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17th Apr, 2020

Lee Gudgeon
Lee Gudgeon
Job Title
Managing Director, Reed Talent Solutions

The Covid-19 pandemic has tested business leaders in ways that would have been unimaginable just six months ago.

The speed with which directors and their organisations had to react to the situation has been unparalleled, with many having to completely adapt how their organisations operated within a matter of days.

Despite the economic damage the virus has wrought, there are lessons which managers will have learned about themselves and their organisational strategies throughout this crisis which will stand them in good stead in the future.

Making fewer decisions more quickly

Globally, most leaders recognised that inertia was the real enemy as it became apparent that governments were using lockdowns to halt the spread of Covid-19.The reason organisations were able to react quickly was through good delegation. There was simply no time for CEOs to make every decision themselves, so they prioritised the most important decisions and delegated the rest to other managers in their organisation.

This is a strategy that leaders should continue to adhere to beyond the pandemic. Centralised command and control structures which rely on decisions coming from one leader or a leadership team and filtering down the chain of command take time. Having trust in managers to make effective decisions will empower them, and free up time for leaders to make the overarching strategic decisions.

The unprecedented nature of the pandemic has meant that many leaders have taken action without being able to forecast what will happen daily. This will have been unusual for many, who would usually make transformational decisions with as much information as possible.

Going forward in the business world the overall experience should mean leaders are more at ease with future crisis management.

Communication and transparency

The closure of most workplaces during lockdowns has placed a premium on both internal and external organisational communication. During this uncertain period, employees have rightly wanted to know what actions their employers are taking and the reasons for them.

The leaders who have been open, honest and transparent with their employees during the pandemic will have earned their respect. Even in cases where decisions have had a negative impact on staff, leaders who have fought the challenges head on and explained their reasoning will be given greater latitude than those who do not.

Those leaders who are adopting a more open communication style for the first time will quickly find that it will be difficult to return to a more reserved and sporadic communication strategy.

Openness and transparency not only lead to better internal communication, they are also critical for external stakeholders. Now more than ever, consumers decide whether to buy a product or use a service based on an organisation’s actions. Those who are not open and transparent in their external communications risk alienating customers.

Implementing flexibility while maintaining productivity

The lockdown forced many who didn’t have a remote working policy in place to adopt it organisation-wide, at short notice. Those organisations who were able to successfully continue operations while working remotely should expect a greater number of employees to demand increased opportunities for flexible and remote working.

It’s now down to business leaders to navigate a path to incorporate more flexible and remote working, while upholding productivity, for the workforce. This will be widespread across many sectors, so those organisations who refuse to provide greater flexibility, will see a talent drain. In addition, while the virus is still part of our lives, some employees will still likely be required to work remotely to help maintain social distancing in workplaces.

While HR teams can advise on how this would work within an organisation, the decision on how to get the best of both worlds by maintaining productivity and boosting flexibility comes down to leadership. Those leaders who are adaptable will be able to find a way which supports the needs of the organisation and the needs of its employees.

Trust, fast-thinking, communication skills, and adaptability, have always been useful leadership traits, but the pandemic has placed a much greater emphasis on these skills. Organisations will increasingly seek leaders with these characteristics in a post-pandemic world.

To find out more about leadership strategies you can apply in the current landscape, get in touch with our experts now.

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