As the pandemic grinds on, it’s become increasingly clear that “business as usual” won’t cut it. Most businesses need to significantly adjust their strategy in order to succeed. Driving change and successfully adapting to the situation will hinge greatly on the strength of our leadership.

Unfortunately, the pressures put on leaders right now gives new meaning to the concept of agility. Seemingly overnight, the market has dramatically evolved in a way that no one could have predicted.

Even worse, looming uncertainty regarding the economy, lockdowns, and spread of the pandemic make it difficult to plan effectively.

For many leaders, this could be one of the most difficult years of their career. However, if leaders adopt the right mindset and take the right steps, they can greatly soften the blow and position their teams for success.

Here are a few things leaders must focus on in order to move with agility and guide their business to recovery.

Keeping Our Eyes on the Future

When it feels like the sky is falling, it’s natural to shift all focus to our immediate needs. Above all else we want to keep our teams safe and our organizations functioning. Furthermore, the fact that no one knows what the future will bring makes it difficult to plan far in advance.

However, business leaders must make sure they are keeping their long-term goals in mind. We don’t simply want our businesses to return to normal – we want to thrive and grow as the recovery kicks in. This requires a mindset shift. We have to resist the urge to make cuts in a panic that could cause us to stagnate in the future.

There are no easy answers here. Every leader has to look at their unique situation and think critically about how to balance short-term needs with long-term goals. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned here is that it’s okay to make mistakes – we can always course correct later to the best of our ability. Course correcting often can be the secret to success when the market is changing this rapidly.

Continued Investment in Our People

When revenue takes a hit, many leaders’ first inclination is to look into pay cuts or layoffs. After all, our people are our biggest expense. But more importantly, they’re our greatest asset.

When we rush to layoff employees or slash salaries, we risk doing considerable damage to our culture, morale, and our ability to grow once the recovery passes.

Recruiting to refill our teams will take a considerable amount of time and money – perhaps even more than we could have saved by keeping employees on the team.

It’s also vital to look into other options before making cuts. If we cut our employees pay without docking our own first, we make it clear where our priorities lie. Likewise, we can build loyalty with our teams by cutting any unnecessary programs before making layoffs.

Even for the employees who are personally unaffected, they will be watching and forming an opinion based on how we treat our teams. It all comes back to keeping long-term goals in mind while meeting short-term needs.

If we want to sustainably grow when the recovery sets in, we need optimized leadership, talent and sales.

Use Transparency & Communication to Build Trust

One of the most valuable things leaders can do during this crisis is communicate. While it sounds simple, all too many leaders neglect to use communication in a way that builds trust, assuages concerns, and drives performance.

Leaders must communicate frequently with their teams. Silence creates uncertainty, and people often start to assume the worst or fear bad news when they haven’t heard from management. The result is distrust and hearsay, damaging morale and undermining performance.

In a similar vein, leaders must be transparent about the organization’s current situation, and what may come tomorrow. If we try to sugarcoat the situation, teams will see through it and learn to distrust us.

Instead, we must communicate honestly while clarifying what we are doing to address issues. The best thing we can do for our teams is offer them transparency while making it clear we’re doing everything in our power to protect them.

Finally, remember that great ideas can come from anywhere. Emphasize that you are open to all suggestions from your team members. You never know who will offer new ideas for revenue streams or point out where we could cut expenses.

All these ideas together build loyalty and inspire performance. When it comes to successfully navigating change, nothing is more important than having an energized, high-performing team that plans to stay with the organization. Your leadership style plays a huge part in making that happen.

Leading With Agility

Being a leader during an economic meltdown and global pandemic can feel like a high-wire act. The key is to stay focused on the factors within our control. This is crucial for staying calm, making the right decisions, and most importantly, inspiring your teams.

If you’re looking to take additional steps to bolster your leadership, check out our platform for leadership optimization. It’s about showing leaders how to lead with purpose and unlock your team’s best performance – learn more here.