Part II: Business Under Attack - Leading Into the Post Pandemic Era: Reinvent. Realign. Reinvest. Reengage. Rebound.
By Richard Torrenzano
On New Year’s Eve, 2019, no one predicted the disputation and tragedy we would endure in 2020. It required colossal achievements just to cross the finish line and enter the new year 2021.
There was no sign of an invisible evil tumbling towards us. We looked to the new year as we always did, pledging resolutions about our waistline, achieving new business goals and promising more charitable giving or thoughtfulness, thankful for a good life in the year just past, as well as anticipating one in the next.
As New Year’s Eve 2020 approached, the year flashed through our mind as a blur. We remember many were driven to the brink and realized it took resilience, tough mindedness, prayer and a little bit of luck to survive; a small group had a successful windfall.
Arriving at the annual milestone, it was not a celebration. It was quiet, unique with a singular hope thinking about health and loved ones. A very distinct and somber holiday season.
Somehow, through it all, we survived, and began to rebuild our lives, our careers and our businesses. Indeed, we still must thread through the next months as vaccines are manufactured and distributed.
Look to summer 2021, not to today or tomorrow.
In their darkest hour, during the London bombings, Winston Churchill rallied a nation by saying: “We shall never surrender.” During that crisis – as well as months before through the Dunkirk evacuation – Churchill had to fight people in his inner circle, as well as charges that his administration had no leadership and little ability to accomplish anything but retreats.
Churchill reminds us of the need to soldier on. As the 2006 Randy Atkins song says: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Churchill used the same Shakespearean quote from Henry V, to booster trust of a shaken British people. Leaders appreciate and recognize the importance of inspiration.
Hell arrived at our doorstep in the spring last year as an ugly invisible evil. It popped up again at Thanksgiving … and traveled with us through time into the new year, 2021.
It did get worse before it was better. So, Churchill’s indomitable spirit and those words about “hell and to keep going” was on my mind.
Look to summer, not to today or tomorrow.
Expedited vaccines are on the way. Life will go back to normal. Or will it? And what will the new normal look like?
The world changed dramatically.
It altered daily personal, business lives and mindsets. Behaviors changed considerably. Workplaces moved … utilizing technology more effectively. It seemed somewhat like snow days, that went on forever.
Customer needs and employee views shifted. Communications exploded, we accessed information, met and exchanged views differently. In essence, the way business is conducted noticeably changed.
We stopped traveling, stopped meeting…. and stopped face to face interaction. Everything is now online. In meetings, you can read nonverbal cues in eyes, facial expressions, body posture or gestures. Online, it can be done, but it is much harder.
The paradigm shift compelled us to do things we thought at one time were not necessary … or perhaps, not possible.
These new patterns will not be abandoned when the pandemic is over. As we exit … boards, managements and risks leaders, all of us, must be change agents and charismatic warriors leading out of this disruption and into a new post pandemic world.
What was on the edge, or not possible in March 2020 – is now center stage and you must ask, “What can I do to drive new levels of achievement?” Stakeholders will hold business leaders accountable if upcoming opportunities are missed.
Think of this as the second side of crisis, not the end of crisis. A new beginning with boundless opportunities. It truly is. And the American economy will explode.
As we enter this developing era, charismatic warriors will influence, inspire and transform us onto new paths, deploying new tools, to achieve new objectives.
Following are five strategies and ideas warriors can seize to emerge success from 2020… Reinvent. Realign. Reinvest. Reengage. Rebound.
Don’t just try to drive change, a charismatic warrior Reinvents.
The question is not should you … but how will you turn conventional management and wisdom on its head and lead in a new direction? Utilize this massive disruption to disrupt ... eliminating bureaucracy, unnecessary work, processes and costs.
Start with a KISS.
The acronym reportedly created by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at Lockheed Stunk Works while developing the complex Blackbird spy plane. Complexity drove necessity for simplicity. There are several variations of the acronym, I like to use: “Keep It Short and Simple.”
Empower and encourage employees to Reinvent. Here is an idea to do just that.
CEO announces significant companywide initiative. Involves everyone in the organization. Seek ideas on tackling strategic, operational, cost reduction, revenue growth opportunities and issues.
Have a five-person committee with C-suite executive as chair… and four other members from dissimilar functions, divisions and management levels – the best and brightest of newer as well as longer term employees. Craft simple process and template to review, evaluate, recommend and implement best ideas.
Select top 10 initiatives. CEO personally adopts, advocates and sponsors top 10. Let’s organization know and understand what matters to leadership team.
Ideas selected would receive reward of thousands of dollars per accepted idea. The bigger the impact, the greater the reward. That sparks participation. This can be transformational.
We have had great success with clients developing and launching these approaches of employee driven programs.
How do you Realign with a world more dependent on timely information and technology?
Paradoxically, a cue might come from the 1963 John Wayne humorous movie “McLintock”, which highlights the opening of the Oklahoma Territory. Chill Wills who pays Drago, McLintock’s foreman, yells from atop an old wooden wagon – “People, People, People” to gather a large crowd so McLintock can speak to various stakeholders.
