by Mike Myatt
Plans are great, but as 2020 has reminded us, “Oh Oops” moments in life are inevitable. In fact, it’s precisely the moments when things don’t go according to plan that are the real litmus tests for leadership and business strategy. As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until I hit them in the face.”
Leading during and through a crisis is one thing, but what happens in the aftermath? Let me be clear: the pandemic is not over yet, and none of us know when it will be. What we do know is that COVID-19 has contributed to systemic shifts that will likely be enduring. It has changed how we look at business – this is a good thing.
In the text that follows I share three focus points that will help you lean into what’s next, and how you can set up your business and those you lead for success in a post pandemic world.
- Reality Check: As tragic as COVID has been on both a human and macro-economic level, in some respects it did a favor for smart businesses – it served as Tyson’s proverbial punch in the face. Fact: Fueled by the optimism of riding the wave of the strongest economy in modern history, virtually every business carried unnecessary bloat into 2020. Businesses were people, process, facility, and debt heavy. They were also cash, talent, and innovation light. The good news is that for businesses agile and resilient enough to course correct and make the necessary pivots, the future has been amplified and accelerated. The fastest path to the future is rooted in being brutally honest about present state dominant logic, institutional thinking, organizational faults, cultural disconnects, and talent deficits.
- Going Back to Work – Wrong Goal: The best leaders are not thinking about going back, but instead are thinking about going forward. Leaders looking to restore the past instead of ushering in the future are trying to live in a world that’s already passed them by. Innovation is no longer a nice to have, but a need to have. If you are not innovating in real-time, increasing velocity around the rate of change, and amplifying new business model design, you are ceding opportunity to those who are. There has never been a greater opportunity to reframe, reimagine and reinvent. The question is will you cling to the past or embrace the future?
- It’s the Talent Stupid: I’ve never been impressed with leaders who cite the size of their workforce as a success metric. Bigger isn’t better – better is better. Here’s the thing – low switching costs along with the evisceration of other barriers to talent movement have changed workforce dynamics forever, and in my opinion, for the better. Companies that are blind to what intrigues and engages the best talent won’t be able to attract or retain them. Legacy-based operating models will always provide a safe harbor for mediocrity, but if you want to beat your competition to the future, it will only happen by engaging next-level talent. Up-skilling is table stakes – it’s code used by legacy-based companies for playing catch-up. The goal should never be to level the playing field, but to tilt it to your advantage. It’s future skilling that’s the game changer. The buzz phrase “war for talent” has been redefined in real-time. It’s not whether the talent exists – it clearly does; it’s abundant. The question is whether you recognize real talent and can successfully compete for it. The organizations with the smartest, most creative, and most diverse talent win. Everything else is noise. When companies stop trying to put people in boxes, and realize the goal is to free them from the boxes, they will take quantum leaps forward. The first step to better leadership is to stop playing big-brother. Stop checking-on people to make sure they’re working, and care enough to check-in on people to see how to better support them. Organizations that don’t understand how to create self-led teams will die a slow painful death.
About the author
Mike Myatt is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and their Boards of Directors. Widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach, he is a globally recognized authority on leadership, the bestselling author of Hacking Leadership (Wiley) and Leadership Matters (OP), a Forbes leadership columnist, an instructor of executive education at many of the nation’s top business schools, and is the Founder and Chairman at N2Growth, a top leadership development and executive search firm with more than 50 locations globally.
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