Leaders: Hedge your Motivation Position Now!

The Great Resignation, Silent Quitting, Disengaged Employees- Why?

Motivation might have become the rarest commodity for employers, hence the Great Resignation, Silent Quitting, and disengaging employees. This is probably the first time in our lifetime to remain in one collective trauma after the other for almost three years and counting. Many have lost loved ones in the process and others ended up with lasting health effects from COVID. And a good majority is feeling less financially secure with growing inflation worries. Also, almost every industry is experiencing some major disruptive transformations: Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), energy transitions, climate change, digital transformation, supply chain crisis, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), to name a few!

The motivation crisis may be bigger than the energy crisis, the environmental crisis, or the supply chain crisis. Because only when we have motivation are we able to address these crises. And some crises may actually be caused by the lack of employee motivation. Amidst all these disruptive challenges, many employees seem to be losing their motivation to stay employed or at least do their best. But this problem is not without a solution. It takes authentic engaging leaders.

What does authentic and engaging leadership look like?

You may also be struggling with your own motivation as a leader. And you probably know that you and your organization are not alone in this search for passion, excitement, and motivation. So how can you get some of that motivation back while we’re all still in the middle of the storm? It’s your opportunity to flex your leadership, stakeholder engagement, and change management muscles in new ways. Here we share some tricks that worked for our clients and their teams.

  • Purpose. Ensure the clarity of your true purpose behind doing what you’re doing and how it aligns with your employees’ values. This will take a methodological approach to communicate and explain this purpose across the different layers in your organization.
  • Vulnerability and Authenticity. Show up as an equally struggling human being that doesn’t have all the answers despite being at the top of some ladder. Also, don’t shy away from sharing some of your own unpleasant personal experiences and how they make you feel.
  • Empathy. Take (rather than fake) genuine interest in how your people feel, what they’re going through, and how you can all help each other. It’s becoming more and more difficult for people to follow leaders who seem like they don’t care about them.
  • Professional Help. Seek and offer to your people help in the form of  peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching, as well as therapy, counselling, and coaching support from independent professional services.
  • Learning. Acknowledge that none of you has ever gone through a similar experience in the past and raise the bar for learning and development within your organization, starting with yourself. Set the examples in acquiring new skills and capabilities for a new normal.
  • Challenge. Redesign organizational structures and roles in ways that challenge every employee to take responsibility for mitigating newly emerging risks and taking advantage of new opportunities. Take the time to match people with work that excites them and helps realize your vision and strategic goals.
  • Accountability. Hold yourself and your most senior leaders accountable for meeting your own goals before you hold your employees accountable. Ensure that the general perception within your organization is that reward is directly tied to performance.
  • Comradery. It’s not about who’s at the top anymore and unless people feel you are in this together it will be almost impossible to keep them motivated. Have fun with your people and encourage two way communication. If you want them to be motivated by your messages and actions, start by allowing them to motivate you!

How about you? What are you doing to keep yourself, your team and/or organization motivated?

Photo by PhotoMIX Company: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-sitting-behind-counter-under-television-518244/

The Resignation is GREAT, but are your strategies great enough?

Like many business leaders, many of my executive coaching clients are concerned about their ability to stay afloat, let alone grow in the face of the increasing risk of employee attrition. We can claim that this post-COVID19 phenomenon has caught us by surprise. But we will soon be out of excuses. The global trauma that we all been going through remains a wake-up call for many. And many of your employees may very well wake up to the fact that they do not want to be working for you!

However, it seems that many leaders are still handling the Great Resignation in a reactive manner that falls short of addressing the tectonic shift that it is. Working through this situation with several of the executives I coach, I have become familiar with the temporal nature of this challenge. Therefore, different strategic options emerge different time frames. Below I offer a framework for a more proactive approach for handling the retention challenge.

Immediate: the Departing Employee Matters

The fact that there is a mass exodus from the workforce, some of which without immediate reentry, can just be a symptom for bigger issues. Also, your leavers my continue to be good resources for you. Therefore, consider the following:

  • Take the exit interviews seriously. Beyond being an HR formality, they are an opportunity to learn about challenges to talent retention in your organization. They will be helpful for reducing your attrition rates.
  • Avoid burning bridges with the departing employees. They are important future human resources for you. Your brand as an employee and a business will benefit from their word of mouth. Also, you may be able to establish contract arrangements with some of them to help with easing off the workload and sustaining your operations while you figure out longer term solutions. And, you may stand a chance of attracting your top talent back!

Short-term: Beware of Similar Decisions in the Making

Your exit interviews will provide you with a foundation for understanding the attrition risks you could be facing. Next, I recommend that you engage managers and employees, establishing partnerships to address some basic questions?

  • Who’s next? Who else may be having similar concerns to the leavers and, thereby, contemplating similar decisions?
  • Do you want to retain them? What can you do to retain them?
  • What are the morale and workload implications on those who may be happily choosing to stay with you?
  • What are some creative resource solutions to rationalize the workload?

