The Adaptive Challenge of COVID-19
COVID-19, Self-Isolation, Social-Distancing and Lockdown, new words in our everyday vocabulary. We are in a strange crisis, a battle with an unseen enemy. There is still a lot we don’t know and what we know adds to the complexity of the situation. We don’t know fully what the impact will be, how long this will last and if our organisations will survive this crisis. We don’t know if we can retain our staff. We have all had to abandon our offices and work from home and learn new remote working skills and work in new ways.
If your business model involved physical contact with your clients, linked to providing direct face to face services like in the leisure, restaurant, educations sectors, or part of the supply chain that feeds a face to face business, this is a worrying time.
Your business survival may depend on your ability to be an adaptive leader, because of the adaptive challenge the virus presents us. We may need to change our business models or the services we offer, and do it quickly. Adaptive leadership helps individuals and organisations to adapt to changing environments and effectively respond to recurring problems. The Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky model for dealing with adaptive challenges could be useful in helping us lead through COVID-19.
Here are 5 Tips to start Focusing on.
1 – Get on the Balcony
There is a lot going on, and there is no shortage of panic. The challenge for any leader at this time is to step away from the moment-by-moment and ake a helicopter view of what is going on, what the potential challenges are for your business and what the potential impact of the varying scenarios could be? It’s worth remembering that in this crisis there are also opportunities, and likethe SARS epidemic in 2003?, eventually, we will come out of this storm. So try to stay in a positive growth mindset and be mindful of that you say to yourself and others.Identify the adaptive challenge
2 – Identify the adaptive challenge
There is a lot that is out of your control and it’s not worth focusing on challenges that you cannot solve. Not everyone can work on a cure or help solve our urgent need for respiratory equipment. Be clear about the adaptive challenge you face. For many, it may be figuring out how to stay afloat and retain your staff in an environment with uncertain revenues. Get your senior leadership team together and agree on the adaptive challenge before you.
3 – Regulate distress
Yes, this is a very distressful time for many. Regulating distress does not mean denial, what it means is acknowledging the very real and challenging situation we find ourselves in, emphasising the need for everyone to work and support each other, and showing great levels of empathy, especially for those who may fall ill or lose a loved one. COVID-19 will be a great test of a leaders ability to guide their organisations through trying times while leading with compassion. Provide reassurance where you can, but always be honest and transparent about the situation you are in.
4 – Maintain disciplined focus
The best estimate is the UK is through the worst of this in 3-6 months. Other estimates range from 1-3 years. Nobody knows for sure, and it will be easy for your employees to lose heart and lose focus. So communicate often and regularly, keep them focused and motivated. Look for low hanging fruit, your small wins, and make a song and dance about it. It may be that you just take the time to celebrate every time a staff member recovers and gets the all-clear. But hopefully, it will also be because you have done some successful pilots and introduced some innovations.
5 – Give the work back to the people
At the time, there is a huge amount of goodwill among your employees to help and made a success of a challenging situation. Give them something to do. AGILE working is a great way to keep people engaged and focused. The biggest mistake leaders can make at this time is to suck up the responsibility and carry the burden. Share the load. The survival of your business at this time depends on everyone doing their part. Ask yourself how you can empower your staff to work and lead themselves remotely Remote working depends largely on trust as you cannot micro-manage. It’s a great time to show some vulnerability and build some trust.