The 5 Leadership Phases of COVID

 

I’m sure few of us imagined that by this time, we’d still be in this COVID pandemic!  But here we are.

 

At High Performance Leaders as we’ve continued to engage with our partner leaders, we have identified five phases that most, if not all, leaders have experienced to one extent or another throughout this situation.

 

Phase 1 was the “Crisis” phase where leaders were faced with a rapidly changing situation.  They struggled to keep up with a developing situation and had to quickly and creatively develop new policies and standards to protect the health and safety of their employees while also trying to maintain their operations.  They were experiencing the change curve at almost exactly the same time as the teams they were leading.  This was uncharted territory for most leaders!

 

In Phase 2 leaders were thrown into “Establishing the new work environment”.  Setting up the infrastructure, technology and processes for them and their teams to work remotely.  Some leaders also had to lead through a hybrid situation where some of their team worked remotely while other parts were still required to be at the workplace.  Some had to revise the work week or working hours and establish new working standards and processes.

 

“Staying engaged” was Phase 3 where leaders time and attention was spent on figuring out how to keep their teams busy, productive, and focused.  They and their teams were still learning how to work remotely and stay in contact with each other.  New forms, media, and initiatives of mass and individual communication was needed to be established.  Many leaders struggled getting and keeping their teams aligned and focused beyond the normal day to day of what seemed like basic survival tasks.  Short term team goals needed to be established to motivate, inspire, and frankly become a distraction from what was now becoming a longer-term situation than people originally thought.  Important by Phase 3 and remaining relevant today was a reminder about the Stockdale Paradox.  As Jim Collins said “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.  Watch Jim’s Collin’s explain the Stockdale Paradox here.  (full video 6:41).

 

Phase 4 showed the impact the first few months of COVID had on leaders as the reality of the “New normal, new reality” had sunk in.  Many leaders were extremely frustrated by the on-going situation, were depressed and many were burning or were burned out.  Longer days, blurred lines between work and personal time, and not having any vacations to speak of had taken their toll.  Of course, continued governmental restrictions and protocols impacted the traditional social and personal escape routines.  The long-term reality of the situation had set in.

“Cultural tensions” define Phase 5 that I believe we are currently still in.  This is where opposing thoughts, expectations, and beliefs such as the need to wear masks or not wear masks are creating polarized views within society but also within our teams and businesses.  Some team members are more disciplined than others toward COVID standards and protocols than others.  We are all longing for the ‘old’ ways and want everything to be ‘open’.  Economic fallout is now obvious as layoffs, permanent closures, higher costs, and budget constraints are rearing their heads and must be dealt with.

 

It’s been a tough road and experts say, tougher roads lay ahead.  However, don’t despair, this too will end and we will get through it!  Here’s a few reasons why I really believe this.

 

I was blown away with the quick actions that most business leaders, companies, political leaders, and society overall took in the initial stages of COVID.  Many people and organizations stepped up and acted with integrity to do the right thing, to innovate and implement creative ways to keep people safe and employed, to make funds available to subsidize lost wages, protect against financial impacts.  Although some will feel it hasn’t been enough, it’s incredible though just what has been done in the time it has been.  It’s easy to be critical, but I encourage you to consider just what has been done!

 

Humans throughout all of time, have persevered, survived and prospered.  We will do it again.  We will change, adopt and discover.  Some of the best advancements, innovations, creativity throughout history have resulted from some of the worst and biggest challenges humans have faced.

 

There are many good and great leaders and people out there.  This is their time and they will step up!

 

Through CEO Global Network, I recently had the opportunity to hear Randy Garfield, President (retired) of Walt Disney Travel Company speak on the topic of “A Legacy of Determination”.  He had some great and inspiring things to say about the current situation.  Here are a few that really resonated with me:

 

  • Times are tough, but times have been tough in every generation.  Our parents or grandparents lived through the dark tunnel of WWII
  • We need to maintain the long-term view
  • Don’t underestimate the power of creative solutions
  • Out of adversity can come incredible success
  • Don’t overlook survival guilt as many of our employees have never experienced a challenge like we are all facing. 
  • Crisis doesn’t make a great leader, but it can bring out the best in a good one

I’m not sure what Phase 6 will be, but there will be a Phase 6.  It may very likely get worse before it gets better, but we will get through this, together!  You can sit back and ride it out, or, help lead those around you out of this.  You don’t have to have all the answers, just lead the next best step.  What do you choose?