Medium-term: Work Ethics Matter More Now

Another phenomenon that is emerging is that some employers may now be rushing to refill the open positions so fast that they forget to check on the candidates’ work ethics. In less drastic cases, they may sacrifice the cultural fit. What my clients have learned is that they may loose more time through the damage that a misaligned employee may cause. Eventually, they will have delayed their recruitment of  ‘suitable’ candidates by the few months it takes to recruit, hire, and fire the wrong candidates.

Long-term: Time for Leaders to Play Catch Up

The world has moved on from the “because I said so” leadership style and it’s time for leaders to play catch up. The Great Resignation is here to teach us a few leadership lessons. Leaders now are constantly being challenged to sell the idea of employment to their employees- let alone the idea of working for their organizations and each of them in person. This is probably the subject line for another blog. But what we know for sure is that two sets of long-term strategies must be in question now by most organizations:

  • Talent acquisition, development, and retention strategies
  • Leadership selection and development strategies as well as the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success and keep leaders accountable

And, finally let’s keep in mind that “human” resources require authentic and compassionate human leadership that values them and prioritizes their fulfillment and growth!

Whether you’ve been directly affected by the Great Resignation or not, its disruption of workforce dynamics will affect every organization and its leadership. To discuss what it means and how to be more proactive about it, contact us to schedule your free strategy development consultation.


Lessons for Leaders: What has 2020 told us about 2021?

In bidding 2020 farewell, the world has been filled with hope that the suffering of 2020 will come to an end as the year came to an end. But it is no secret that the world doesn’t necessarily go through a factory reset on January 1. This is not all bad news though. The turbulent ride that 2020 was has given us certainty about the uncertainty of our present and future! Things are going to remain volatile for a long time.

Now we can stop guessing

Most of the risks that leaders and strategists typically incorporated into extreme future scenarios in the past ended up manifesting one way or the other in 2020. You probably remember when extreme strategic scenarios reflected one or two of the following combinations:

  • A serious global pandemic resulting in major lockdowns and geopolitical disintegration
  • An oil market crash and major global economic downturn and restructuring
  • A breathtaking digital transformation connecting human communities in new ways and threatening personal privacy and security
  • An expedited energy transition supported by breakthroughs in alternative energy and storage technologies
  • The expansion of the virtual workplace, and exponential growth in ecommerce
  • Increasing weather volatility and natural disaster occurrence

Many of these risks are here to stay. And even if the pandemic situation is resolved in the next year, many of its implications are long-lasting if not permanent. Of these, we have identified five themes that appear to be most critical for strategizing for success in 2021 and beyond. Several of these have already been discussed in previous articles over the last couple of years, as noted below.

1. Energy Transitions, ESG, D&I and the Human Race’s Search for Purpose

We clearly are at an interesting stage of development as a race. There is a rising sense of consciousness over how what we do and how do things impact our environments and the lives of other people and creatures. This is especially true for most millennials and Gen Zs who tend to at least partially evaluate employers and product and service providers based on their approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I) and environment, sustainability, and governance (ESG) issues. Employers are also now being increasingly challenged to align jobs and assignments with employee purpose.

By the same token, the investment and regulatory communities are gradually withdrawing support from entities whose operations are believed to simply pollute the environment or reinforce bias and discrimination. There is no going back from this and regardless of how much we may want to argue against it, financial and economic metrics along won’t be sufficient going forward.

As we discussed in a previous article, sustainability-oriented business models will have better chances of winning in the new normal. This, together with the demand shifts described below will continue to accelerate the transition of the energy system away from the domination of fossil fuels. The pace of this transition is still being debated. There is growing conviction among many including oil and gas supermajor that we are already beyond peak oil demand. This is a huge departure from the previous consensus that it wasn’t going to occur until the late 2020s – mid 2030’s.

2. The Expansion of the Virtual Workplace

The technology that supports remote working, team building, and leadership solutions had been here for some time. But the imperatives of social distancing in 2020 drove significant investment in and utilization of digital applications for establishing virtual workplaces. In the middle of the year, major tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter began making announcements that their employees would be allowed to work from home permanently. Leaders have now had experience with the remote workplace concept and developed more appreciation for its positive impacts on efficiency and effectiveness. My earlier article on employee and leadership behaviors in the new normal describes shifts that drive the expansion of the virtual workplace beyond COVID into the next normal.

3. Freelance Work and Small Business Sector Growth

Empowered by technology and challenged by economic downturns, freelancers are finding flexibility and security in establishing multiple sources of income. On the other hand, employers, and especially other freelancers and small businesses are increasingly finding it more cost effective to rely on freelancers. This is especially the case for temporary or intermittent resource and unique skillset needs. In 2019, about 35% of Americans freelanced and it is estimated that 43% were freelancing by the end of 2020. Also, freelancing tends to be favored by younger generations, with 53% of Generation Z (18-22 years) freelancing by 2019. By 2027, some expect that freelancers will make up more than half of the U.S. workforce.

