Change is an inescapable reality. Perhaps there’s no other entity that can genuinely attest to this than a business. Sometimes, change comes from within, in one’s attempt to improve. At other times, it’s external, in the form of new market preferences, competitor landscape, or government regulations.
Today, the change is wrapped in a crisis. The pandemic compelled businesses to embrace digital transformation. From team meetings to client communications — down to the delivery of goods and services — everything’s been swept up into the virtual world.
Change comes with challenges, too. When you consider the complexities of going solely virtual — at least for the time being — it can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’ve been doing things the traditional way for the longest time; yet this is exactly the reason why leadership styles have to evolve, to respond to situations at hand.
More than anything, your organization needs adept leadership. Leaders need to be adept in guiding teams masterfully and reaching goals successfully, even as great uncertainty looms.
In this endeavor, keep in mind C-H-A-N-G-E. Be an expert in adapting to and thriving in change by embracing the following characteristics:
This element is most critical in seasons of change in the workplace, especially in the context of digital transformation. Without a shift in ways of thinking, communicating, and behaving, it will be difficult to own the new normal you’re introducing. A huge part of strategic leadership is changing the culture.
It’s worth noting, however, that just because you adopted technology in your operations doesn’t mean you have shifted into a new culture. The digital culture is not just about adopting the latest software, but it’s also about embracing the principles behind the technology: transparency, collaboration, and risk-taking, among others.
Below are a few important management and leadership tips for adopting the digital culture across your organization:
- Define the issue. Answer these questions when communicating to employees: Why is there a need for change? Why should the current system be replaced? This, of course, will be obvious. Reiterating to employees would help them process the fact there’s indeed a need for transition.
- Describe the norms of change. How do you make change real and seen? Some examples are orientation to new technologies, weekly collaboration meetings, and rotation of facilitation duties during brainstorming sessions.
- Deliver reinforcement. How do you make sure that the new culture will stick? Some examples are performance evaluations and the default use of virtual platforms across operations.
In fragile transitions amid a crisis, it becomes all the more important to realize that you don’t have the answers and the solutions to everything. You may be the one leading the change, but you don’t have the monopoly of knowledge. Take on a democratic form of managerial leadership style: be open to learning, confront assumptions, and abandon strategies that aren’t working.
In other words, practice humility. Promote feedback mechanisms regarding your digital transformation efforts through:
- One-on-one meetings with employees. Provide a safe space where they can air out their concerns. What makes a good leader in great movements of change is their ability to open difficult conversations.
- Surveys. Choose among online platforms, whichever is most convenient for you and the team. For better results, keep the surveys anonymous.
- Informal team events. Have team members share opinions in a laid-back setting, such as virtual happy hours. More than the feedback, you’ll be able to form bonds with them, which can prove beneficial in the long-term. Remember, a great part of an effective leadership strategy in the digital age is building rapport with your remote team.
Trust can easily erode in times of a great change and crisis. This is why leaders who go through a period of transition must assume responsibility and ownership of their actions.
Effective leadership and management entail being accountable to your employees and promoting this kind of virtue in your virtual workplace. Below are some accountability practices you can try:
- Review decisions. As you go through the transition into digital, making decisions along the way, have a third-party individual assess those steps. Your team members who see this will learn that even top executives are subject to the same performance evaluation they go through. No one is above the rules is what you’re communicating.
- Recognize mistakes. In case there have been slip-ups in the decisions made, be quick to own up to them, and acknowledge to your team that there’s a need for improvement.
- Recite progress. Commit to providing your team updates on what’s been happening to your digital transformation initiatives. Ultimately, this kind of collaborative leadership style will form better relationships with team members.
4. Not Afraid
It’s easy for everyone to feel lost during a change or a crisis. This is why it’s important for leadership to be that beacon of light: decisive and courageous. The decisiveness in you directs the next steps the organization will take, while courage inspires the people to take those steps.
Now, this can really be a huge challenge when you’re afraid of change yourself. One thing that really helps in dispelling this negative feeling is to rest your perspective on the good of the change. When you identify, one by one, the things you’ll enjoy when you accept change, you’ll welcome them, not dread them. So take note of some of the rewards of digital transformation below:
- Increased collaboration among departments through technology
- An empowered workforce with new skill sets and knowledge
- A wider reach for marketing messages through social media
- Effective leadership and management through preferred platforms
Add more to the list. Internalize that there may be birth pains now, but there will also be triumphs and joys when you come out on the other end. With renewed motivation, you’ll be able to make swift yet calculated decisions and project boldness among your team members.
Adept leadership skills also include the ability to draw up a vision and stick to it amid a crisis. You must be able to rally your team towards the goal of embracing the digital world regardless of the hurdles along the way. How do you keep your eyes on the prize as an organization? Observe the following:
- Set goals as a team. Since there’s a crisis, goals would need to be reviewed and changed, as needed. Although most businesses transitioned into a work-from-home set-up because of the quarantine, set goals as a team.
Everyone should pitch in on what they think the organization should gain from digital transformation. This way, you’ll be able to make your staff own “the dream” from the get-go. Take note of this important management style, as this is one of the critical components of strategic leadership.
- Share the hard questions. As you set goals as a group, focus on the following questions:
- What’s most important in the short-term? While you set your eyes on the ultimate prize of being a digital-first team, be realistic and identify priorities at the moment, as you cope with the crisis. Take note that short-term goals should be aligned to the bigger vision. Think of baby steps toward the ultimate goal.
- How do we measure success? Together, come up with key performance indicators (KPIs). For instance, in terms of technology training, 100% proficiency in simulations can be a KPI.
- Speak about goals often. At every meeting with your staff, reiterate your action plans. Look out for people who can be advocates of your goals. They can not only make change less jolting for the rest of the team, but they can also identify leadership potential which you can tap down the road. It’s also important to celebrate small wins such as the successful onboarding to digital platforms or virtual communications with clients.
There’s a global health crisis going on, and your staff is definitely experiencing its ill-effects, perhaps caring for a sick loved one or dealing with a spouse’s job loss. For this reason, show sincere concern to your employees, as you go through a major transition as a company. Explore different leadership styles in organizational behavior to respond to the needs of your team.
The administrative leadership style may be of help to some, as they’re able to keep track of their daily tasks. Others may benefit from an autocratic style that they need not to think through decisions and only follow whatever’s asked of them. The importance of effective and empathetic leadership can’t be overemphasized in a time of crisis.
It’s a real struggle to adapt to the digital age, especially when you’re in the middle of a global health crisis. Yet, it’s the only way to go, the key to keeping your business afloat. Embrace the change. Be the C-H-A-N-G-E.