“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” This famous quote from Karen Lamb certainly holds true in a time when many businesses have turned inward and become ultra conservative in the face of an unpredictable pandemic.
But innovative leaders are not willing to allow even something as serious as a global epidemic to stifle their creative tendencies. If you’re struggling to find inspiration, stay the course. Here are some ideas to ensure the pandemic does not prevent you from emerging as an innovative leader.
1. Creatively Repurpose
As a result of the rampant pandemic, many nonessential businesses were forced to close their doors. This resting period is the perfect time for reflection, but is certainly not the time to become lazy or stagnant. Consider ways that your company can repurpose goods, service or machinery.
Are you using all of your resources to their maximum ability and capacity? Are you ready for the next big opportunity? Might you be holding the key solution to a community problem?
Throughout the country, local distilleries almost immediately began capitalizing on the need for hand sanitizer. Due to sluggish supply chains and consumer discomfort with imported products, effective sanitizing products became unavailable in many areas. Woefully long turnaround times and news of the shortage created somewhat of a sub-pandemic. The makeshift answer came from a rather unexpected source. One distillery after another began repurposing their stock to meet an urgent need, and alcohol-based sanitizer was soon brought to market, donated to local healthcare centers, and even sold online.
They say that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and this has been glaringly obvious during the global pandemic. The people that creatively use these unprecedented times to change course are the ones that set themselves apart in their industries.
2. Encourage Collaboration
If you have properly groomed your team for success, you can count on them to come through in a time of crisis. Modern technology makes it easy to communicate even when you cannot be together in person. Telework has proven that employees can be even more productive and goal-oriented at home, thanks to video meetings that allow them to continue to collaborate on upcoming projects.
These settings may seem somewhat strange in the beginning, but you soon discover that people are much more relaxed in their home environments than in a neutral workplace. This level of comfort automatically sparks creativity. Even the most timid characters in the office speak with confidence from their own turf. Utilize this psychological phenomena to your advantage and task each team member to come up with a creative solution to a current challenge.
Should you discover that a few straggling employees are not participating or are not producing at the level of the rest of the staff, try these techniques:
• Personally train them on the technology used for group meetings and remote projects
• Perform a mental health check to find out how they are coping
• Review expectations of their role during the pandemic
• Document your communication
• Review progress and offer follow up feedback
3. Reconsider Priorities
As an emerging leader, you have high standards and innovative ideas. This is the time to let them shine. You know your business, your customers and your staff better than anyone. Consider what motivates them, and then make an action plan. You may have already repurposed your equipment and service offerings, but have you rediscovered philanthropy? During this pandemic, individuals and companies are taking a close look at their priorities. Many have discovered that their lifestyle does not accurately or adequately reflect their personal or corporate values.
Should you realize that your priorities are out of alignment, this is the perfect time to make a positive change. Many companies across virtually every industry are experiencing wide pendulum swings between bankruptcy and regrowth. Consider your current brand exposure and perception. If you have not yet established brand recognition, take this opportunity to be both brave and innovative.
This challenging time presents a unique and extremely rare chance to rapidly move to the forefront of the marketplace. You can lead your team to unbelievable achievements by taking a results-oriented approach to change. Existing staff will either get on board with the advancements or provide indication that they may not be the best fit for the role. Of course, there is no shortage of experienced and motivated candidates in the pandemic workforce.
Truly innovative leaders use even the worst of circumstances to cultivate long-term change.
4. Explore New Leads
Aside from the tremendous responsibilities of leading a group or growing an organization, leaders also have important personal goals. In much the same way you are moving the company forward, you also need to take time for self-care. Physical and mental health takes a toll during any global event, and the Covid pandemic is certainly no exception. Take some time for honest self-reflection and decide how you can make personal changes and advance on your personal goals.
No idea is too silly or small to seriously consider here. Exploring your current situation requires that you take stock of your personal and professional life. This phase is akin to reconsidering priorities of the corporation or organization. Only in this case, you are only responsible to and for yourself.
Think about resolutions you made in the past but never quite followed through with for one reason or another. Is it time to take up a new hobby? Have you always wanted to learn another language? Perhaps take up painting or learn the violin. Even during the pandemic, there is a video tutorial or virtual class for just about anything. Getting involved with any of these activities will serve a few different purposes. You will gain a sense of personal satisfaction, keep yourself busy, and even open up new ways of thinking. Innovative leaders are always creative in some way, and it is important to keep new channels of thought open.
There is no denying that the current global pandemic has changed the way we communicate and perform daily business functions. This challenging time creates hurdles and stalls many proposed business opportunities. Despite these unexpected and often insurmountable hurdles, innovation prevails. Stay encouraged and continue looking for those opportunities to emerge as a competent and innovative leader.