Effective Leadership in Times of Crisis like COVID-19

Leadership in IT consulting and software development companies plays an important role in motivating employees as well as guiding them towards the attainment of organizational goals.

The real test of leadership does not occur when the business is smooth sailing; rather, it happens during unprecedented situations or crisis like COVID-19, which the world is facing right now. The way a leader behaves during such a crisis, or actions which he takes to lead the business through a crisis, determines his credibility as a good or bad leader.

The unpredictable nature of a crisis often gives no time to organizational leaders to prepare. Take the example of COVID-19 outbreak, when business leaders first heard about COVID-19, the official name of the novel coronavirus, it was considered as a China-specific issue. Many organizational leaders felt if they don’t have any production or manufacturing facilities and customers based in China, they don’t have to worry much. But, against everyone's expectations, coronavirus stretched across the world so rapidly that it gave no time for the leaders of IT consulting businesses to adapt or settle in.

Today, senior leaders and top authorities across organizations - right from small ones to large enterprises are figuring ways to keep their remote employees motivated and safe from the threat of coronavirus. Ensuring consistent communication, meeting project deadlines, maintaining organizational productivity and keeping the business operational in the current situation of uncertainly are some other challenges that leaders across IT firms face today.

So, here are some top ways that organizational leaders can utilize to handle the crisis like COVID-19 outbreak:

Lead with Agility, Empathy and Humanity

It is natural for senior leaders of businesses from retail & ecommerce, banking & finance and other sectors to be under intense pressure of investors or business partners during a crisis like COVID-19. Investors want business to be profitable and stay averse from the financial damage, achieving which is obviously not easy for any senior leader in a firm.

On the other hand, if we talk about employees, they are the main reason why a business remains operational amidst all conditions. They don’t care how much a pandemic is costing the company - they want their leader to take decisions, showcasing empathy, agility and a sense of care towards them. Hence, as a leader in a crisis like COVID-19, one must lead from the front and take full responsibility for the crisis, exhibiting his/her human side.

Although, leading from the front doesn’t mean taking important business decisions alone. As an emphatic leader, always consider the opinion or ideas of your subordinates. Also, avoid making decisions by getting over-emotional during a crisis. Consider investors and clients' viewpoints also to minimize financial damage.

Organize A Network of Teams to Tackle the Crisis

In a crisis, instead of preferring a command and control structure where a small group of senior executives tackle the entire mess, leaders can form a network of teams. This network of teams basically operates as a crisis response group. United by a common purpose, these teams work towards identifying crisis implications on routine operations of the company.

Leaders should appoint experts from different departments in these cross-functional crisis response teams, who have gone through crisis in the past. Also, leaders should focus on fostering collaboration and transparency across the network of teams. To do this, leaders should distribute authority and share information with them transparently.

According to Mckinsey & Company, these networks of teams typically work in four major areas: workforce protection, supply-chain stabilization, customer engagement, and financial stress testing.

 

(Source: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/responding-to-coronavirus-the-minimum-viable-nerve-center)

Maintain Transparent and Consistent Communication with Employees

During a crisis, keeping all communication lines open is important for organizational leaders. The leaders of all kinds of businesses - software, web and app development must ensure that their firm has a robust employee communication plan to cater employees with first-hand information during a crisis. It’s important to counter misinformation, educate employees and keep them updated about company policies or rules during a crisis. Communication should also be tailored as per the unique concerns of each stakeholder of a company.

For Internal Communication

Leaders should obtain details from the HR department about what measures the organization is putting in place to keep the employees safe and healthy.

Establish a cross-functional crisis response team to monitor the situation and relay updates.

For External Communication 

Senior leaders, including CEO, COOs, departmental heads, etc. should maintain authentic and transparent communication with all external stakeholders, including investors, suppliers, distributors, supply chain partners, etc.

Leaders should guide the investor relations, corporate communications, HR and management teams to work in unison to navigate a proper response to investors and consumers as well as address their concerns proactively.

Stay Positive to Ensure High Productivity

Positivity is the primary weapon to maintain high productivity in any field. When your business is facing a crisis, the subordinates will always look up to you as a leader for guidance and ways to overcome the difficult situation. Having a positive attitude and a robust game plan with an intention to keep employees inspired and productive is a must for leaders during crisis. As a leader, try to solicit and brainstorm with subordinates in critical times to identify problem solvers and potential leaders.

Try to Maintain Superior Employee Engagement

Business research studies in the past have shown that organizational leaders often struggle to engage with their subordinates. During a crisis, soliciting feedback through surveys is a great tactic to know your employee concerns and identify actions that would help overcome those concerns. Leaders must keep three important things in mind during a survey: listen to employee concerns carefully, act on the feedback they provide and most important maintain open communication. Saying things like “We’ve heard you and are ready to do the needful” goes a long way in establishing superior engagement with employees.

Establish A Remote Working Infrastructure

It's important to offer flexibility to employees during crises like the coronavirus pandemic. Senior leaders at IT businesses should maintain frequent communication with employees and obtain daily feedback about work-related concerns. Also, they should try to simulate the company culture to virtual work. This can be done by organizing daily meetings, asking employees to turn their webcams on during team meetings and so on.

Apart from this, organizational leaders should perform following tasks for the success of remote working model:

  • Instruct the HR team to Implement robust teleworking policies for remote workers
  • Identify the most crucial employees who are important for business continuity.
  • Take regular updates from the crisis response team about the company projects.
  • Increase awareness among remote staff about different types of cyber threats at home.

Final Words

The coronavirus pandemic is testing the leadership capabilities of all the senior leaders across organizations and redundant governments across the world. Its consequences are expected to last long which is difficult to anticipate for anyone right now. The prolonged uncertainty of the current pandemic is forcing organizational leaders to demonstrate their leadership qualities of empathy, transparency, open communication, agility and humanity. Following the above practices given in the article, the organizational leaders of IT consulting and software development industry can lead their businesses through the present crisis successfully and can also stay better prepared for the next big challenge.

 

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