 

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Tips for Transformational Leaders - Walk

 

Today is the simplest tip ever – walk.

 

We are all facing anxiety right now – we are being overwhelmed with emails and information.  We are practicing new public health protocols. We are concerned about what our future looks like.  We can choose to sit and absorb it or we can do something very simple – go for a walk.  

 

We all know that walking burns calories and gets your heart rate up (which can’t hurt with our new Skip the Dishes habit). Walking has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, especially if you walk in a natural or wooded area.  No special equipment or membership is needed.  You can walk anytime, anywhere - for a long period of time or just a few minutes for a break.

 

What you may not know is that walking also improves creativity.  A Stanford study shows that walking increases the supply of blood to the brain and that walkers perform better on creative thinking tests.  To illustrate this further some avid walkers included Aristotle, Charles Dickens, Ludwig von Beethoven, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. So while there are definitely physical health benefits from walking the mental health benefits are equally as important. 

 

Walking is a means for you to clear you mind, take a break, refocus, solve problems and come up with new ideas.  It is the easiest solution to help reduce the anxiety we are feeling both personally and professionally.

 

Start your new habit now while the fall weather is here.  You will feel the positive effects immediately.

 

Let me know your thoughts

Scott

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‘Good is the enemy of great’ – Good to Great, Jim Collins. 

 

If we are already good, then why change?   We tend to react to crisis and take immediate action to lessen the impact or improve the situation (our current crisis is a prime example of this).  If things are ‘okay’ we tend to leave them. Why spend the effort if things are good?  What we may not realize is that not taking action has a cost.   

 

A typical first step of an improvement journey is to stabilize the way we do our work.  For example, a simple exercise in workplace organization will stabilize an area or process and help improve the ability to see abnormal conditions.   The ability to see abnormal conditions will allow for immediate problem identification and stop the problem from progressing. The first reaction - So what? We find the problems eventually, don’t we?   

 

Here is some quick math on the cost of not taking action.  What if not catching the problem right away results in additional time to contain and fix the problem?   What if that results in an additional 20 minutes in your day? (Most people spend more time than this daily just trying to find stuff).  When you do the math, 20 minutes daily results in 11 days over the course of a year.   If you have 100 people in your organization that experience problems, that could be up to 1100 days of lost capacity, not to mention the additional frustration and negative impact on your customers. 

 

Part of Continuous Improvement is having everyone identify improvements and take the step to implement the change.   What if we got everyone on our teams to identify and implement an improvement that could save 20 minutes a day?  Think of the cost if we don’t.        

 

Maybe things are not as ‘good’ as once perceived. Don’t let good be the enemy of great.

 

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The difference between a manager and a leader is the decision based on one question,  ‘Do you want to be a leader?’.

 

This is not an easy decision to make.    What if something goes wrong? Will you get blamed for actions that are not fully under your control? What if people won’t follow you? What if you make the wrong decision?  Many would-be leaders are afraid of the embarrassment and difficulties of failure.  

 

People have the capability of becoming great leaders but never accept the challenge.   They go through life with a fear that limits the success they could achieve and the positive impact they could have on others.  

 

Remember, with the promotion to the position of a people manager, everyone starts equally as a would-be leader and faces the same fears.  Those that are successful make a conscious decision to be a leader. 

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Take the Leadership Habit Challenge

Transformational Leaders develop an environment where their team members create customer value,  find meaning in their work and grow in the process.

 

The first principle of Transformational Leadership is ‘you set the example’.   Your team will copy the behaviour you set. If you are positive, your team will try to be positive.  If you focus on the future, your team will try to focus on the future.  If you demonstrate a Continuous Improvement mindset, your team will try to demonstrate a CI mindset.  

 

In order to master the principle, it is critical to practice and to develop specific habits so that you can consistently demonstrate the behaviour.

 

I am inviting you to take the leadership habit challenge.   To help you attain your goal, we have created a leadership habit calendar.   You will find the calendar in our tools page.

