Leadership requires strategy, not tactics!

Author: Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

In February, we were flying high along with the economy! In March, to minimize the spread of Coronavirus, the nation shut down, and together, we tumbled from the top two rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs to the bottom two rungs. At the top, we were functioning with Esteem (confidence, achievement, respect of and by others) and even Self-Actualization (creativity, problem-solving, spontaneity, more). All things were possible! Today, the view of the world from the bottom two rungs strikes fear in us all. We are functioning from a need for Safety (security of body, employment, resources, the family, health, property, and morality) or—worse—Physiological (breathing, food, water, sleep). For more than a month, fear has been our “new normal.”

Fear reduces leaders to tactical managers. For some leaders, it makes it impossible to think at all. If we are to have a productive second half of the year, we need strategies from our leaders!

As a leader, if fear has paralyzed you or you are just doing the minimum, it is time to shake it off and think deeply about your business. You don’t have to have all the answers; you do need to ask the questions, though.

Your leadership teams are ready to put their minds, experience, and research to work! You must, however, guide three initial strategies.

      1. Go beyond the C-suite to speed the return to productivity. Form a cross-functional, multi-level task force of no more than 8-10 leaders to develop action plans for:
        • wellness/personal safety,
        • initial cost reductions,
        • the logistics of making split shifts or on-site/offsite (telework) functional, and
        • the assessment of “wins and losses” --what worked or what did not work-- during the shutdown.
      2. Communicate as if your organization’s life depends on it—because it does. Develop a multi-channel communication plan with deadlines, media, content, and responsibilities to keep all employees as well as customers informed. Plan to provide information and reassurance that will fuel the re-engagement of both groups.
      3. Define the culture that will be needed to make your organization successful in the future. The meta goals are productivity and engagement without an unwanted turnover. Plan to revisit your Mission and Vision with your executive team because the culture that got you to today won’t get you to tomorrow. Culture is values, processes, procedures, and what employees do when no one is looking. Empower your Talent Management leadership to review policies, procedures, and processes needed to leave the “new normal” and thrive in the “future normal.”

In times like these, a leader’s default is to be tactical. What your organization needs from you are strategies because nothing is going back to the way it was. Before the shutdown ends, take action to involve your Millennial as well as Gen X and Boomer leaders. The sooner you move forward, the sooner you leave the fear of the “new normal” and define your “future normal.”

About the author:
Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is an author, speaker, and talent management expert who resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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