Leading during a global pandemic is like learning to ride a bike again. You may already know how to ride a bike or how to lead your organisation, but do you know how to ride a bike – how to keep yourself and your organisation upright and moving forward – when the ground around you is constantly shaking?
The secret to success isn’t to pedal faster. Or to invest in a better bike. The secret to success is pausing long enough to examine where you are, where you’re going, and why you’re going there. And then to determine whether or not that destination is worth the effort you’ll need to invest to realize success.
Regardless of the destination you’re trying to lead your organisation to next – stabilisation, normalisation or return to growth – these three strategies will help you get there.
Ask the Big Impact Question
Knowing your customers and serving your customers isn’t just mission critical – it is the mission. Precision, urgency and customer responsiveness all matter when customer loyalty is a top priority. The Big Impact question is simple on the surface, but it is profound in its response. At first glance, the Big Impact question can look easy. But it’s not.
Big Impact questions force you to look upstream – to look at the nature of work, customer experience and company policy. There are a number of Big Impact questions, and they can vary depending on the organization. Given the significant shift the context in which all organizations operate now, the Big Impact Question is:
Who exactly is our customer?
It seems simple, right? But most businesses never really take the time to approach this question with a beginner’s mind or reconsider the answer when circumstances shift because they already think that they know the answer, so why explore further?
Don’t always assume that finding your customer involves following the money. Because transactions and value are two very different things. Finding the Big Impact customer means looking past just sheer outlay of money, cost savings or transactions. For any industry, here’s a useful definition of the customer:
- The customer is anyone upon whom your success depends.
- The customer is someone who has a choice of whether or not she does business with you.
- Anyone who enables an improved outcomes in your value chain is your customer.
Revisit Your Sense of Purpose
In the KPMG CEO Outlook Study 2020 seventy-seven percent of CEO’s said they need to re-evaluate their corporate purpose as a result of COVID-19 to better address the needs of their stakeholders. CEO’s surveyed globally in July and August reveal the need to revisit everything from where work happens to why their organisations exist and who they serve.
Once you define who your customer is now, the next question to consider is:
Why are we doing this?
Go beyond answering the question to communicating why that’s the answer you’ve chosen to your employees, customers, investors and stakeholders. Businesses aligned around a shared sense of purpose outperform those that can’t or won’t.
Keep What Matters Most in Balance
Leading and coaching in crisis mode is not a sustainable strategy. Now that the adrenaline-fueled phase of pandemic leadership is past, consider how your priorities pendulum needs to shift. These three questions will help you keep what matters most in balance:
- How much time do I need to invest now working onthe business vs. working in the business?
- How much time do I need to invest now operating the company vs. leading the company?
- How do roles and responsibilities — including my own — need to evolve throughout the company as a result?
Inherent in the answer to each question is a call to action to evaluate how decisions are made, where your time is best invested, and how frequently to revisit your priorities.
When circumstances shift, exceptional leaders purposefully shift how they spend their time in tandem. They also clearly communicate which expectations have shifted and why.
Reach into your organisation and find the way forward. Listen to what people need. Help your employees and your customers to align with a sense of purpose and a set of values that build on transparency, trust and collaboration.
And then just keep pedaling…
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Karen Mangia, Vice President, Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Karen is a TEDx speaker, and has published two new books in 2020: Listen UP! How to Tune in To Customers, And Turn Down The Noise and Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work For You – both from Wiley.
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