By contrast, the small business sector contracted in 2020 as a result of the COVID health and economic crisis. But the outlook for small business growth in the next few years remains strong with millennials and Gen Zs continuing to show preference for being their own bosses. In addition, barriers to entry are now lower in many industries as the digital transformation is availing new analytic and business networking capabilities that may be much easier for smaller and newer entities to leverage.

4. Major Demand Shifts Driven by the Technologically-Empowered End User

End users are being empowered by technology in a few ways, as I elaborated in an earlier article. These include the growing availability of information about products, services, and providers as well as the easier access to a wider variety of providers. This together with the expansion of the virtual workplace, and the growth of freelancing work and ecommerce are already driving significant shifts in demand for many commodities. Understanding and predicting such demand shifts can be very tricky but is absolutely critical for succeeding in 2021 and beyond. In the energy sector for example, the transformation in end user demand already drove profound shocks in the industry in 2020 as discussed in our article about energy demand transition. When combined with an expedited energy transition, demand shifts can change the landscape for oil and gas players indefinitely.

The airline and hospitality industries had already seen first order impacts from this dynamic in earlier years. Customers not only have access to information about their choices, but also have access to technologies that allow them to connect with family, friends, customers, and business associates without having to travel. Of course, these industries have been even more dramatically impacted throughout the COVID crisis.

5. The Humanization of Human Resources

Having been reinforced by the COVID experience, the overall wellbeing of employees is gaining importance as a driver of talent attraction, retention, and engagement. Pressure is mounting on leaders to demonstrate compassion and trust and approach their people as holistic human being, prioritizing their mental and physical health and family lives. As I discussed in another earlier article, there is near consensus that the leader of the future will only succeed if they consider employee fulfillment and purpose foundational to their people policies and strategies.

Now what?

Many of the events of 2020 were harsh for sure. But we were taught that it would not be impossible to grow and even win in this environment. The uncertainties that continue to materialize so rapidly before us present not only new challenges but also new opportunities. Success now requires new strategies that understand how each of the themes discussed here impact the overall business climate including customers and prospects, competition, and current and prospective employees.

Contact us to learn more about how we partner with executives to revisit their strategies and develop resilient leadership teams for winning during a historical juncture in human history.

Transformational Leadership: Top 5 Traits and Top 5 Limiting Mindsets

This decade is already proving to be much more intimidating to the status quo than the previous three or four decades at least. And disruptive forces are challenging leaders in new ways across different industries. In the energy industry for example we are having to navigate three major transformations concurrently: the energy transition, the digital revolution, and diversity and inclusion (D&I). Environment, social, and governance (ESG) are top on the agendas of major industry players globally. Much of this has been expedited by this year’s events, especially the COVID19 outbreak and the growing concern about racial divide issues.

Building our transformational leadership muscle is now a ‘must have’ for those who are looking to pivot their businesses for wining in a disrupted reality. Leaders that had already aligned their overall visions with the digital revolution have been better able to run operations more effectively and efficiently during lock-downs. The resultant relatively safe and stable experiences for employees and customers in turn translated to favorable financial outcomes. Likewise, leaders that had already developed strong D&I brands for their organizations had better chances of avoiding the negative implications of perceptions about their bias on their sales and financials. And, oil and gas industry leaders that had already pushed their energy transitions/ESG visions forward probably felt more optimistic about the future of their organizations in the face of the recent oil price shocks.

But what does it take to excel as a transformational leader? And what traditional mindsets block the realization of transformational visions?

Top Transformational Leader Traits

Throughout my experiences in patterning with transformational leaders, I have observed that those who are able to excel in orchestrating major organizational shifts share five traits:

  1. Influential and engaging. Transformational leaders understand very well that they can’t go it alone. Their success hinges on their ability to engage stakeholders around common visions and well aligned strategic roadmaps. This may require a different balance between command-and-control and collaborative leadership styles compared with what worked in the past. In addition to securing buy-in and commitment to the vision, an effective stakeholder engagement approach establishes a safe environment for feedback solicitation, and innovative idea generation.
  2. Perceptive and insightful. Transformational leaders are insightful observers of events and developments within their businesses, industry sectors, and the wider economy. They tend to be highly talented in connecting the dots, realizing trends and identifying opportunities prior to others. They don’t have to be subject matter experts (SMEs) themselves but they know how to engage SMEs and translate their analyses and opinions into commercially relevant insights and drive results accordingly.
  3. Adaptive visionary. While being visionary is a valuable leadership trait in general, leading through transformations calls for a different type of visionary, the adaptive visionary. The adaptive visionary makes it a habit to check their vision against major internal and external developments as well as the views of experts and thought leaders within and outside their organizations. The highly disruptive nature of our times calls for dynamic rather than static visions and supportive strategies. The adaptive visionary is able to imagine and re-imagine the future under different likely scenarios as soon as early signposts emerge or are brought to their attention.
  4. Commerciallydriven. Many major projects and organizational change efforts end up running above budgets and schedules. I am sure some of us feel that most if not all transformational initiatives miss their deadlines and exceed their budgets. They may also place pressure on the financial performance of the organization’s core business by leaning on its resources. Keeping an eye on the commercial priorities of the core business is top on the transformational leader’s list. In addition, understanding and managing the direct commercial outcomes of the organizational change under different potential constructs of the future is foundational for their success. This includes adopting solid approaches to identify, quantify, and mitigate risks in the short-term let alone the long-term.
  5. Strategic risk taker. Massive transformative disruptions naturally bring new and completely unimaginable risks, some of which are actually hidden opportunities. Winning takes leaders who are not only proficient in identifying and navigating risks but also make some bold strategic choices. They understand that the risk of inaction can be much higher than the risk of action in disrupted world. Strategic risk taking at the top is also important for inspiring a culture of creativity and innovation across the organization.

