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Leadership Lessons from the Covid19 Pandemic

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Frank Robinson: The Covid19 pandemic has been a challenging and new experience for organisations across the globe. In addition to keeping employees safe, healthy and engaged, leaders are being asked to find appropriate ways to handle the crisis from a business perspective. And there’s no rule book on how this should be done; in fact, many are writing it as they go along. Here are some insights on leadership, empathy and keeping employees engaged throughout the pandemic.

Don’t try to do it all on your own.

Anyone who has been in a leadership position knows that you have to be the driving force, but you also need the right people around you. So it’s vital to be comfortable with the idea that you will have to delegate in order to be as effective as you want to be.

When the pandemic situation really started to get serious, we realised many things needed to be done ASAP. We had a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) but it was imperative to implement it right away. Now, this is not a one or two-man job, it requires people to really step up and get things moving. And it’s in these situations that the natural leaders emerge, some who you wouldn’t even expect. There’s a quote by Charles de Gaulle, the Former President of France which reads,

“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, and makes it his own.”

I’m proud to say that these are the type of people we have within the QX organisation. Because really, I’m only one person and there’s only so much I can do, but when there are team members who really step up and take charge I can be a much more effective leader.

Act quickly and decisively

As CEO of a BPO/KPO which employs over 1,300 people we really had to act quickly when the Covid situation started. Everything was happening so fast that you didn’t want to be caught holding the baton. No one wants to look back and think “Oh I really should have done something”. I remember on March 11, it was announced by the World Health Organization that this was going to become a global pandemic and as a leadership team, we needed to do something, and do it quickly.

We did react quickly and very decisively, and it may have been confusing for a few of our team members but we needed to do so. In these situations, speed is of essence, and it’s much better to be fast than perfect. I’ve always been a supporter of the 80:20 rule which means if 80% is correct we need to move forward. The 80:20 rule works really well in these situations, and in my experience, the pursuit of perfection is exactly what kills most crisis management plans.

Listen to the numbers

We’re lucky to live in an age where we have access to so much data and information. And when it comes to managing something as unpredictable as a crisis you have to rely on solid facts. It’s a natural human reaction to be positive and hope things work out, especially in this type of situation however, certain facts are completely inescapable.

The global data that was coming in was telling us that the Covid19 pandemic was already wreaking havoc, so we had to react accordingly. Being aware of this information meant we were able to make quicker and better decisions which helped keep our team members safe. It also meant we were able to transition to Work From Home (WFH) much more effectively. Numbers don’t really lie and when they’re all pointing in one direction it makes sense to heed the call.

Be Visible and Empathetic

During times of crisis, it’s easy for corporate leaders to get stuck in crisis management and every other important thing that needs to get done. However, one of the most important things a good leader should also do is maintain visibility during the crisis. They have to realise that this is an unprecedented time in the lives of their team members and they need to be present and available.

The importance of compassion and empathy is vital for a leader to have at any time however, during times of crisis it really does make a difference. As employees struggle with anxiety, unpredictability and fear, they may wonder if management is also feeling the same. In fact, it would be strange for a leader in such a situation to behave as if everything is just ‘business as usual’. When a leader connects with his/her team they will genuinely feel and appreciate it.

When you have a young organisation like QX where a majority of the workforce is below the age of 30, the Covid pandemic is probably the first crisis they’ve ever experienced. So being visible not only allows you to get your message across, it also builds a sense of camaraderie that says “We’re all in this together and we’re going to get through it together.”

Any message for the readers of Gujarat Exclusive?

Yes, these are unprecedented times and we don’t know how long it will go on. However, leadership during a fast-moving crisis such as this means making oneself available to feel what it’s like being in someone else’s shoes. Perhaps what is really going to matter is how we managed ourselves and our teams during the Covid19 crisis. The qualities a leader exemplifies during this time becomes the cornerstone of an organisation when enduring through a state of crisis. So be sure they’re good ones.

The ability to delegate, act quickly, focus on the data and be visible will not only make a good leader, but also one that will successfully get their teams through this crisis.

(The author is  Group CEO at QX limited. Views expressed are personal)

To live with Covid19, it is time for us to have a SOP for everything!