We are dead center of the one-year anniversary of 14 days to flatten the curve. It’s been a grueling and challenging year for everyone, and for many, it’s been a year of tremendous loss and suffering. For business owners or leaders of organizations, this has been a year of uncertainty at almost every level from economic and political upheaval to employee health and safety concerns, policy changes, loss of sales, travel restrictions and equipment supply issues.
One of the biggest challenges for leaders may have been the absolute loss of control. Most leaders want to be in control of their ship and at least be able to steer it in the right direction. However, the “right” direction was very unclear for several months. When you add in government mandates costing small businesses billions in lost revenue, it goes south quickly.
As we start to consider business after COVID-19, here are five things that leaders can do to help give their organizations the best chance of rebuilding strong.
1. Inspire confidence.
Leaders must clearly define the current reality (the good, bad and ugly), but then articulate a very clear path forward that results in success for the company. I know throughout the last year no one on our team wanted it to end here because what we have is worth fighting for and employees’ livelihoods are important. Teams need to be reassured that leadership has a plan and that we will make it through the storm.
2. Align teams to the mission.
Leaders are often guilty of getting frustrated because we are not happy with our team’s performance. The reality is that we have not clearly communicated the expectations. It sounds simple and maybe condescending – but we have a strategy for a reason. Let’s make sure we share the vision for alignment. Having a team aligned to the message is what separates average teams from high-performing teams.
3. Work on the business.
I think you have to be laser-focused working on the business, not simply in the business. As leaders, you are more valuable to the organization being focused on the big picture, the future and trying to identify the next boulder coming at you. Great leaders are thinking every day about what makes their organization unique, while constantly trying to improve the value proposition, find better ways to serve the customer and constantly find ways to improve profitability. Keep your eye on the future, politics and the economy. Do what only you can do and let someone else do the rest.
4. Make decisions.
It is critical that leaders have the ability to make a decision, even if it’s not the right one. Not making a decision is a decision. As we look at life after COVID and how things have changed, there will be big decisions that must be made. Don’t be afraid to make them. Owners and leaders can earn their entire salary by one big decision they make every year. For our companies, the decisions made one day last March saved the company, but they were not easy decisions.
5. Hire right.
As business returns, most companies will start hiring again. While filling positions will be important, make sure you hire right. You want the most value for the dollars spent, but more importantly, it’s critical to maintain company culture while you do it. Many companies will not have extra cash sitting around, and there won’t be time or the financial resources to deal with bad hiring decisions. I always say: slow to hire and quick to fire. Take the time to make sure it’s right, and if it’s not, don’t waste time dealing with it.
Originally Featured in Springfield Business Journal: Now's the Time to Lead in Your Business