If you build it, they will come (back)
Businesses and organizations have had to be tremendously agile while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-racism marches sweeping the US. Business leaders are faced with frayed nerves, challenging employee conversations, high stakes customer communications, social distancing and reopening requirements, and economic impacts. Most businesses are depending on customer and employee loyalty to see them through any long-term economic downturn.
What can you do to be an effective leader through these exceptionally transformational times?
Author andshares in one of his many talks, “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority but those who lead inspire us. Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.”
Of course, issues like health and safety and antiracism make for easy lip service, but inspiring employee and customer loyalty requires consistent action and authenticity.
Enforcing social distancing requirements in the workplace will be more difficult if employees and customers see you breaking or bending the rules yourself.
Issuing an antiracism statement on your website will do little to inspire your employees and customers if your hiring practices don’t demonstrate your commitment to diversity or you overlook microaggressions on your team. And customers will note a disconnect if images in your advertising and marketing materials don’t demonstrate diversity.
Many larger organizations, particularly in the software industry are familiar with Agile environments for software development. The main tenets of Agile include the following cited in a 2001 Agile Manifesto of values by a group of developers:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
The pandemic and social and political climates have transformed these tenets of Agile into greatly needed and highly valued leadership skills. We’ve seen businesses and organizations valuing people above processes in complying with closings and allowing employees to work from home when possible. Businesses are offering takeout, online shops, and curbside pickups. Responding quickly and effectively to changes is paramount.
And of course, leaders need employees and customers to trust in their leadership and respond with agility as well. If you build loyalty and trust in your employees, they will be more likely to be responsive and engaged despite all of the distractions and stresses they’re facing. Likewise, customers will be loyal to the brands they trust who have inspired loyalty by demonstrating consistency in their values and actions and helping them feel safe.
As we, hopefully soon, recover from the tumultuous events of this year, leaders will have learned some of the greatest lessons of their careers. And if they have been successful, their employees and customers will happily return.