Updated: Sep 20
Calling the global pandemic that’s gripping the world right now a “crisis” may be an understatement. With all of the uncertainty and fear going around, it’s hard to keep your business on course.
Some experts believe that the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will dwarf that of the 2008 recession, potentially going toe to toe with that of the Great Depression. In times like these, it’s easy for business owners to make a common mistake – and you’ll learn all about how to avoid it in this video.
In today’s blog, we’re looking at the very common mistake that leaders make during times of crisis and uncertainty.
TOO MANY LEADERS FOCUS ON THE SHORT TERM WHILE IGNORING THE LONG TERM
If you’re in a sinking ship, you wouldn’t be blamed for putting all of your attention on finding the leak and sealing it. This is a very common philosophy when it comes to dealing with crises in business – focus all of your effort on solving the immediate problem, and leave everything else on standby.
The problem is, the future doesn’t just go on hold that easily. Your business still has to run after the crisis is over, and if you don’t plan for the future effectively, you might find that the effects of the crisis don’t stop as soon as you deal with the threat.
Leaders tend to hyper focus on managing the threat directly, ignoring the essential long-range thinking that comes afterwards. Taking the pandemic as an example, the constant changes in the situation lead many business owners to think on a week-by-week scale, just making things work until this whole thing blows over. But ask any economist and they’ll tell you that the effect of the pandemic will last long after the last trace of the virus has been eliminated. The workplace dynamic could change permanently, and if you haven’t been planning for it, there may be detrimental effects for your company.
HAVE A CLEAR AND COMPREHENSIVE VISION FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Vision is a crucial characteristic in any great leader, but it plays an even more important role when it comes to managing a crisis. Sure, you’d be forgiven for putting all your attention on the situation at hand – the pandemic is having its greatest impacts now, and the effects that it has on the economy can already be seen. Many businesses are closed down, and some of those are going to be permanent. That’s life. But in all the chaos and destruction the pandemic has caused, it provides a future opportunity for your business to thrive where others won’t.
The cases will come under control, and businesses will begin to open again. When that happens, you want to be one of the first companies to get back into regular operations. For that to happen, you’re going to need to start planning now – what parts of your company do you open first? Do you tell your employees to come into the office all at once, or could working remotely be enough until you smooth things over?
Questions like these are ones that only you can answer, but it’s important that you answer them now before it’s too late. Good leaders don’t ignore their present situations, but they also don’t fixate on them. Good leaders also know how to capitalize on opportunities when they see them, even during times of immense loss and negativity.
MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT MINDSET – NOT TOO OPTIMISTIC, NOT TOO PESSIMISTIC
Hope isn’t a strategy, but it is a start. In order to notice opportunities for your business to bounce back, or even grow, during times of crisis, you need to have the right mindset – the kind that wants to see the future and ways that you can use your situation to your advantage. Once you have that, you need a clear vision – a solid plan that you can stick to. Wishful thinking can be helpful, but it won’t increase your stock price. Neither will extreme pessimism. It’s natural to notice the negatives, but taking on the mindset of a doomsday prepper will only paralyze you and prevent you from getting through this better than your competition. Don’t let yourself be scared – fear won’t bring down those case numbers, nor will it save your business. You need to always have a plan for the future, even when the future is incredibly uncertain.
YOUR COMPETITION WILL ALMOST DEFINITELY MAKE THE MISTAKE
Keep in mind that the vast majority of your competition are going to be making the mistake of exclusively thinking in the short term. As a result, their employees may begin to be nervous about the future – living week by week with conditions constantly changing, they’d be looking for a leader who seems like they have a plan. With the constant working from home, running out of toilet paper, and fearing about whether they have the virus, productivity isn’t exactly going to be at its highest.
Workplace dynamics have changed, perhaps permanently, and leaders that are too fixed in their ways may struggle to adapt to the Zoom-based offices of the future. That’s where you can capitalize. Give your employees a leader they can follow – one they can trust to carry them through this crisis. Whenever there is uncertainty, within nations, communities, or even families, people look for strong leaders who have a vision for the future. Everyone wants to hear that everything will be alright, and that there is a way out that will get things back to normal.
If you can be the bearer of good news, everyone will want to follow you, and your company will get out on the other side of this pandemic stronger than all of your wavering, unstable competition. Let your employees know that everything will be alright, and that you have a plan. They’ll work with a newfound sense of confidence, and your business will be overall stronger because of it. It’s human nature to always look for a way out – with you as a business leader, they’ll naturally look to you for a solution. Give them one.
PLAN FOR A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT FUTURE OUTCOMES
While it can be tempting to focus on one infallible solution, the wise business leader has contingencies. I can guarantee you that any predictions you would have made a year ago about how this pandemic would have turned out are wrong, and so who’s to say that your predictions of the near future will be right? Plan not just for the future you expect, but for the future you don’t expect. Stop yourself from fixating on what your company will look like in the next year, month, or even week, because if this pandemic has shown us anything it’s that nobody can predict what can happen in even short time frames.
People naturally feel at ease when all bases are covered, and so telling your employees that you have prepared for a variety of different situations will give them the confidence that you know what you’re doing and that you have a clear vision not just for the immediate crisis, but for the uncertain future.
Crises are a test of human nature’s ability to adapt. The first instinct is to focus on the immediate threats – deal with the symptoms, not the cause. Disregard the future, it can wait. Well, it can’t. The future is always closer than we think, and if you don’t know how to deal with it well, it can blindside you and your company.
Constantly consider where your company will be after this is over, and have a clear and well-defined vision for how you’re going to ease back into things. Make sure that you have the right mindset – a goldilocks zone between optimism and pessimism that is grounded in reality but considerate of potential opportunities in the future. Your competition is in the same boat as you, and it’s very possible that they’ll be too focused on the present to prepare adequately for the future. Use that advantage.
Embody the confident and secure leader that everyone wants to look towards. Make it so that when your employees look at you, they’ll think they’re in good hands.
Finally, plan for a variety of situations, so that you have all bases covered and the future will never get the chance to sneak up on you. Will 2021 be the year where your business fails, or will it be the year of your greatest success?
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