By Luciana Paulise
After the mass layoffs announced recently triggered nearly 54 million Americans filing for unemployment insurance, more than during the Great Recession, the only thing leaders know for certain is that the outlook is scary.
Still, looking into past crises, companies that invested in innovation delivered superior growth and performance post crisis. After the 2009 financial crisis, for example, organizations that maintained innovation outperformed the market average by more than 30 percent.
It is the perfect storm to reinvent leadership.
In a recent survey conducted by Mc Kinsey, “more than 90 percent of executives said they expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years”. Nevertheless, fewer than 30 percent of these same executives feel confident that they are prepared to address the changes they see coming.
While companies need to focus on surviving, the leader’s job is to balance the short term problem-solving mindset with the long term makeover mindset. It is not about just surviving the crisis, but getting the best out of it.
Here is the ABC to start over:
First, accept the new normal. The world has changed. While Tesla took over Toyota as the most valuable carmaker, ExxonMobil stock price is at the same level as 2001.
Any change management process is like a grieving process and requires first that you get to the stage of acceptance. You are probably talking to yourself saying, “I got this,” but you are still checking ever hour your success using the same measures you used before. You check your sales report or your media posts, and you get frustrated. Well, stop acting the same way. Acceptance means that you take responsibility, stop blaming the context, and you are willing to change your behaviors.
Once you are pass acceptance, you need to “burn the house down,” like Richard Branson says, if it hasn’t burned down yet. “Your job is to build a new you and engage a new we who’s better at what you do.”
He had to rebuild his house twice: once a bolt of lightning incinerated it, and the second time it was practically blown away by Hurricane Irma. Recently, one of his companies, Virgin Atlantic, has filed For Bankruptcy Protection to be restructured. At the same time, Virgin Galactic, another of his companies, revealed its initial vehicle for high-speed travel.
Just reset all your expectations for the future, and start from scratch, taking nothing for granted. Practice resetting your phone, starting a brand new hobby or simply remember when you moved to a new house.
Look to acquire a beginner’s mindset where everything is possible, as Laura Gassner says in her article Finding our Finest hour, “When you fully embrace uncertainty, you can fully engage in the way you want things to be.”
To “burn-down” a place, I just the 5S method just like manufacturing companies do. Look around and 5S your life: sort what you need from that you don’t need anymore and remove it for good, do not just hide it under the carpet. Richard Branson claims “Keep the best, lose the rest!
Ben And jerry’s, the ice-cream firm, for example, accelerated its social justice efforts this year. Now they not only have new ice-cream flavor Justice ReMix’d, but they also have an activism team of 20 full-time members and a budget that is a fifth of the marketing department spending.
How would you react if you moved to a new house or a new country? Would you arrange things in the same way you had them before? You probably wouldn’t. You would see things differently, with fresh eyes. When you change, you realize that you may not need all these, or you may prioritize all that. You get to a completely new place where you would have never got if you had simply move things around.
After a reset, you are in a new place where you can put things together in totally different ways. Take advantage of that. The same way you had to redefine your workplace after the “stay home” pledge, redefine your purpose, your team, and your assumptions. Stretch your timelines and find other means to measure your success before you keep checking in
Consider all the ideas from everyone in your team, even the bad ones (“bad” may not mean the same in the new normal). Ayse Birsel, one of Fast Company’s most creative people in 2017, says “When we give ourselves permission to have bad ideas, we often come up with the best ones. Time of crisis is when you deconstruct and reconstruct”.
Remind yourself that what got you here may not be what get you to the next normal. Accept the challenge, burndown your assumptions and be ready to change for good. Reinvent your leadership style. A leader’s role used to be the hero; it may be the perfect time to sit in the back seat, observe, and serve your team to unleash their strengths.
This article originally appeared at https://www.forbes.com/sites/lucianapaulise/2020/08/06/how-to-reinvent-leadership-in-times-of-crisis/#6e499bb225fd