Think back to all the interviews you’ve had throughout your career and the ones you’ve conducted. What are some of the most common statements, the things that hiring managers love to hear? “I’m a doer,” “I value efficiency,” “I get things done.” Many of these stereotypical answers have an implication of speed. And it makes sense why these would be good things to say, and hear, because let’s face it, faster results usually lead to higher production numbers.
As a leader, why wouldn’t you crave efficiency, to let the numbers speak for themselves? This mentality of “go, go, go” can serve teams well in a number of situations. However, putting the pedal to the metal isn’t a good strategy when the road is covered in a haze. This means that in times of uncertainty, you could be doing your team a disservice by using a leadership model that values blind progression over thoughtful adjustments.
2020 is that metaphorical fog. It is crucial, now in these unprecedented times, for leaders to take a step back from their traditional grind to learn the value of pausing. Let’s explore just how to do that and why exactly it matters.
Pausing as a Leader is Important Right Now
Although the pandemic is far from over, restrictions around the globe have been significantly eased. While it may be tempting to use these relaxations to rush things back to normal, a purposeful pause can be beneficial.
2020’s peculiar business environment has created challenges but also opportunities for finding new ways of responding to them. Taking a mindful pause and analyzing the key takeaways from the year can actually help in the long run.
For example, many leaders would have been reluctant to implement remote working on a large scale, but the pandemic forced them to do so. It’s worthwhile to pause and understand what impact it has had on your organization. Did remote work lead to any noticeable decline in productivity, or was it the other way round? Virtual meetings replaced in-person client meetings – did they bring a poor customer experience, or did your team adapt quickly?
Before hurrying back to the old normal, reflecting upon what you and your team have learned from this experience can help you implement new strategies that draw from the positives of the last several months.
Not Pausing Can Hurt Business
The situation around us is evolving so quickly that a strategy that has been created overnight may fast become obsolete. Considering the uncertainty, adopting a mindset that is open to a myriad of possibilities can prevent unpleasant surprises and provide an ability to pivot that will be useful even once the world has recovered. Therefore, first and foremost, it is important to shun rigidity and adopt flexibility.
Continuing “business as usual” could easily lead to harmful outcomes. Besides just taking a pause for reflection, it is okay to take a pause from KPIs, ROIs, and whatever other business metric acronym you may be stressing about.
In a moment like this, a pause that might negatively impact deliverables for a day or two is much preferable to finding yourself set back weeks due to poor planning. From a leadership perspective, this meant providing a plan for employees to have a seamless transition to a remote environment early in the pandemic. But now with some offices opening, leaders need to reassess their remote infrastructure, follow government and scientific protocols, and provide a safe work environment. The failure to formulate a clear gameplan could result in a feeling of limbo, hurting your organization’s productivity.
Driving Employee Experience
Perhaps the most critical pause a company leader in 2020 can make is one where they remember they are leaders of people first and leaders of a business second.
During a crisis, being stoic and keeping a stiff upper lip are the expected qualities. While leading from the front is necessary, it’s also important to remember that we are dealing with a healthcare emergency. In addition to job security, employees everywhere are also worried about their health and their loved ones. Being empathetic is key: In the current situation, sharing vulnerability and not claiming to have all the answers can resonate with your employees.
This uncertainty is everywhere, and it is only natural that many employees will feel panicky about their future. It is the leader’s responsibility to instill a feeling of calmness and ease in their team. But in doing so, brushing stuff under the carpet won’t work out in the long run. Instead of going incommunicado, leaders need to be present. Candor rather than coddling is the need of the hour, and setting the right expectations can help employees gain a clear picture.
In absence of official and timely communication, rumors can fly thick and fast, which can further bring anxiety and conflict within your team. Therefore, timely, transparent, and authentic communication is a must.
Finally, pauses aren’t luxuries just for leaders, so heads of companies need to think about how they can give their employees some moments for pause as well. Taking care of employees’ mental health can, at times, be as important as providing financial assistance. Businesses across the globe have taken different approaches to this. Some have given access to paid mindfulness apps, others have provided free counseling, while a number have granted financial compensation for a number of mental health days. If your business is in a position to provide one of these, think about what may suit your team then execute a plan. It could go a long way for a number of employees.
Sudip Saha, COO of Future Market Insights, an award-winning market research and consulting firm. A growth-oriented business professional with vast experience in market research and project management across verticals in APAC, EMEA, and Americas, Sudip is a strong believer and proponent of innovation-based solutions, with an emphasis on creating customized solutions to meet varied client needs.
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