Regardless of the scale of the disruption and the nature of the journey, my clients and I find ourselves leaning more on these traits as we partner on leading successful transformations. Pivoting into new modes of growth takes a dynamic approach to balancing these five traits, while constantly prioritizing effective stakeholder engagement and teamwork. I hope this is not a surprise!

Top Leadership Mindsets that Block Transformations

Over the last decade, I have had many opportunities to partner with leaders on achieving their ambitions to pivot their businesses into growth in a disrupted industry. This included supporting energy transitions visions, evolving analytics to elevate an organization’s brand along its value chain, and redesigning structures and roles to prepare for major transformations. Throughout my experiences I have identified five legacy leader mindsets that tend to block transformative efforts:

  1. Direct returns-based assessment of new initiatives. In many instances, leaders find themselves working too hard to protect the successes of the past. This mindset only considers the direct revenues of new initiatives and ignores highly likely risks to core business revenues as the wider economy transitions away. It also ignores other opportunity costs associated with unfavorable transformation outcomes for conservative leaders compared to bolder competitors. Being outpaced by competition is one of the easiest ways to to hurt your brand and your core business results.
  2. Deterministic leadership cultures. This is somewhat linked to the first mindset. In an industry that had historically been lucrative like O&G for example, a deterministic mindset that assumes the continuation of past trends could easily become the norm. As major transformations unfold, long-term trends are constantly disrupted. Deterministic mindsets can lead to the handling of disruptions as short-term inconveniences rather than lasting shifts. This can easily result in facing the risks of a transformation without sufficient preparation and missing out on its biggest opportunities.
  3. Traditional competitive assessment. When I ask leaders about the competitors to consider when re-envisioning their future, they mostly list their past competitors. In most of the cases and after a little bit of digging, my clients and I find some big surprises. Traditionally, their competitors were entities that provided similar produce and services to theirs. During major disruptions, most players are transforming their businesses and customer mindsets are changing so rapidly. New competitors emerge, potentially doing very different things but customers could easily be putting them side by side with some traditional offerings for picking a winner. Understanding who competes for your customer’s attention during a major transformation is paramount to success.
  4. Job description orientation. This mindset is common among leaders with a track record in climbing the corporate ladder and typically aspiring for the next move up. During transformations, they struggle with the lack of clarity and their struggles become contagious across their teams . This is a first for us all! And no job description or annual objectives will spell out what it takes to come out on the winning side of the energy transition, digital transformation, D&I transformation, or even the COVID19 disruption. Regardless of the size of your team or business function, leaders could benefit from finding ways to thrive in uncertainty while staying aligned with overall corporate visions and values. Limiting your own imagination and creativity will only limit creativity and innovation within your team.
  5. And the winner is the silo mindset. This is perhaps one of the most common barriers to any organizational change effort. The ‘what’s in it for me or my team’ foundation for decision making and resource investment can therefore be extremely limiting. The transformations reshaping the future of humanity today are all intertwined, inter-disciplinary, cross-sectoral, global in scope and extremely large in scale. Leadership teams will float together or sink together. The desire to stick to traditional product or service definitions, organizational structures, and team boundaries is an implicit decision to struggle throughout the transformation and remain a follower of transformational leaders rather than one of them.

There are other mindsets that tend to block transformational breakthroughs. And like the five most common ones they are mostly related to the human tendency to stick to tried and tested methods. Consistently staying the course has its merits during more stable times. But when we are trying to chart a new path the balance will need to be tilted toward creativity, innovation, flexibility, compassion, and alignment.

Contact us to learn more about how we partner with executives to build their transformational leadership muscle and identify and make the necessary mindset shifts. 

Seeking New Normalcy: Winning Strategies

The new normal continues to take shape as social distancing and other health and safety measures bring transformational shifts to our behaviors, societal values, employment practices, and leadership approaches.  The demarcation between winners and losers in this environment may become clearer than ever. What it takes to be on the winning side could vary by industry, location, and/or profession. In our survey about the new normal, we asked leaders from the energy, health, and coaching industries about their views on what it takes for businesses in their respective sectors to excel in the new normal. Their answers indicate that bigger picture success drivers are similar across the economy. How each of these is interpreted will clearly be different for each organization.

What will take for businesses to be on the winning side in the ‘new normal’?