 

To participate in the challenge, choose an example you want to set for your team that will demonstrate the principle.   Define the specific habit that you need to create for yourself. Use the calendar to help you develop the habit

 

Let me know what you pick.  Once you have completed 30 days, send me the results.

 

Good luck!

 

Scott

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Peter Drucker is considered the leading management thinker of the last century.  He recommended that organizations do a self-assessment based on 5 key questions – What is your mission? Who are your customers? What do they value? What are our results? What is our plan?

 

We believe now more than ever, we need to help our teams focus on the future.  It is a great way to create a discussion with your team on how we can all contribute to our long-term success.  We developed a guide on how to use the questions for your own team.  

 

Check out Tools Page out for the Guide to asking 5 Important Questions

 

Please let me know what you learn.

 

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As we move towards the ‘new normal’, our need to adapt the way we execute our work will demand an increase in our continuous improvement and innovation (CI&I) activity.

 

As you do this, I would encourage you to follow the logic I use for future state design – THINK TO S.E.E – Simple, Elegant and Effective. 

 

When you approach CI&I, the focus should always be on simplifying how we do our work – it is much easier to make things more complicated than it is to simply them.   Solutions should be elegant or well-designed following design thinking methodology.  And finally, it is critical that processes are effective in delivering internal and external customer value.   

 

Developing and executing future state design using the THINK TO S.E.E approach does take more thought and effort, but the effort will have a much higher rate of return.   Quoting Mark Twain – “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter”. 

 

If you would be interested in attending a virtual skill development session on the THINK TO S.E.E methodology, please let me know. 

 

Keep improving. 

Scott

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One of my favourite management thinkers is Peter Drucker.

 

One of his many philosophies is “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.     

 

In simple terms, it is up to you on how your future will unfold.  By coming up with ideas about what you want to achieve, you begin to plan. As you plan, you begin to take action. As you take action, you begin to create your future. 

 

As we approach the new normal, it is more important than ever for both individuals and organizations to embrace this thinking.  

 

Keep improving. 

Scott

 

 

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“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. Originally a proverb, this phrase was made famous by Jack Nicholson in the movie ‘The Shining’.  The real meaning of the proverb is that if you focus only on repetitive work, work that has limited challenge or if you do the same work every day, you will get bored and demotivated.  In organizations, focusing solely on executing daily work can lead to reduced productivity and lower engagement.  

 

Everyone needs meaning and challenge beyond their daily work.   Getting teams involved in continuous improvement projects or problem solving will allow them to focus on activities that will contribute to the long-term success of the organization.   If teams can get involved in improving their own work and work areas, it allows for increased levels of ownership, productivity improvement and reduced levels of frustration.  All very necessary activities to prepare to move into the new normal.     

 

Please let me know your thoughts.

 

Keep improving

Scott

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We have moved from uncertainty to the ‘temporary’ normal.  We appear to be moving through 3 distinct phases – uncertainly and adjustment, the temporary normal and the new normal.     Most of us are now in the temporary normal phase (I know I am). 

 

What is different about this phase?    We are experiencing what it is like to work in a social distance work world, whether at home or at the workplace.   We have figured out methods to execute our work and are falling into some form of operating rhythm.   Most of us have moved to an acceptance phase and are trying to make the best of the current state.  Some of us are learning valuable lessons that we can apply for this phase and for the new normal.  

 

What is required to win in this phase?   We are still dealing with a situation that is not well understood and has limited predictability.  Our natural instinct is to try to predict or control the situation.   In a complex situation, both are very difficult.   Instead,  we need to focus on adaptability and resilience.    Adaptability is preparing ourselves to rapidly reconfigure how we do our work and how we engage with our team members.   Resilience is developing the skills to step back, understand, regroup and then set a course to continue to move towards our long-term goals.   In order to be resilient your team needs to have a positive but realistic attitude, to be able to use failure and set- backs as an opportunity to learn and grow and to execute a plan to adapt and move forward.  

 

As leaders it is up to us to set the example for both adaptability and resilience.

 

Please let me know your thoughts.

 

Keep improving

Scott

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