Very soon we’ll be confronting the next wave of change as our companies and our jobs lurch back to something resembling pre-covid normal. The question in the back of every executive’s mind is this:” How do we handle the post-Covid changes?”
Specifically, we’ll have to accommodate employees who have been working from home, customers who wouldn’t see salespeople, and a whole raft of other issues. While there will be as many adjustments as there are people, before we start reacting to what everyone else wants to do, it may be appropriate to spend a little bit of time conceptualizing what we want to have happened.
Let me weave a couple of thoughts together here.
Post-Covid Changes = Opportunity
One of the things I have learned in my 30+ years of business consulting is this: Every change is an opportunity to create a more positive, larger change. We just must think that way to make it happen. This includes the post-covid changes coming.
I have often been involved in refining a sales force’s compensation plan. Every time we refine a sales force compensation plan, it brings with it an opportunity to re-structure the way sales territories are defined or, maybe, the way tasks are split between outside and inside sales, or some larger and more impactful issue. So, the smaller change – sales compensation – opens the door to a larger, more systematic change.
That smaller change works sort of like a pry-bar when you are removing molding. Once you’ve used it to open a small gap in the structure, that gap can be lengthened to encompass the whole piece. So, a smaller change in the structure of an organization often opens up the specter of a larger, more strategic, and impactful change. It’s easier to make a big change in the middle of the implementation of a smaller change.
People Want Strong Post-Covid Leaders
Another lesson from my experience consulting with over 500 companies is this: Most people want confident leaders, and confident leaders point the way to a different and better situation in the future. And, typically, it is the leader’s job to describe that situation and point others to it. In other words, leaders create the vision of a better future and lead people to it. Leaders don’t react, they proact.
When I pull these two thoughts together and apply them to the post-Covid adjustments, I come out with this:
Now is the time to proactively define the structure and culture you want, and help your people adjust to the new reality. Rather than reacting to every employee, every customer, and every vendor’s wishes, first create the structure you want and nudge people toward it.
So, for example, you may say that in the post-Covid world, you want everyone to work in the office, together, at least two days a week. When some of those employees who have been working at home indicate they want to continue working from home, you describe your structure, explain your rationale, and have them adjust to that.
Or you may want your field salespeople to spend a day or two a week making remote sales calls via Zoom or other video technology. So, set up the system, put in place the tools to measure that, and let your salespeople know of your new expectations. Change the structure to meet your view of what the world will demand.
What you will have done is this: You will have used this small change to create a bigger, more impactful change. You will have described the world as you want it and nudged your people into it.
Now is the time to lead. Take some time to conceptualize the structure, the routines, and the habits that you want to incorporate into your business, describe them specifically and develop the rationale for them, and then, prod your people into them. When people start emerging from the Covid fog, be ready with a proactive structure and culture for them to engage.
You may recall Rahm Emanuel when serving as Obama’s chief of staff was famously quoted as saying: “Never let a crisis go to waste.” While his content was politics, the principle applies in many circumstances. One of which is business management.
Use this opportunity to build the structure that will serve you well in the post-Covid world. Be proactive, not reactive.