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Leading through crisis: how to survive and thrive

Blog By Duncan Khoury – 04 August 2021

Disruption from the pandemic is very far from being over. The ongoing crisis continues to have enormous domestic and international impacts, with governments, businesses and people all needing to constantly change the way they live and work.

For business leaders, the unpredictability of our world creates new challenges – challenges we may have never faced before. In uncertain times like this, leadership requires a considered approach. It’s important to adopt a long-term view, be resilient, and quickly adapt.

In this article, we consider the key changes at play, and what you can do to lead your business through times of crisis.

The foundation for leading through uncertainty

While COVID-19 has been a key driver of workplace change in the past 18 months, it’s critical for business leaders to harness a proactive approach and lead the change. This means not only reacting to sudden, unexpected changes, but also taking a longer-term view by pre-empting change.

Adopting a proactive approach can create a more resilient business that not only responds better to change, but also takes advantage of opportunities that arise along the way. 

To adopt a proactive approach and successfully manage change, it’s important to keep across developments in areas like:

  • technological advancements
  • government announcements
  • regulatory changes
  • trends in international markets
  • workplace and employment trends
  • competitor movements

Trending right now: 3 workplace trends to watch

Since the start of the pandemic, workplaces across almost every sector have experienced rapid change. Some of these changes were accelerated by COVID-19, while others are new trends that have emerged as a result.

Here are some of the key changes taking place across the country:

1. Adopting flexible, hybrid workplaces

One of the most transformational shifts we’ve seen is the changing attitudes to employees working from home. Some forward-thinking corporations and consulting firms had already embraced flexible work arrangements. However, the majority of businesses around the country were still very much entrenched in traditional work structures. The pandemic has seen businesses of all sizes forced to adapt, with employees required to work from home, and work in new ways.

This has created a huge shift in the way we work and live. Giants like Atlassian, Twitter and Citibank had already embraced permanent hybrid work practices, prompting employees from cities to move and design a new life in regional Australia. As a result, house prices have skyrocketed, rental vacancies are at historic lows, and demographics are changing fast. 

Back in the office, leadership teams are faced with new challenges like managing the communication, culture and productivity of a workforce that is largely remote. Some of the ways you can overcome these challenges include: 

  • Diarising check-ins – even just 15mins in the diary, once a day, gives you the chance to drive the culture and communicate with your team. 
  • Leverage technology – set up channels in chat software, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, for work tasks as well as celebrations and chit chat. 
  • Schedule in fun – consider a team lunch break or a team building activity via video conference.

2. Embracing diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are crucial to running a business, particularly with ongoing environmental, social and government (ESG) initiatives. With customers and investors demanding socially responsible business practices, diversity and inclusion are vital.

In fact, a survey of human resource leaders across the US, UK and Australia revealed that diversity and inclusion are at the top of the priority list. Actions you can take as a leader include:

  • ensuring diversity and inclusion are embedded throughout recruitment, retention and promotion policies
  • establishing formal policies and aligned KPIs to drive inclusive behaviour
  • creating mandatory diversity and inclusion metrics when going out for tender 
  • developing viable incentives for employees to live these values outside of the workplace 

3. Managing mental health

The spotlight on mental health and wellbeing has never been stronger. 

Thanks to the pandemic, feelings of fear and anxiety around financial security, unemployment and health are abundant. At the same time, access to buffers like social engagement, physical exercise and routine have been limited. There’s no doubt that life under restrictions has taken a toll, with some parts of our population more vulnerable than others.

Managing the mental health and wellbeing of your workforce is a crucial part of leading through a crisis. You can do this by:

  • Building social connections online. Make time for non-work conversations. Allocate one-on-one time to check in. Create chat groups or virtual communities where people can connect. Encourage safe connection for employees who may live in the same area. 
  • Communicating clearly. Keep staff informed. Use plain English and factual statements to avoid any misunderstandings. Make the main communication channels clear. Invite feedback.
  • Establishing expectations. Provide clarity on how performance will be measured. Account for the blending of work and home. Encourage employees to set and communicate their boundaries and work routines. 

Top 4 tips: how to lead during a crisis

Leading through ambiguity is never easy. Now that we’ve explored emerging trends, here are our top tips for leaders:

1. Keep informed with research

When leading through uncertain periods, it’s vital to keep across the latest developments that impact your business. In times of crisis, it’s common for biased or incorrect information to spread – so it’s important to find credible, reliable and trustworthy sources.

2.Tap into your networks

Turning to your network can be one of the best ways to get across the latest trends, challenges and opportunities. Consider peers, industry contacts and regulators as valuable connections to nurture.

3. Provide additional support

Management teams need to provide the tools for employees to adapt, while considering employees who may be less-equipped to deal with change. This might involve providing technical support, such as  new software, or emotional support, such as running health and wellbeing webinars.

4. Be financially prepared

To help your business adapt to change, you’ll need reliable sources of working capital. This will help to fund your current growth plans, as well as any unexpected expenses that may arise from potential disruption.

Finance options like trade finance, debtor finance or supply chain finance can give you cost-effective, flexible access to cash flow, and help to support your business during change. 

The only constant is change

If there’s one key lesson we can take from the past 18 months, it’s that change is the only constant. 

It’s true: we are in a unique period of change. But nothing ever stays the same. Being prepared for ongoing change is vital for any effective leader.

Be proactive, and pre-emptive, so that no matter what life throws your way, you and your business are prepared.

 

Looking for flexible finance to support your business and prepare for change? At Octet, we can help. Reach out today to find out more. 

 

Disclaimer: The following comments are only our views and should not be construed as advice. You should act using your own information and judgment. Although information has been obtained from and is based upon multiple sources the author believes to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy and it may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions and estimates constitute the author’s own judgment as at the date of publication and are subject to change without notice.