There was a great deal of consensus among our respondents that winning in the new environment will hinge on realizing and maintaining a tricky balance between flexibility and innovation on one hand and taking responsibility for sustainability on the other.

  • Innovation in employee and client solutions.  As discussed in earlier blogs, the preference for having the flexibility to work remotely and meet virtually when possible is expected to be here to stay. Applying communication and digital technologies creatively to allow employees to do their jobs while adhering to social distancing has already proven to be an important survival and success tool in the new normal.  Innovation in client solutions has also been a major differentiator for grocery stores, other retailers, and restaurants that were quick to upgrade their online shopping and delivery systems. Professional service providers offering research, advisory, consulting, and coaching services have also increased their online activity levels immensely. Even healthcare services are now trying to be creative about going largely virtual where possible. Our respondents feel that continued innovation in leveraging digital technologies to improve employee and client experiences to help establish diversified businesses will be critical for success in the new normal. 
  • A proactive attitude toward change and risk assessment and management. Embracing the constant state of change that comes with the new normal is viewed as a top driver for winning. While predicting the timing and nature of change accurately can be near impossible, winners will typically have established the capability to identify, assess and navigate risks. Being proactive about embracing change and assessing and mitigating risks calls for a great deal of operational and commercial flexibility and nimbleness. Also, while visionary leaders can be naturally gifted in identifying signposts for game changers, every leader can benefit from a mechanism for soliciting such input from visionaries within their organization and wider industry. The leaders we spoke to realize that it could be very complicated to be prepared for winning under many potential future scenarios for how things could evolve in the short, long, and medium term. But they’ve all agreed that otherwise success would be far fetched in an evolving and volatile new normal.
  • Sustainability-oriented business models. Leaders that had considered operating efficiency and emergency preparedness among their top priorities in the last few years, have been better able to ensure business continuity during the COVID19 crisis. Going forward, our respondents believe that taking responsibility for sustainability will require mental, emotional, physical, and financial preparation.  Effective sustainability business models will, therefore, have to encompass all aspects that impact operations including facilities, human capital, skillsets, structures, information technology, and financials. Also, an organizational culture that values continuous efficiency improvement can be  a real differentiator for organizations that prioritize sustainability. In addition to their operational, business continuity, and financial benefits, sustainability business models remain an important tool for realizing ambitious environmental goals.
  • Employee empowerment and engagement. Most of the leaders that responded to our survey agreed that the quality of leadership will be a real differentiator for winners in the post-COVID19 world. Engaging employees in identifying and addressing challenges and preparing for emergencies while ensuring alignment around organizational visions and missions is recommended not only for winning but also for survival. This requires an open exchange of feedback with employees and commitment to the greater good of stakeholders, not just shareholders. This in turn will allow organizations to function with a longer time horizon mindset, beyond maximizing next quarter returns and engender innovation in ensuring nimbleness in the face of volatility.

Interestingly, wining strategies in the new normal do not seem very different from some of the top leadership priorities that we had all been working on during the last few years: innovation, sustainability, employee empowerment and engagement, and a proactive approach to change and risk management. COVID19 and the ensuing economic crisis are now accelerating the attention to these priorities and reinforcing their importance for business continuity and commercial performance. In addition to assessing and managing risks, winning businesses will be those who are able to adopt and leverage these strategies to identify and capitalize on new opportunities in a socially responsible manner. If you think about it, these principles are relevant for establishing a new foundation for growth across the wider society- including public and private organizations across sectors, charities, special interest groups, communities, and even families. As influencers within several of such entities, we each have the responsibility to bring more agility, flexibility, sustainability, and engagement to our environments.

Seeking New Normalcy: Values

The values of the larger community have always been an important consideration for business success even prior to the COVID19 outbreak. Aligning corporate values with the values of the larger society is now becoming even more important for attracting clients and talent, securing employee and customer loyalty, and staying competitive. In our survey about the new normal, we asked leaders about values that are surfacing as we confront new health and economic challenges and will prevail beyond COVID19.

Which societal and business values are going to prevail in the post-COVID19 world?

A few of the leaders we spoke to doubted that there would be a lasting change to our value systems beyond the COVID19 crisis. But a good majority felt that this trying experience would stay with us long enough to bring about long-term shifts to our priorities and what we value. There was a good deal of consensus around some contradictory values that are expected to prevail ranging between the extremes of compassion and empathy on one hand and polarization and self sufficiency on one hand.

