Published: 31 July 2020
The UK is finally emerging from what might prove to be the only first period of lockdown to slow the spread and reduce the fatalities caused by Covid-19.
How has the lockdown experience been for you personally, your family, teams and for your business? There is every chance that your experience of lockdown will be different to the experience of colleagues and the same is true of businesses.
To say that we are all “in the same boat” isn’t true, in my opinion … it’s more apt to say we are all caught in the same storm, in vessels of different shapes and sizes and of seaworthiness. It’s also true to say that each boat has on board a unique crew, made up of individuals with their own skills and experiences, strengths and weaknesses.
Relaxation of lockdown restrictions is undoubtedly welcome news for businesses that are able to re-emerge and begin trading again. To return to the stormy seas analogy, for many businesses’ lockdown coupled with an un-precedented package of government support represented a period of safe haven and shelter from the tumultuous seas.
As we entered lockdown decisions had to be taken due to the restrictions and circumstances forced upon us. Decisions had to be taken quickly and communicated at a pace that didn’t allow for inclusive debate or consensus building.
Re-opening, re-starting and building a forward looking and resilient business able to stand the test of time in an ever more complex, volatile and un-certain climate requires a much more inclusive style of leadership, where it is acceptable to show your team, your vulnerability, to be open with them that you do not have complete answers to all their questions and that you would like them to play a part in finding new solutions to the challenges that you are facing as a business. Make time to check in with your "crew" both collectively and 1:1.
Businesses need to use the diversity within their teams and think about how their business's unique combination of people, products & processes can be leveraged for resilience and competitive advantage.
Business leaders should be mindful that Business Continuity planning and Business Resilience planning are not the same. Continuity planning produces “planned” responses to foreseen occurrences i.e. in the event X happens procedure Y shall be adopted. Continuity planning does exactly what it says on the tin… allows a business to continue and to mitigate the damage an event has on the business – It seeks to stop the bad things that were predicted might happen from being catastrophic.
Business continuity thinking and stopping bad things happening is an important part of building a resilient business, but only a part. Resilient businesses also build the environment, culture and teams that are more able to make good things happen than their less resilient competitors. They do not focus only on continual improvement and stability, they spend time and energy on innovation and flexibility.
Being able to be consistent and prudent to mitigate risk whilst at the same time being flexible innovative and open to trying new things, inevitably will bring about challenging conversations within leadership teams… and it is for this reason building a safe environment and culture for challenge to take place is so important to building business resilience and high performing teams that are truly committed and prepared to be accountable for delivering results.
At a time when we are asked to wear a mask to reduce the spread of Coronavirus, it’s critical that we do not allow our professional masks to be a barrier to open and transparent communications with our teams and other stakeholders in our businesses. It may not be possible yet to lay out a detailed roadmap of the next 12 months for your organisation, but you can your shorten time horizons and come together around short term goals, give people a shared sense of purpose, add pace and momentum to your recovery. Communicate frequently, be ambitious, be specific and be transparent.
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