Managing Through a Pandemic. Did Anyone Find the Manual?
“Well, didn’t see THAT coming…”
Anyone but the most prescient social scientist and/or epidemiologist would have to admit that the COVID-19 virus snuck up on us all. 2020 Started with such promise and then “BAM” what looked like a flu-like annoyance turned into a 100-year cataclysm. Governments, cultures, families, and businesses all had to assess a way forward with no precedent to fall back on and no coordinating body to lead the way. In effect, we were all thrust into a setting where we made it up “on the fly”. So, how’s that going?
The first logistical challenge for most businesses was how to pivot and become a virtual, remote business almost overnight. (Did anyone reading this have stock in Zoom a year ago? If so, you must be sitting on a beautiful desert island now sipping a Mai Tai!) Offices emptied and technology companies who could set up remote platforms were overwhelmed overnight. Staff suddenly replaced the water cooler culture with the digital cocktail hour. No more “management by walking around”. Any sales and marketing activity not evidenced in the CRM platform just didn’t exist from a metrics standpoint. Managers struggled to keep their teams engaged, focused and productive. Some have thrived embracing the tech world platforms while others are still trying to adapt. A few (some notable retailers in particular) have already thrown in the towel.
The event industry, and the associated industries of travel and hospitality, were especially damaged by the situation, and continue to be so. Management in these organizations had to simultaneously reorganize the staff, adjust the forecast and corresponding budget, all while making a best guess as to when things might turn in a positive direction. PPP monies came and went, with no clear sense of a round two. (Don’t get me started on the buffoons in Washington, DC playing politics with the economy and, most importantly, my business!) The question is, how do we lead in a time like this?
I think those working in small businesses and the culture in general look for a few things from their leaders:
- Confidence – Keeping things in perspective against previous challenges and a commitment to collective success if we stay together.
- Innovation – A willingness to explore new things and “fail forward”.
- Vision for the Future – An idea of what the organization, the industry and the economy in general might look like under certain circumstances. You need a picture of what you want to be before you can even move in that direction.
If leadership can provide these things, then most teams are willing and able to hold together through tough times. Are you up to it?
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