Businesses continue to navigate the changes that COVID-19 has wrought on the economy, rethinking how they serve customers, searching desperately for ways to cut spending, and trying to make long-term plans while ensuring short-term survival.
But it’s worth remembering that change that disrupts the economy is nothing new – with or without a pandemic, says Juan Riboldi (www.ascent-advisor.com), an international business advisor, author, and president of Ascent Advisor, a management consulting firm.
“The real issue businesses leaders must deal with is not change,” Riboldi says. “Instead the issue is what can we do so that we and our businesses can benefit from the change that COVID has brought.”
Anyone wondering where to begin should first look inward, he says.
“Since all change starts with individuals,” Riboldi says, “we must learn to recognize and correct negative tendencies in ourselves that keep us from successfully addressing change. A better understanding of these bad habits or tendencies will help us know how to effectively resolve them.”
To meet the changes caused by COVID-19 head-on, Riboldi says business leaders should:
Keep the trust level in your company high. When a manager goes back on decisions, hides uncomfortable news, or plays office politics for personal convenience, others in the organization will begin to distrust that manager. “If you make promises, be sure to keep them,” Riboldi says. “Otherwise you will lose the trust of others as well as their respect, both of which are desperately needed as you manage change.”
Stay focused. “Lack of focus is a main cause for why smart people do dumb things,” Riboldi says. “Being busy does not mean accomplishing more. When we work at a frantic pace, we often make more mistakes.” For businesses, this problem is magnified by the kind of economic uncertainty the country is going through right now, he says. “Companies experiencing tough times often respond to unpredictable situations by panicking,” Riboldi says. “They try to do more with less, rather than simplifying and becoming more focused.”
Keep employee training on track. Businesses already worry that entry-level employees are deficient in many of the skills needed to do the job, Riboldi says. Many companies respond to economic downturns by cutting training and development budgets. “Doing away with training may provide temporary financial relief, but at a long-term cost on the capability of your workforce,” Riboldi says.
Inspire commitment in employees. The role of the immediate supervisor is essential for fostering commitment in workers, Riboldi says. When a supervisor fails to lead employees in a way that inspires teamwork and collaboration, commitment falters. “The most common problem affecting morale is when supervisors don’t provide employees with sincere recognition for their work,” he says. “Too often, supervisors fail to give heartfelt praise for a job well done. This simple action costs nothing and takes little time to do, and yet it is a crucial component in engaging a workforce.”
Understand the importance of short-term results. Riboldi says most major organizational change efforts fail to deliver the expected results. One of the main reasons for that is a lack of success early on. “Many promising change initiatives become prematurely aborted due to failure to show short-term gains,” he says. “Insufficient attention to short-term results kills even the best strategies and plans.” To be successful, Riboldi says, an organization must balance the short and the long term. “Achieving early wins builds support for pursuing longer term goals,” he says.
“Fortunately, the problems we encounter as we deal with change are both avoidable and curable,” Riboldi says. “We can identify their root causes and replace them with something better.”
Juan Riboldi (www.ascent-advisor.com) is an international business advisor and principal and president of Ascent Advisor, a management consulting firm. He is the author of the upcoming book, Strategic Transformation: How to Deliver What Matters Most. For over 20 years, Riboldi has been advising leaders at the highest levels of business, education and government on strategy, organization, and execution. His clients include Fortune 50 corporations as well as fast-growing private enterprises. He successfully launched and led three consulting firms, and completed post-graduate studies at Harvard Business School and Wharton School of Business.