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My top 3 leadership learnings from the covid spring

As summer is here, it’s becoming a little bit more stable and normality is slowly returning in many businesses. Some borders are opening up, some confinements are coming to an end – at least for the time being. And this, maybe temporary, feeling of improvement brings me to the first thing I learned this spring: […]

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As summer is here, it’s becoming a little bit more stable and normality is slowly returning in many businesses. Some borders are opening up, some confinements are coming to an end – at least for the time being. And this, maybe temporary, feeling of improvement brings me to the first thing I learned this spring:

There’s always a crisis – be prepared for surprises.

Every week you will face challenges as a leader. They might be small (lucky you!) or they might be, well, large. When I read one of the recent newsletters from Farnam street I immediately clicked into the blog to read Stop preparing for the last disaster. “When something goes wrong, we often strive to be better prepared if the same thing happens again. But the same disasters tend not to happen twice in a row. A more effective approach is simply to prepare to be surprised by life, instead of expecting the past to repeat itself.” Nothing could be more well put. Last year the group I work for, Hydro, was hit by a global cyber-attack that brought a lot of our production to a complete stand-still. A lot was learned from that, but mostly we learned to keep the speed up in decision-making. As leaders, we must react fast and understand that our main role is probably being change management leaders.

Don’t wait for someone to tell you how to act, be swift! Clear mandates will help you and if you feel they are missing, make sure to get them before the next crisis hits.

Digital tools help you – and they kill you

In the beginning of my confinement I thought “This will be piece of cake!”, as I’m very used to working from home, an airport, another one of our factories or offices. Even so, I found the use of cameras to be slightly intimidating in the start. Now, however, I almost get a bit annoyed when someone doesn’t turn it on. I’m quite lucky in the sense that I wasn’t located in the same place as my team before the covid crisis hit us, so using Teams, Planner, and other digital tools felt very natural. Unfortunately, all the extra time available (no lost time travelling, not even the daily commute to work) has been swallowed by endless Teams meetings. And I really mean endless. Some weeks I had back to back calls from 8-18 and lunch breaks were just a dream. I was way too slow in realizing that it’s not only okay, but a prerequisite to block time in the calendar to work – and to eat lunch. I dare to say that I have become more efficient than before, because I plan my days better now.

Block time in your calendar for focus time and for lunch. You will become more efficient by doing so.

Don’t be so hard on yourself – and be transparent with how you feel.

First of all, leaders are also humans, and no one will trust in you if you can’t show your vulnerability (read more in the HBR Article “What bosses gain by being vulnerable”). Second, remember that your team, everyone in fact, are also human, and they will have good days when they couldn’t care less about the stress around the covid crisis and they will have bad days when they worry a lot for themselves and their loved ones. Unless you have made some grave errors in your recruitment, chances are high that your team does as good as they can to deliver their best, but what’s equal to their best can vary. And it will for you too. Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. Talk about it with your team, be open with how you feel and listen to their thoughts and worries. Remember that it’s ok to feel anxious and to slow down! It will help you to be organized (read more about it in this HBR Ascend article by Whitney Johnson), so encourage your team to do the same.

Dare to be yourself and expect your team to be themselves. Vulnerability isn’t weakness, it strengthens the team!

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