  • Compassion and Empathy. There is at least hope that what we are experiencing as a human race will lead to some mutual appreciation of of what others are going through and the environments they have to live and work in. As already evident, employers are expected to continue to demonstrate greater display of empathy for workers, their families, their health, and their well-being. The focus is going to be not only on compassionate leadership, but also compassionate collegiality and compassionate citizenship. The epidemic is teaching us that good hygiene and protective social habits are part of our responsibility toward the health of others in and outside of our immediate circles not just our own.
  • Volunteerism and Charity. Beyond being more empathetic and compassionate, there is an increasing sense of responsibility over the wellbeing of the larger community that comes with tragic crises. Given the duration, scale, scope, and economic impacts of the COVID19 crisis, this sense of responsibility is expected to be grow. Respondents believe that the greater public display of acts of heroism, selflessness, and generosity in business as well as social networks will extend even as we recover from the crisis.
  • Honesty and Transparency. The disparity in public and private entity transparency about the progress of COVID19 and protective measures has been appalling to many across the globe. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with how some governments, health authorities, medical institutions, and industries have handled the crisis. Trust has been broken in these cases in terms of both how honest leadership had been about the extent of the crisis and how seriously they’d been about protecting employees, clients, and the general public. Going forward, it is expected that the average citizen is going to command honesty and transparency from politicians as well as business leaders. Likewise, honesty and transparency is expected to be a requirement on the individual level about social activities and proximity to support pandemic containment efforts.
  • Self Sufficiency and Polarization. This value set is at odds with the first two, but they are expected to continue to coexist. As economically disadvantaged communities experience more health and economic tragedies during the crisis, preexisting feelings of inequality and unfairness would only get reinforced and stick further in the foreseeable future.  On the other hand, the more privileged nations and communities have now become more aware of the range of economic and health risks that surround them. As they become extremely protective of their stability and safety, de-globalization and regionalization trends will pick up even more pace. Self sufficiency is predicted to remain a priority at the expense of collaboration and globalization.

Expectations about values that would prevail in the new normal may vary from time to time, from one location to the other, and between social and cultural backgrounds. But it would be useful for leaders to form and regularly revisit their view on the prevailing value system. The ability of a public or private enterprise to align its actions with societal values can be a great differentiator when it comes to attracting customers and attracting and retaining top talent. Also, innovation in product and service design, development, and marketing has largely benefited from an understanding of the aspects of life experience clients value and would value over time. Leadership across many leading businesses and progressive nations have already been proactive about embracing the opportunities that come as different or new values prevail. What value shifts bring about new opportunities or risks for  your business, team, or career? What strategic choices are you making to capitalize on the opportunities and navigate the risks effectively?

Seeking New Normalcy: Leadership

As discussed in our previous article, much of our recent dialogue with leaders has been about basic questions about socioeconomic shifts that are shaping a transforming new normal in the post-COVID19 world. Answers to these questions define alternative and coinciding scenarios for customer demand,  competitive landscapes, and work dynamics within each, if not all, of the sectors of the economy. Having reviewed major insights from our respondents on the expected shifts to individual behaviors earlier this week, this article summarizes insights from answers to the second question:

In what ways will leaders continue to approach their businesses and employees differently even as we recover from the crisis?

Some respondents were very skeptical that all leaders will actually make long-term transformational shifts in their approach to leadership as we recover from the health and economic crisis. But there was  consensus about some overarching transformational themes that are here to stay beyond the COVID19 crisis.

  • Embracing remote working and virtual teams, and re-imagining the workplace. Remote working has enabled business continuity while adhering to social distancing measures. There is an expectation that leaders will now trust remote working more even beyond the crisis. Mandating physical presence as a condition for employment could become extremely challenging, especially for “at risk” employees, required to stay home if they have health concerns.  Also, ongoing experiences with remote working have already demonstrated the associated benefits of cost savings and access to more diversified pools of resources for building more effective virtual teams. As a result, companies could find themselves having to rethink the workspace to avoid physical proximity, allow telecommuting, leverage virtual teams, and achieve cost savings.
  • Empathy, balancing employee well-being with shareholder value. Leaders are expected to become more empathetic, and shift their emphasis from shareholder value to overall enterprise value enhancement. This will take additional attention to employee financial, emotional, and physical well-being. Even if some leaders don’t choose to be more empathetic, the COVID19 health crisis has made the direct connection between employee well-being and business performance clearer to employers. Employees would now be approached much more holistically as human beings and family members with priorities and demands that affect their contribution.  This could call for evaluating the need to upgrade their health insurance plans, mental health programs, flexible work policies, and compensation schemes. On the flip side, economic pressures are expected to motivate the reassessment and reduction of hiring and overall human resource needs.
  • E-commerce driven recovery and growth. Business leaders predict growth in established as well as emerging e-commerce markets with remote working and social distancing becoming the norm. Many businesses in the online retail and tech sectors have already seen significant growth in 2020. Leaders across sectors are upping their game, where possible, to identify and realize commercial opportunities for their businesses in a socially distanced, increasingly virtual world. Financial recovery and growth is projected to be driven by a continuous shift to e-commerce or products and services that support virtual work and communication and other social distancing measures.

Raising questions about how overall public and private sector leadership priorities and approaches could be transforming is critical for success in the new normal. These changes drive shifts in the competitive landscape, customer demand, and/or policy dynamics for most businesses. As leaders re-envision the future and redirect their organizations accordingly, it would be useful to consider societal values that will prevail in the new normal. The next article in our “Seeking New Normalcy” series will address the question of values.

