COVID-19 has forced companies across the globe to think differently. Here, I'm sharing my process for managing through challenging times, just like these.
We’ve all faced challenges in our lives. You know, that all-too-familiar feeling when your greatest intentions get flipped upside down and you’re suddenly faced with an unexpected situation that you must navigate your way through.
As a leader, challenges come with the territory. You’re often delivered an undesirable situation and gifted the responsibility of “making things right.” For better or worse, I have definitely experienced my fair share of challenges over the years. The experience I’ve gained allows me to face new challenges head on like a buffalo heading into a storm. However, I had no idea the biggest challenge of my career would hit merely weeks after taking on my new role as chief operating officer at Moncur.
In early March, COVID-19 forced our agency to think differently – and rapidly. In a matter of days our company needed to adapt to a completely remote environment – all while making sure we kept our team safe and informed and our clients satisfied by never sacrificing our quality of work. And we did.
How, you may ask? Good question.
This was uncharted territory for nearly every business. There were no guidelines to follow or clear answers to provide the team in times of global uncertainty. Time was not on our side and significant actions had to be taken in rapid progression. Our team needed a game plan.
So, after a stiff drink and adding a few more gray hairs to the mix, I forced myself to push any concerns to the side and concentrate on my tried and true thought process to manage my way through any challenging time. Here it is.
- #1 Discover. Every minute matters when you’re face-to-face with the unknown, so dive headfirst into the details. Research the challenges you’re facing and take an honest look at the reasons they exist so you can create plans to avoid the same challenge returning in the future. Speak with other subject matter experts to gather new perspectives and create a task force to help you rapidly build a new plan for success.
- #2 Observe. Anyone can identify a business challenge and deliver direction to a team, but a true leader looks beyond the book of business and taps into the emotions of the team. Take a step back from your own perspective, spend time understanding the collective concerns, and actively seek answers. That’s the only way to truly understand the entire situation and find a solution that will address everyone’s needs so you can move forward in the right capacity.
- #3 Communicate. You won’t always have the answers immediately, which is okay, but let your team know they’ve been heard and provide information as soon as it’s available. Honest and transparent communication is important. Share goals and expectations – and provide updates when plans need to pivot. Telling your team what you know in the moment is far better than leaving blanks for them to fill on their own.
- #4 Implement. There’s no time for second guessing. If you’ve followed the previous steps, it’s time to take what you know and execute a plan that meets your new goals and objectives. If your plan is robust, don’t overwhelm your team all at once. Prioritize the actions that need to take place and establish proper timing to roll out the updates in a phased approach.
- #5 Reflect. No true plan is complete until you’ve had the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the results. Identify any gaps in your existing plan and act on any additional improvements you deem necessary.
With these steps in mind, I challenged preconceived notions that we couldn’t operate as a virtual team and executed the necessary steps to make this our reality. With the support of our entire team and changes to some of our systems and processes, we were able to make a seamless transition from our office to our homes – and open the door for new ways of working together moving forward.
While we continue to navigate through the pandemic, our team has settled into our new norm quite nicely. Our days now include a relaxed dress code, babies video bombing meetings, surprise virtual baby showers, MTV Cribs-style tours of our homes, and even a full agency meet and greet to welcome our very first virtual hire. (Welcome again, Laura Tiesler, to the Client Services team!)
Our agency was able to face this challenge head on and become stronger because of it. We’re not the same agency we were in 2019. We’re better. And I’m happy to be part of that story.
In the industry of communication the value of in-person conversations to build relationships and grow business is undeniable. But as the world continues to change around us, we have to be flexible and able to communicate in new ways.
As the economy begins to reopen, competition will be fierce. What will make you stand out from the crowd?