During the pandemic, many businesses and CEOS—even the most experienced of them—were forced to rethink and reshape the business structure on which these companies are based. Everything down to the operational level of business had to be renovated to adapt to the rapidly changing world we found ourselves in in 2020.
Many of us can agree that the pandemic has taught us and so many leaders— not just business leaders—a few lessons about running a business in a fast-changing environment.
COVID-19 Taught Us to Shoot for Bigger Goals, Faster
The early days of the pandemic would’ve been a nightmare for indecisive leaders because there wasn’t a more crucial time to think on your feet than then. And they weren’t the only ones who most likely had a hard time, but every single executive was given a run for their money.
The importance of agility and fast decision-making were two aspects of business governance that several experts preached and praised many times in the last decade or so. It was an important approach to business strategy that a lot of leaders failed to comprehend, and only the ones who were thriving in an already tough business market were reaping the full benefits of it. You have companies like Cisco, LEGO Digital Solutions, and Fitbit adopting agile frameworks way before the pandemic even started. That means, companies who were agile long before COVID-19 even hit were already given a head-start right from the start of the pandemic.
Many other average-performing companies didn’t realize just how important agile leadership was until the whole world turned upside down in 2020. The pandemic has taught us that agility in all aspects of business—sales, project management, operations, product management, etc.—is integral to a company that wishes to become more adaptable, innovative, and swift in its decision-making.
COVID-19 Taught Us that Your Employees’ Are Integral to Your Performance… So Treat Them Right
Employees are part of the overall driving force behind a business’s performance. So, it’s no surprise that increased levels of employee engagement are linked to higher levels of performance, and when executives read this sort of information, they immediately start thinking of ways to make their employees happier—but this is where employers and managers get it all wrong.
Managers have always assumed that catering to their teams’ wants will get them the high-performance levels they’re after, but engagement isn’t merely about an employees’ overall satisfaction or happiness—it’s about their sense of purpose. When there’s a lack of engagement, it doesn’t mean employees aren’t happy; it means they’re indifferent. In other words, whether or not the company turns to ash doesn’t matter to them in the slightest. And we all know that when engagement levels are low, then the company’s performance suffers as a result.
And so the second lesson COVID-19 taught us? The importance of aligning your employees’ goals with your business goals. Does an employee want to improve their management skills? Give them a task that will put those skills to the test. Does a team member want to take up a different role within the organization? Assign them a few projects that will tell them—and you, the manager—whether or not they’re up to the responsibilities that comes with that role. Does your team feel more productive when working from home? Give them some flexibility to do that and see how it goes. This is how you kill indifference: by giving your employees a sense of purpose and a reason to work for your company.
Another sub-lesson we can get out of this is also the importance of building a strong company culture that encourages this growth mindset; one that encourages your employees to always look for newer, bigger, and better opportunities that can aid in the company’s growth, and at the same time, their own.
COVID-19 Taught Us the Importance of Digital Fluency
You can’t mention “agility” in an article or conference without mentioning “digital transformation” as well. One sure-fire way to stagnate innovation and company processes is to keep outdated technology at your disposal. There’s no better way to prevent your company from becoming “agile” than to stick to the “old way of doing things” and resist any other technological advancement that might help your company grow faster and become better at what it does. When you push for better, newer technology that will aid in your journey to achieving your company’s goals, you will find it markedly easier to get to those goals. Pair that with an agile mindset and you have yourself a mean machine of a company. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) based in Cincinnati, Ohio knows exactly what it means to combine digital transformation and agility to make the impossible, possible.
According to McKinsey, CCHMC developed a telehealth system that would provide professional consultations, healthcare, and education to patients remotely no matter where they are. It started out slow, with them only managing to get attract around 2,000 telehealth visits in 2019. But in 2020, with the pandemic on the rise and people refusing to leave their homes, the hospital had to quickly expand on and develop their telehealth system to cater to their patients at a time when going to the hospital was just too risky, especially for patients who are immunocompromised and have preexisting breathing issues. The hospital was eventually successful, handling up to 5,000 telehealth visits a week, a goal they initially thought was impossible to reach before the pandemic, and what they believed would take several years to finally achieve.
The story of how CCHMC managed to get to where they are now by combining agility, digital fluency, and ambition, sums up how the pandemic has forced leaders to push their limits and taught them a few tough lessons on how to run a thriving, exponential business.