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Unprecedented time: Unprecedented opportunity

April 29th, 2020



So here we are. It’s anything but business as usual. A sense of surrealism is in the air. Most organizations have rapidly morphed into new ways of conducting their daily business and as things have started to settle, are now able to see the trees in the forest (I meant to say it that way).

Leaders are realizing that operational evolution is upon them. Change processes that have historically been avoided or taken years to seed and accomplish are now required to happen in mere weeks or months, without much, if any, organizational socialization.

As we adjust into this phase of new normal and anticipate the next new normal, opportunities for organizations abound. Why? Because nothing brings out the best (or worst) in people than a shared challenge and a scary time. Think of your experiences personally, that of the province and country: everyone coming together, expressing themselves, acting as one team, caretaking of others and articulating a shared sense of pride. Those experiences should be no different in our organizations.

Here are a few things to contemplate:

Assess Leadership: Real leaders are shining, inspirational and taking charge; those not up for the task are skimming the surface, doing the minimum and engaging reactively and passively. In today’s context, the differences are glaringly obvious, whereas previously they could be camouflaged by structure or high task performance. Functionally, distinct leadership performance criteria (broad leadership qualities vs. tasks) can act as your guide and go-forward mechanism. No organization can afford to have weak leadership at any level these days.

Develop Team: If you have been concerned about team alignment, culture and performance, now is the ideal time to focus on it. Many employees are feeling untethered and worried about their future, even those still able to work. Reaffirm (or (re-)create) your organizational vision, values and guiding principles and integrate them into everyone’s daily work while demonstrating organizational caring and support. Collaborate with teams to uncover innovations, new ways of conducting daily business and resolve challenges and problems through dialogue. This is fertile ground and how your organization engages will be remembered. Don’t forget to include furloughed employees.

Innovate: Hard edges create great breeding grounds for innovation. How an organization has worked is over. How they will or could work is emerging. Tap your teams, system and relationships to surface and operationalize innovation. Integrate this work with team development activities.

Gain Strategic Alignment: Operational changes – whether enduring or temporary – need to align to an organization’s foundational elements. In these circumstances, that foundation may need to evolve. Analyze the success and/or potential of these changes (KPI, ROI, etc.) against both your current strategic goals and objectives and potential future ones. Stay true to your guiding principles and evolve your values (if needed), determine what needs to adjust (if anything) in your strategic plan and associated policies, procedures and processes. Assess your relationships and partnerships reflective of behaviour and value during this crazy time.

Think Strategically: Think about initiatives or change that you have been avoiding or putting off that would get you closer to your goals faster; this time of upheaval may be the right environment to rethink, reinvent and rebuild. I have been likening these fast-tracked changes to “trojan horses” but in a good way. Undertake a future thinking and planning process (i.e., scenario planning) to uncover potential  opportunities while positioning to leverage them.

Communicate: Active communications wins the day here. Passive communications are more obviously inauthentic and irrelevant than ever.

  • Passive includes inconsistent one-size fits all email blasts, broad requests to post to twitter/Instagram, open invitations to participate, lack of personalization and authenticity, no real news.
  • Active includes transparency, knowledge sharing, targeted and relevant consistent engagement, distinct activities in relevant groups, personalization including referencing and profiling team members.

Pursuing any of these opportunities may feel like performing open heart surgery while running a marathon; committing to any or all will help position you and your organization for success now and in the unfolding new normal(s).

Unprecedented times: Unprecedented opportunity.

big think communications is here to help. Because remarkable doesn’t just happen.

  1. Rob MIngay permalink

    Well written and thought out piece by Marilyn. Recognizing how much things are changing is important. This a both a crisis and an opportunity. Marilyn captures that and offers practical and actionable advice on how to use these times to strengthen your team and organization. I particularly take to heart her comments on leadership. As leaders we need to constantly asking if were doing enough or just enough. As we reinvent our businesses, we need to question and review our roles in that change process. Good piece.

  2. Steve Cuccione permalink

    Marilyn….. Excellent summary of what the key qualities of leadership today encompasses more so than ever before!!!!!! How to encourage and allow a team to each step up to this incredible opportunity for change… and help shape the future. As you said many have gone through an evolution that would normally take months or years, to just a few weeks….not without pain of course, but, some giant steps forward. Lets help keep the momentum going. Excellent perspective.

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