Real Leaders

Is Your Business Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

The pandemic holds opportunities for change, such as finding the human and economic advantages of working remotely. Will you see the glass as half-empty or half-full?

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that unexpected events are inevitable and often life-changing. Because the COVID-19 pandemic completely upended societies and economies around the world, nearly 90% of executives believe the resulting fallout will not only affect the way they do business for the next five years but also permanently impact customers’ needs.

When the world is in chaos, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost control as a leader. COVID-19 resulted in terrible hardships — lost lives, economic disaster for many businesses and families, and a “new normal” that reduces social interactions — but viewing the pandemic solely as a crisis can be damaging. A negative outlook provokes stress, depression, fear, and anger. And those emotions prevent you from taking positive, proactive action.

If you operate from a place of fear, you won’t be able to make thoughtful strategic decisions and improve workplace performance. Plus, you’ll miss out on the opportunities the pandemic has presented, such as the progress gained in finding the human and economic advantages of remote work. Your perception will guide your company into the post-pandemic era. So the question is: Will you see the glass as half-empty or half-full?

Shifting Your Perspective and Mindset

In many ways, the crisis has shown leaders that they had been doing things inefficiently or in a way that hindered their growth and ability to create high-performance workplaces. You’ve likely had to consider how your previous status quo compares to the new normal. It can be tempting to view the pandemic as a short-term problem to be fixed, but that thinking won’t advance your company forward.

Leaders with growth mindsets have a significant business advantage: the opportunity to pivot their businesses strategically. We experienced this firsthand at HPWP Group. We’ve always hosted a highly experiential in-person workshop that transforms management thinking and behavior in just one week. Unfortunately, due to the high levels of personal interaction, this workshop didn’t translate easily to a virtual format. However, many of our other training products were convertible — it just wasn’t a priority until in-person workshops were off the table. With more time on our hands, we’ve been able to identify different market opportunities and diversify our offerings.

So, are you surviving or thriving? The future is unknowable, meaning you can no longer rely on best practices or earlier models. You need to pivot your organization appropriately and adopt a growth mindset. As Luke Burmeister, the chief financial officer of Didion Milling, said during a roundtable with us, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a choice.” By having courage and choosing to see the pandemic as an opportunity, you’ll be able to gain a competitive advantage as the economy bounces back.

1. Reframe your thinking to be more empathetic.

Instead of focusing on any negative impacts, remember that this is everyone’s crisis. This reminder will help you be more inclusive and empathetic. One company in the Netherlands took this line of thinking further by requiring managers to visit every employee at home (while taking the appropriate safety precautions). The warmth and appreciation expressed by their employees had a significant impact on the managers. By visiting, the managers developed deeper personal relationships that will change their work environment in terms of loyalty and productivity.

You should follow by example. Take measures to step back, build relationships, and form solid foundations within your company. “With a longer-term view, great relationships are established, and a culture of trust is built within the organization,” Burmeister said. “When a crisis occurs, those relationships result in creative ways to continue working and even enhance the business.” 

2. Reach deeply into your organization to find solutions.

You don’t have to come up with solutions by yourself. After all, you are surrounded by smart people. Work with others in your organization to determine how to reduce costs, what partnerships are available, which new business ideas are viable, and when you should expand into new markets.

In the same roundtable mentioned earlier, Del Land, the chief financial officer of Pacesetter Steel, said, “Unless we were alive in 1917 for the Spanish Flu pandemic, our current crisis is new, and we have no playbook. Now we truly have an opportunity to create a new playbook!” Engage people and maximize their collective intelligence as you develop a new company strategy and focus on a high-performance workplace.

3. Promote innovation and find new ways to work smarter.

Without the coronavirus pandemic, it would have taken businesses years to embrace remote work fully. Today’s climate presents you with similarly unique opportunities. For example, we’ve heard that employees feel more empowered right now to decline meetings that aren’t applicable or valuable to them. Some people are contributing to discussions more because the remote format created a higher level of psychological safety. If something isn’t working, explore ways to fix it. If something is working exceptionally well, find ways to capitalize on it.

There might be a lot on your plate right now, but a lack of time for innovation is an excuse, not an obstacle. Leaders determine where and how they spend their time, so take a moment to review your company’s operations and core competencies. When you’re able to think this way about your company’s future, your business will be stronger and more successful because you will have created a solid foundation for post-crisis growth.

As a leader, you determine your mindset. You can see the pandemic as a negative event, or you can view it as an opportunity to pivot and improve workplace performance. It’s time to become agile. Crises are inevitable, but this particular one will end. Use this opportunity to become the organization you always wanted to be.