skills and the ability to clearly articulate the need for change, respond to questions and concerns, and delegate tasks responsibly. It is paramount that you reassure doubters and those who are fearful that, in the long run, this is the better course for the company and the people who support it.
Although there will never be a perfect time for transformation, I’ve never seen a time when people are more united and open to change. It may be difficult to visualize today, but on the other side the challenges you’re facing lies the opportunity to transform not only your business but your path as a leader. In times like these, I often revisit one of my favorite quotes by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”