We’ve waited so long for the moment when things can return to normal and yet, for most business leaders, the prospect of this now feels almost as challenging, if not more so, as the one we faced going into and managing lockdown in 2020.
With phasing of back-to-office returns and lockdown measures lifting, anyone could easily be fooled that business leaders can all take a breath and relax. But we are far from that. We are not returning to the same place we were before; we are now being redirected to a different destination. A destination that will see most of our businesses take a vastly different shape to what it was before, a working environment that will see a more complex/ hybrid of way of working, and an operational infrastructure and cost base that has moved on.
As business leaders we know we need to keep positive but also to protect ourselves. We need to pace ourselves, keep focused, do things properly and not rush or be overly reactive.
Specifically we need to think about:
- Our people. How they feel about their return to work and finding a way to balance their needs with the needs of our business. We want to retain talent but not at the expense of our future business success. We need to be rational, fair and have a confident, strong voice in providing direction and guidance. Employees and teams need parameters in which to work now, more than ever. We need to be clear about what is required and expected, as well as supporting them to find their way to being happy and fulfilled.
- Our cost base. How it has changed; where we no longer need to invest because previous costs will simply not add value to what we offer moving forward. And where we need to invest more to create a sustainable and resilient business in the future, compete effectively within our market and help us become leaner and more efficient.
- Our proposition. As everyone around us, including our customers, are moving, changing, evolving, so should we. We need to keep a close relationship with our customers, supply chain and partners; understand how their needs are changing and how we can always keep relevant. The overriding benefit of lockdown release will be our ability to meet, re-engage, connect and get close again to those stakeholders that under-pin our business proposition and make us what we are.
We have all been forced to confront some real challenges in the last year, but this is no time to take the foot off the gas.
Like it or not, the pandemic and lockdown has simply propelled business leaders into thinking about ways to perform better, become more innovative, more agile, more efficient. We should take confidence that we have survived this far and those skills we have learned will see us strong throughout the next phase of our journey. Or, if your business hasn’t survived, this is the time to review and rethink about our learnings – and package it up into something better and stronger for the future.
I have learned that business leadership and entrepreneurship is simply a journey. No beginning, no end. Nothing has stopped, nothing has started. We are simply moving onto the next phase of leadership challenges, mistakes, learnings and progress. And we should relish in the opportunities that it brings to us all.