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In many ways it is hard to believe that more than a year has passed since the World Health Organization declared a the COVID 19 outbreak a global pandemic. For so many, the past 12-13 months have been their most difficult – loss of relatives or friends, personal health complications, financial stress, unemployment, isolation, new working conditions, work overload, carrying the burdens of others, … and the day-to-day tolls of navigating uncertainty.
The world changed in 2020 – a statement that is becoming a cliché, though we are still deciphering the impacts that are unfolding today and those to that will reveal themselves in the long term. When the pandemic struck, company owners and directors were not able to fall back on a pandemic ‘playbook.’ But the urgent demands for physical distancing caused entire business models and processes to be digitally transformed, acquiring new tech to keep afloat.
What are the key ingredients to keep employees, clients, and shareholders calm, engaged and ‘around’ for the long haul when there’s so much unknown territory? We had the opportunity to discuss this topic recently with five admirable business leaders from Liberty Mutual, Morgan Stanley, HMSHost and Union Square Hospitality Group and Softtek. The following is a summarized list of the tips they shared for coping with unprecedented challenges and leading their teams on the path towards post-COVID maturity to success.
1. Let customers have choices.
Recognize that customers are unique individuals. Providing options to address different preferences and meet customer demands is particularly an important consideration in the hospitality industry- and making people feel comfortable, allowing them to decide what they want, when they want and to be there [for them] at the right time.
2. Tell them WHY.
Oftentimes communication plans address the “What” and fall short in explaining the purpose, the rationale. Likewise, the articulation is important; your teams must see that you are doing it for them, not to them. Yes, there will be bumps along the way – but change is a constant, inevitable. How you plan for it, how you communicate those plans, will be the differentiator.
3. And don’t just tell them; ask them.
Despite the promises of improvement, for human beings, change is emotional. It’s important to gather constructive feedback and do some handholding through the emotional change cycle. Listen to the concerns; show empathy; and promote two-way communication throughout the journey.
4. Move swiftly, but thoughtfully.
A company with strong core values, those which are embraced by the organization and starting with top management, will navigate crises more naturally. Thinking on your feet becomes a tool in your toolkit, setting you up to make easier and quicker decisions. Don’t over-react; there are situations in which a “wait and see” approach is most appropriate for ensuring a sound decision.
Crisis is not new to Softtek – we’ve been through several trying periods, including the H1N1 outbreak in 2009; Hurricane Alex in 2010 near company’s headquarters in Monterrey, Mexico; and when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy just around Y2K. As our President & CEO Blanca Treviño has throughout our ups and downs, communication and connection with our “Softtekians,” with our clients, and with our partners, has been a top priority. Finding ways to reach out, check in, and never lose the human element component of our company – the lifeblood of our existence.