Seeking New Normalcy: Behaviors

Globally, economies are being reopened while the fight to flatten the COVID19 curve is still on. The highly volatile ‘new normal’ is unfolding under our feet. Meanwhile, we’re being challenged to make sense of it and maximize gains or at least minimize losses. Leaders in the public and private sectors are under pressure to provide answers as the search for normalcy continues. This is probably distracting them from doing what successful leaders do best: ask great questions.

As a strategy partner, I work with my clients on raising and answering the right, sometimes very complex, questions. But over the last few weeks, we have been deliberating over some basic questions. To help envision a few alternative or coexistent scenarios for the new normal, we raised these questions with leaders in the energy, health, and coaching industries. The answers reinforce the complexity of the evolving new normal. But when it comes to what it takes to be on the winning side, the answers were not so different from what we would have heard prior to the coronavirus outbreak. We all probably just had assumed that we had more time to address the imperatives of innovation, sustainability, empowerment and engagement for example.

In this first article, we summarize the major insights provided by our respondents in answering our first question:

Which individual behavioral shifts will characterize the post-COVID19 new normal?

The first question is about the personal and professional behavioral shifts that will prevail even as the world recovers from the health and economic crisis. It is critical for every leader to make a habit of raising this questions to improve intelligence about client preferences, end user demand, and employee dynamics. The results of our survey show consensus around four areas of behavioral changes that are already transforming the landscape in most, if not all, public and private sectors.

  • Flexibility toward remote working. A conservative attitude toward physical proximity is expected to continue for some time, at least until real progress is made on an effective vaccine. Also, as employers experience cost savings and begin to trust the performance of remote workers, it is anticipated that many could follow Twitter in rolling out their indefinite remote working policies.
  • Virtual communications and team dynamics. Virtual meetings are expected to be an acceptable norm unless in-person meetings are an absolute necessity. Organizations and employees are also expected to continue to seek creative ways for remote team building and operations and virtual relationship building.
  • Personal health prioritization. Most of our respondents expect individuals to become much more aware of their health conditions and view improving their mental and physical health as a priority. This will affect how they view work and the work environment and their personal and professional habits.
  • New spending and buying habits. The economic crisis and resultant financial pressures and fears that followed COVID19 containment efforts are expected to linger for some time. Individuals and businesses have already become much more conservative spenders, an attitude that could stay beyond the economic crisis. Also, there is consensus that the growing preference for online shopping is here to stay not only to adhere to social distancing measures, but also to have access to a wider range of choices when it comes to product pricing and quality.

These and other behavioral shifts are presenting new growth opportunities for some industries such as online retail and technology. At the same time, unprecedented risks have surfaced for other sectors such as the airline and energy industries. Challenges on both sides require creativity from leaders in considering game-changing behavioral shifts and addressing their implications on demand for their products or services, their supply chains, and/or workforce dynamics for their organizations.

To continue to provoke thought around the ‘new normal’ scenarios evolving for different industries, we will follow up with three other blogs covering survey results for three more questions:

  • In what ways will leaders continue to approach their businesses and employees differently even as we recover from the crisis?
  • Which societal and business values are going to prevail in the post-COVID19 world?
  • What will take for businesses to be on the winning side in the ‘new normal’?

In the meantime, start thinking about how the ‘new normal’ could be shaping for your organization and larger industry and what it means for your priorities as a leader.



Remote working: how to make it work?

While it has become a necessity for many, remote working will not be ideal for everyone. Success can be challenging and complex even for the most seasoned and experienced employees and managers. The leadership challenges associated with such a wholesale and abrupt shift are numerous. Since we published our article about remote working last week, we received a number of questions about several of these implications: 

  • Which employees and/or roles will remote working hinder success for? Will remote workers have the ability to create the right environments for themselves?
  • How will they handle daily distractions at home? For example, as nice as it is to spend time at home with small children, how do you explain to them that it is work time when you’re at home all day?
  • How can managers establish supportive work environments and ensure effectiveness and relevance in employee performance?
  • How to keep teams together when every team member is sitting at home feeling lonely and/or scared, or being surrounded by family doing family business?

These questions highlight that despite the advancement in technology, moving away from habitual and traditional work environments hasn’t necessarily been easy. Some remote workers can feel isolated and experience difficulty in managing time. And productivity levels can be a contentious discussion. These issues are now compounded by the distressful nature of the COVID19 health crisis and the associated economic crisis. It can be near impossible for any of us to stay focused on task for a full workday.

But what does it take to keep your team’s or organization’s eyes on the prize during this crisis? It actually starts with you, the leader! What are you doing to transform your approach to leadership during these testing times? For example, are you taking full advantage of technology to serve your people and your business? This is the time for you and your leadership team to develop and/or leverage your online forums for building and strengthening your virtual teams in different ways.

Of course, sharing business updates, meeting outcomes, and employee business and personal achievements can be a great opportunity to improve engagement. And scheduled virtual check-ins may now be more critical than regular face-to-face meetings in the not so distant past.

But more importantly, leaders could benefit from some extra creativity in assigning performance objectives and projects to pairs and teams rather than individuals to ensure continuous team engagement. Also, technology-enabled feedback systems have now become much more important than ever for ensuring engagement and an instantaneous flow of information about how the employee and client experiences are evolving during the crisis.

