You might think a conversation about vision and leadership at this moment is akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I get it.
Most organizations are in the trenches right now:
- Fighting the coronavirus in hospitals and clinics
- Pulling all-nighters in the quest to develop vaccines
- Struggling to produce and distribute consumer goods amid shortages
- Racing to resupply grocery stores
- Figuring out how to support thousands of suddenly home-based workers, most without a decent office set-up and many with children or elderly parents to care for
COVID-19 has sent shifts and shocks across all industries. This is true whether your business is in great demand these days (e.g., telemedicine, hospitals, home health, producers of hand sanitizer and paper products, to name a few) or if your business feels like it’s in a state of suspended animation.
As a leader, your job is to maintain perspective, find meaning and purpose in all of this, and create a vision that your people can run toward.
I believe the seeds of meaning are already germinating. Here are some points of light that were shared with me recently. Look around your enterprise for similar stories:
- Everyday Heroism. One of my dear friends is a corporate lawyer for a national health plan. She spent this past Saturday at the entryway of a local clinic, greeting patients and asking basic COVID-19 screening question. She’s suddenly on the front lines, in addition to the heavy load of legal work that she and her team are fielding as regulations change and executive orders roll in. Yet she’s proud to be part of this critical moment in healthcare. A foot soldier in mitigating a worldwide pandemic.
Tip: Begin to collect and share stories of courage and commitment within your own organization. These stories boost morale and underscore the meaningful nature of this work. And meaning fuels the human spirit.
- Innovation Unleashed. Another friend told me about the rapid advancement of projects his team has been working to push forward for months and even years. Banging their heads on a wall of bureaucracy. Urgency and emergency have bitten chunks out of that wall, allowing for more risk taking and execution of promising ideas. Risks taken in favor of the consumer. Gotta love that.
The flipside is true as well: Consumers getting more experimental. Out of necessity perhaps, but in ways likely to change the healthcare system permanently. Telehealth services are now the first line of access to care, as patients are discouraged from showing up at overtaxed clinics or hospitals. This is telehealth’s tipping point; a channel that’s ultimately more private, convenient, affordable and time saving than dragging oneself into a doctor’s office. Too bad we needed a pandemic to reach this moment of proof. But nice that this innovation was ready and waiting for us.
Tip: What forms of innovation, big and small, have been kicked loose in your organization as a result of coronavirus? In what ways are you taking courageous action? These are stories of pivotal and permanent change that will forever improve your company, industry and your customers’ lives. Don’t keep them to yourself.
- Gratitude in Abundance. A client in the surgical field described to me the heartfelt and effusive praise her CEO and executive team have lavished on employees. Stress can bring out the worst in us, for sure, but crisis also knits us together in a cause greater than ourselves. To witness dozens, hundreds or even thousands of employees going the extra mile is humbling and gratitude-inspiring.
Tip: Leaders, mingle your rightfully high expectations at this time with sincere thanks to those who’ve adopted the company’s mission as their own. Do not wait to do this.
Filling the Vision Void
What will your organization be known for at the end of this unique moment in history?
Should you be waiting for a full historical analysis, or do your employees and customers need to hear from you now?
Crafting a vision for how your company will come out on the other side of this pandemic may seem like a luxury. But humans need hope. We need to make meaning of hardship and be reminded of our strength.
Start documenting your vision, your little victories, your stories of human compassion and perseverance. Then communicate them with your people – daily if possible. They need purpose, hope and leadership now more than ever.
Margie McCarthy is founder of McCarthy Messaging, a strategic messaging firm based in Denver, Colorado. She’s fond of messy challenges, brave clients and vintage jewelry.
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