The past month has seen a dramatic and unprecedented change in both life and business – we’re living through a paradigm shift, and it’s all happening with alarming speed.

Yet in amongst the rush to change business models, save lives and livelihoods and maintain some sort of equilibrium, businesses are being  encouraged … and in some cases forced… to focus on elements which arguably, should have been in place anyway.

Here are three often underrated factors which are suddenly in the limelight:

Leadership and Personal Development

Current circumstances mean that we have time to invest in personal and leadership development when ‘not having the time’ might have been an excuse not to before. 

Scott Weir, CEO of property management company Pillow has always placed a strong emphasis on his own development, and highlights three simple swaps that can help those wanting to leverage their current spare time to learn:

Swap a couple of those Netflix episodes for webinar or online seminar – make time to relax, but don’t squander it. Now is a great time to pick up a new skill that’ll be useful in the future”

Swap some of those news updates for a learning podcast or audio book. It’s easy to get sucked in to every news broadcast about the virus; stay as current as you feel you need to be, but create space for audio learning, or multi task and listen to something uplifting as you’re doing something else.

Swap some of your social media comments for actually messaging someone or dropping them a voicemail to really connect. People want real communication right now (they probably did anyway) so reach out and make more meaningful connections”

“It only takes a few small changes to make a big difference” he adds “So much of this is about our mindset, and keeping it  healthy and productive.”

Leadership is also a focus:  the speed of changing events in past weeks has put particular pressure on leaders to make swift, bold decisions that have a huge impact on themselves, on their businesses and their employees. 

They have shone a spotlight on leadership strengths and weaknesses, and the current situation can – for those inclined to view it as such – provide a valuable crucible in which to learn new skills, recognise existing strengths to be leveraged… and identify what needs to be left behind because it no longer serves you. 

It’s worth reflecting critically on your recent responses and decisions: what will you decide to learn, leverage or leave?

Purpose and Values

Business values have manifested in current strategy and behaviour and have become very clear to all, from CEOs those who have forced staff to work until the last minute and then simply fired them to safeguard shareholder value… to those who are dipping into personal reserves to ensure that their teams are OK  and those who have shifted delivery models – products even – to be of service to clients and customers who still need them at this difficult time.

If businesses have a sense of collective purpose, strong leaders and coherent values that everyone buys into, these can become the ‘north star’. In  their absence direction, motivation, morale and therefore productivity suffer, not just now, but always.

John Moore is a business coach who specialises in working with SMEs. Taking both a short and a longer term view of the importance of business values, he observes:

“The current reality for many is that there is little “real” work which can be done. So, if we can’t do anything externally, then we must look internally. This is a great opportunity to ‘re-set’. So, what are the things that are truly most important to you ? And most importantly, are these things truly a significant part of your business ?

If this is something that you haven’t considered before, or more probably haven’t been asked before find yourself a list of values, and really consider which are the most meaningful to you (two or three will be sufficient). What can you not live without? What do you stand for?  What will you NOT sacrifice  for fame and fortune? “

He goes on  “ Also ask yourself whether or not your  business displays these values.  The more you can incorporate your values into the day-to-day life of your business, the happier you (and everyone around you) will be.

What is clear is that the world will not return to exactly the same as it was, and there is already evidence that there is a cultural shift towards a more value driven society.

Will you and your business be ready for this?” 

Culture and Communications

Business culture stems from both leaders and from company purpose and values and their related practices and habits. Never has its importance been more obvious.

If  a business doesn’t have a culture of trust and a collective sense of purpose, it’s going to be even harder for people to work together cohesively as a virtual team. A strong and positive culture, though, will underpin their communications.

The rush to get online isn’t enough:  it’s not just the technology of communication, but the quality of that communication. In the same way that a bad move is still  a bad movie even if it’s screened in  fancy cinema,  poor, tick-the-box communication is still poor communication if it’s moved offline to online.

Kirsty Innes is a high level marketing consultant with a specialism in connecting brand with culture. She observes:

 “Times like these are a test for even the healthiest of organisations: The way the business has always done things no longer match up to what is needed now. How you respond reflects your organisational culture.  If you’ve actively focused on your culture and people, and built a strong brand – inside and out – based on shared values, now is the time to put these hard-earned results to work. “

She suggests  a number of things to consider at this time:

  • Start with yourself, and remember your values as a starting point for your communications.
  • Know your team, what are their concerns and fears and prioritise their wellbeing in times of crisis.
  • You probably can’t over communicate, but be precise and clear. People often need to hear things several times to reinforce messages, and be on hand to answer questions as best you can
  • Adjust expectations. This crisis will throw up the unexpected and you will need to respond to many different challenges. You and your team will need to navigate through uncharted waters. But your commitment and consistency, tied back to your core values, will help steer you through.
  • Trust your team and listen. Take advice from inside and outside the organisation to deal with immediate issues and to support your team. But also remember to focus on the future beyond Covid 19.”

We are living in unprecedented times, and yet the lessons it’s teaching us are not new.

Whether we choose to take them on board and leverage them for the future is up to us.