The fast unfolding health crisis is making figuring out remote working solutions a necessity, almost for all but essential businesses and business functions. While this decision is already made for many leaders already, there are other decisions to ponder upon:

  1. The frequency of communication from/with CEOs, executives, and managers to solicit input on business decisions, or to just talk about non-work-related matters
  2. The frequency and balance of formal and informal team and one-on-one communication
  3. Identifying and empowering employees and roles that could even be much more successful in solitude
  4. Ways to adjust performance management systems to the new reality and develop, prioritize and measure team-level objectives
  5. Professional development resources to support managers and employees with the new challenges related to self-discipline, clarity of expectations, productive virtual team dynamics, and motivation during a time of collective hardship

The world is changing very quickly as the crisis unfolds, and that comes with opportunities to be creative. Perhaps with this crisis companies will exhibit a sense of urgency to build more on of the use of technology to their advantage. Be strategic with the crucial roles that will jeopardize the smooth flow of business. It is imperative that this is given immediate attention. There is no time like now.

A Case for Embracing Remote Working

The coronavirus pandemic is a harsh reminder that the world is changing more rapidly than we can comprehend. And the challenge to learn how to live, work, and do business differently cannot be overestimated. But the change presents real opportunities for some of us: those who have embraced the very different nature and pace of the shifts happening beneath us. Only those will be able to find out what works and how we can capitalize on the opportunities to make transformational improvements in our lives, businesses, and our larger environment.

Declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, the coronavirus outbreak and the ensuing economic downturn or crisis are now compelling us to find new means for living, working, and running businesses. Schools, universities, and religious institutions are all now talking about going virtual. We believe that leaders who succeed at planning and implementing effective remote working programs will have a better chance at not only surviving but succeeding. While remote working is not perfectly right for every role and every organization, leveraging technology that’s been available for some time to help human beings and businesses survive is not just optional now. Every leader will have to address what this means for their organization or their team. The real winners are those who have been in the middle of this transformation for some time and are finding it more straightforward to adjust to the health and economic crises responsibly. Followers who have accepted the reality of change and are considering how to reshape work and the workforce could have good chances at succeeding.

In addition to business continuity and productivity goals, leaders and organizations now have an opportunity to meet some of their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals in new and creative ways. Accommodating remote work imperatives for employees is a means to demonstrate commitment not only to their health and safety but also to the health and safety of the larger community. As we have all learned, carriers can be asymptomatic. And social distancing has now been proven in China as a successful measure to slow down the trend of growth in new coronavirus cases.

Over and above the ongoing global force majeure of coronavirus outbreak, developing the ability within your organization to run virtually when necessary is helpful in many ways:

Working remotely can be a huge cost benefit for companies. Huge savings involve expenses associated with locating and leasing/buying the ideal physical location, purchasing, rental and maintenance. That money can now be allocated to marketing, additional staff benefits, to a cause supported by the company, and/or to improve overall finances. It can also be used to expand the workforce to undertake new initiatives.  The company would also spend less on overhead, and other menial unnecessary expenses which can add up. Also, introducing the remote working culture make organizations and employees better able to save on business travel as they learn how to productively run and participate in virtual meetings and workgroups. These are just some of the cost benefits that can make it attractive to begin the process of encouraging a remote workforce.

We shouldn’t always allow situations to force us into thinking of what would attract some of the best employees, however this more often than not is the case. Otherwise, they will probably end up with competitors who are willing to offer that flexibility. There is a case for working remotely. There are individuals who get more done working from home. Most people who work remotely will have more control as to how time is utilized, display a higher level of commitment, dedication and accountability because they are unsupervised and deadlines become even more important. Businesses who offer remote work opportunities also have a good chance of attracting some of the best candidates because they now have a much larger and more diverse pool to choose from. Attracting a diverse workforce is another key ESG objective.

Also, being able to work from home gives parents with young children the chance to spend more time and flexibility for raising their children just as they would like to. It may even become very convenient for parents to home school their children. Parents who feel confident that their children are safe will be more productive. Trust will be built and diversity and inclusion will be served, meeting ESG aspirations in yet another way. Also, when people have a good work-life balance there is a good chance that you have an employee for the long haul, higher work morale, less absenteeism, an opportunity to engage with other remote workers around the world which helps in expanding their knowledge at perhaps no cost to the employer. Working remotely reduces the pain and time spent on long commutes and unpredictable travel nightmares.

As we experience this new health and economic challenge, businesses will benefit from being intentional in their thinking and staying prepared for testing times. In cases of highly contagious diseases the work will still go on with less disruption unlike the panic and fear that can be caused working together in a huge office space or eventually not being able to work for long time periods. Forward thinking companies must spend more time exploring the reality of the constant changes taking place in the world and the workforce, and the effectiveness, growth and cost savings that come with working remotely. However, going virtual doesn’t come without personnel and operational challenges which we will soon discuss in another article.