Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky, a top rated Vistage speaker and the author of “Culture Trumps Everything,” shared some thoughts on how to lead through the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. He suggests that “the decisions you make today will inform your culture and future prosperity.” With this in mind, he shared five ways that leaders can focus on culture right now.
- Set a Strategic Direction; Not A Strategic Plan
At the start of the pandemic, many companies put their energy toward creating a strategic plan to survive the first phase. Grodnitzky acknowledges that those plans are now outdated. A strategic plan is a single path that leads forward or backward. Instead, he says, leaders should focus on setting a new strategic direction for their business that reflects its culture. See that direction as more of a guiding star than a railroad track. Remaining flexible is key. Keep options open that will allow you to navigate around obstacles, always having the general vision of your guiding star in mind.
- Apply an "Optimize Profits" Mindset
Companies that take care of their people as key stakeholders are the ones that win the long race. Those who prioritize investors’ interests above everyone else ultimately fall short.
- Re-imagine Traditions and Rituals
Culture is comprised of beliefs, behavioral rules, traditions and rituals. Typically, it takes 12 to 18 months to truly change culture in a business. That’s because, in most cases, a company has entrenched traditions and rituals that are not easily changed. But in this time of rapid transition, culture change is happening much more quickly—and in different ways than before.
Embracing technology is “a tool for us to fulfill our primary human drives to connect and belong. Technology should be used to eliminate the physical distance required by this pandemic. In a remote environment, leaders should look to use technology to sustain old traditions (i.e. sitting down for a lunch with their employees—virtually) and to establish new rituals and traditions that make them feel the same way they did prior to the required ‘social distancing’,” Grodnitzky says.
Small and midsize businesses can learn from global companies who have been operating remotely and creating these virtual connections for their employees. Examples of their rituals and traditions include things like hosting online activities that help employees connect like games, movie nights or book clubs. New rituals and traditions could also include meeting for virtual coffees, meals and even skill-sharing sessions
- Source Top Talent from a Larger Talent Pool
At the start of the year, small and midsize businesses were in an all-out war for talent. At that time, only a few companies would even consider hiring someone outside their geographic area — and only if they offered a particular skillset that was hard to find locally.
Fast forward to today: With 33 million people suddenly unemployed, talented people are back in the job market. In the pandemic, 80% of companies have implemented work from home (WFH) without loss of productivity demonstrating that WFH is a viable solution in the new reality. Layoffs have created a lot of free agents, and to attract the best candidates, Grodnitzky says companies will need to not only embrace remote work, but also remote recruitment.
- Lead with Empathy
Although the U.S. is entering the “next phase” of the pandemic, the crisis is far from over. This means that your employees are inevitably going to feel COVID-19 fatigue that could manifest itself as anxiety, frustration, fear, depression or any other number of emotions at work.
In these moments, it is the job of CEOs to lead with empathy. To do this well, Grodnitzky recommends taking a three-phased, people-first approach:
- First, give your employees an opportunity to voice their experiences. When they’re talking, don’t make suggestions. Just listen to them and make them feel you’re empathetic to their situation. Beyond the use of empathetic words, you should try to feel in your body what they are feeling in theirs. That’s real empathy
- Second, ask them what they need or how you can help. Do what you can to meet their needs and meet them where they are.
- Third, offer advice or information relevant to their situation and how you/they can move forward, collaboratively.
Why focus on people first and information last? “If you start with information, your employees won’t hear it because they won’t believe you care about them,” says Grodnitzky. Above all, he says, embrace creating a new culture—because there is no going back to your old one.