When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ghana in March of 2020, I had just taken a decision to restructure my businesses. One of the most appreciated aspects of my coaching business was the in-person interaction that I had with my clients. There is something more powerful in face-to-face communication that virtual communication lets us miss out on. The new entry of the virus was alarming and uncomfortable. In a matter of weeks, the instruction to lock down was made. And then, everything came to a standstill. My team and I were flooded with so many unexpected challenges. Events had to be quickly migrated online and some completely cancelled. So, what has the pandemic taught me? In today’s article, I discuss some of the most important lessons I have learned as a leader, an entrepreneur and an individual.
I cannot count the number of lessons that I have observed in the past crucial year. But I can say that the impact has been very similar for everyone; a change in work schedules, a change in our communication styles, and a better and deeper focus on what really matters (family, friends and meaningful work). Going into the details of the lessons, I share some perspectives from thought leaders around the world.
Megan Reitz, professor of leadership and dialogue at Hult International Business School summarises her lesson as this: “There’s no going back to normal after this crisis. Has the pandemic brought to the fore certain attributes that will be key even once it has abated? There are two fundamental leadership capabilities coming out of this crisis. One is the ability to create a speak-up culture. If you don’t allow people to come up with ideas or discuss what ethical decision-making means, you’re unlikely to survive very long. The second is mindfulness; there’s a lot of scientific evidence on the benefits of this for leadership. In particular, it’s connected to resilience and compassion, which have been vital for leaders in this crisis and will continue to be so. It’s also important to note there will be no going ‘back to normal’. The way we’re living as a society suggests we will face other crises in future, so it’s going to be essential for leaders to build up resources for these.
What type of leadership have we seen from politicians and corporate figures? The key difference in approaches I’ve seen is how open some leaders have been to what they don’t know and taking in different perspectives, compared to those who would rather seek to portray themselves as all-knowing. Donald Trump is a classic example of the patriarchal attempt to be a ‘heroic’ type of leader – it’s all about the individual and silencing other perspectives. In contrast, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been much more compassionate, collective, open and yet decisive.
Sean Herman, a Forbes Council Member had this to say: “Investing in your people pays dividends.
As Covid-19 shut offices down, you very likely had to pivot quickly. Your employees probably did, too. Instead of assuming that everyone is set up to make the transition, try to connect with employees individually and supply them with whatever is needed for their home offices, whether it’s furniture or tech equipment. But investing in your people goes beyond standing desks; allowing for additional flexibility during a time like this is also crucial. You should acknowledge the fact that many family schedules have been upended, and employees are now wearing all kinds of new hats while navigating these waters. My family, for instance, was suddenly home schooling a 9-year-old and entertaining a toddler while I was taking investor meetings. During one of our stand-up meetings, I told my team that my wife and I were having a rough time managing all of the uncertainty with my daughter’s school and that my son wasn’t sleeping well. I told them I was going to take the rest of the day off to decompress. I invited everyone in the company to do the same if they were struggling in any way. As leaders, we should allow ourselves to be human and vulnerable. Empowering mental health breaks when needed (for you and the rest of your team) can help everyone decompress and refocus.”
Hinai (2020), contributor to the National News comments on the need for adaptation. “Adaptation is key to business survival: The Covid-19 crisis showed us that we really cannot predict what will happen tomorrow. Rules change all the time to adapt to the situation, and so will our business strategies. For an organised and a goal-oriented individual who meticulously plans every detail, being unsure of how the next month would turn out was challenging and humbling. This crisis showed me that it was OK to keep changing our plans. It does not mean that we failed to plan well, or that we’re not good leaders, but we are adapting to the situation. Adaptation is an important survival skill during uncertainty. By adapting fast, we are serving our business and protecting it against failure.”
Finally, here are my four (4) key lessons that have helped me as through the pandemic and helped structure my business and life in a more intelligent way for the future.
- Open up for growth
Growth is a challenging process. The process involves a lot of changes. It requires that you are circumspect in the analysis of your environment. The decisions you make based on the knowledge you have is what would determine your growth. As I mentioned earlier, I had plans in place before the pandemic occurred. For a minute I had my hands up in despair over the situation. Gradually, I brought myself to acknowledge that I did not have an answer on the way forward. By recognising my vulnerability, I opened up myself to find new possibilities. Growth is doing things differently when you know the way you are used to, is no longer beneficial in a situation. Growth is seeking and accepting help, collaborating with others and building on what you already know, to get you the results that you need. In your work place, you may have been asked to talk on certain issues, or assigned certain tasks and the need to prove yourself may have left you feeling overwhelmed.
On every journey, there are smooth turns but there are also bumpy turns and hurdles to be jumped. It is simply a matter of admitting that you need help and finding materials and people to help you. Some of the key skills and habits you need in developing yourself are practices that need dedication and consistency. The practice of learning to listen during a conversation for instance is very vital. It is a sign that you are open to growth.
- Build New Habits
According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviours on any given day. Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general – James Clear. High performance is a lifestyle. Day in day out, you have to be accountable for how you used your time. Once you can be cognisant of the fact that things have changed and that you need new structures to operate, you can begin to see the different ways to get things done. Reflect on your day on a daily basis so you can build new habits where there are loop holes. This will release the emotional and mental burden on you to turn your whole life around because the option to make gradual changes is available to you! Course correction is at the epicenter of anything that ever worked to solve human problems, because humanity is dynamic and so must our solutions.
“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” – William Pollard. You can be an agent of change whether or not you are in a leadership position. Leadership is not a title; it is the power within us to take charge!
- Great leadership is empathetic
“Create space for people to share their feelings, and invite them to ask you whatever is on their minds. Almost every one of my team members asked about job security when given the chance. You can (and should) be transparent with your team because it helps give people peace of mind during a time when this is hard to come by. This pandemic has served as a reminder of just how difficult it is to function effectively under immense uncertainty. So, remove any elephants in the room (even if the news isn’t always good) so that your team can focus on the things you can control”. (Forbes, 2020)
- Real connections are powerful
At the end of the day, we must remember that outside of being leaders, we are simply human beings. In the middle of a crisis, what matters most is to stay grounded in your humanity. There are people out there that you can trust and have conversations with. Build real connections because they can be powerful enough to see you through a storm.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.