Realignment should focus on all your ‘peoples’, with exceptional attention on all constituents. What they say, what they are doing, as well as what they are not saying or doing. Do you really know?
Most companies interact with many groups. Some they know well, others they do not think about in that way.
These important stakeholders include investors, employees, customers, industry analysts and commentators, lenders, partners and advisors, vendors, regulators, media and social pundits, as well as community, industry, government leaders … and yes … competitors.
When strong core company values are in place, organizations that engage with key constituents actively and honestly in normal times, will do well in times of stress. Businesses that do not have these values and solid two-way communications to constituents in normal times, do not endure well in crisis.
As a sail racer, I often hear tall tales. But, during a race, I watch and listen to telltales. Listening to them improves performance dramatically. They tell what is happening at one moment of time on different parts of the sailboat.
Who is the point person for each stakeholder group? They should not just have responsibility for a particular function ... but actively discussing and listening in that environment. Do they listen for telltales to understand what constituents are doing and saying, as well as what they are asking?
Then, have them share that commentary and intelligence in a weekly meeting – ‘constituents feedback hour’. You will be astounded by what you learn.
Constituents can be your best friends … or your worst enemies. Mind their guidance.
In a very competitive environment, what is your new and up-to-date ubiquitous selling proposition for the company, specific products and brands? How do you differentiate products or services from peers?
That is precisely where resources in the post pandemic environment need to be focused.
So clients can concentrate these efforts, we developed a tool “tale of the tape.” The phrase refers to making an objective comparison, particularly between two boxers who are measured and weighed just before a fight. These pre-fight measurements illustrate differences between champions.
There is no reason why you should not do the same with products comparing to your sparring partner, your competition. Some tales of the tape can be helpful for comparisons at point of sale. Some perhaps, are better left in-house.
Also, if you have not already done so, review sales and marketing programs to identify what you really should stop executing. That is correct, stop doing. The world changed and there are new things you need to focus on and launch, therefore lesser priorities should go overboard. Based on experience, it is astronomically more difficult to stop a program … than to start a new initiative.
We counsel clients to create initiatives that drive sales through the model of hunters and farmers. Hunters seek new leads. Farmers nurture opportunities. All organizations need both. Now analyze the balance and skill sets of hunters and farmers needed, as we exit this virus environment and enter a new post-pandemic world.
Exactly how will you position content and messages to Reengage constituents and potential new customers?
Content, channels, formats and frequency for all communications are important to consider. New communications opportunities may be necessary to reengage. I am a big fan and user of social media, but that will only go so far.
In social media, as in life, we follow influencers (leaders). You should strive to be that influencer that others want to follow by developing and announcing new ideas, surveys, concepts, etc., that are helpful to users. Social media is just that, it’s social. It requires back and forth communication.
It is about the reader, viewer or listener. If the company is announcing or posting, they should lead with information important to the reader, the listener, the user … and then important to the company. If content does not immediately engage their interests … it urges users to press delete.
No matter your industry or geography, effective communications have the same elements. Speak or write as if you are addressing university freshmen not industry engineers. Seize user eyes and ears with custom photos, moving chats, videos or even checklists.
An exercise that will be helpful is ask two questions after writing – or before recording – an announcement or post:
- Does this communication provide new information and knowledge first for the customer, user, market? Then, why it is important to the company?
- What are the two messages – the takeaways – that the user will remember?
With everyone preparing to charge, competition will be fierce. Your communications and marketing will need to be significantly more efficient and effective.
Spring forward as we reset clocks for daylight savings in early March.
To some extent, manage your organization like a warrior would who leads an army field hospital, a MASH unit (Mobil Army Surgical Hospital). The term was made famous by the 11-year season hit TV show, MASH.
A MASH unit is driven by a sense of urgency to achieve optimal results. It played a crucial role emphasizing triage, a technique widely used in medicine today. The idea prioritizes patient's injuries to have those severely injured treated as soon as possible. The current triage system consists of color-coding each patient with either a black, red, yellow or green tag.
Embrace the MASH theory. While I hope you never have any black codes, have a sense of urgency to make things happen efficiently and effectively. Using this theory will streamline your process, concentrate focus to troubled areas or clients ... and create instant intelligence.
This sense of urgency created by MASH is a good model for management. Triage is a superb model to manage your organization, and then discuss this strategy and thinking with clients or shareholders.
As a young boy, I remember my grandfather telling a story to inspire me. It was about elephants. They are majestic.
When traveling in India, he walked through an elephant camp and noticed the elephants weren’t kept in cages or held by heavy chains. Rather, all that was holding them back from escaping was a small piece of rope tied to a peg in the ground and to one leg.
He did not understand why the elephants didn’t just use their strength to break the rope and escape. They could easily have done so, but instead ... they didn’t try.
Curious, he asked a trainer why the elephants were just standing there and never attempted to escape.
The trainer said “When they are smaller and younger, the same size rope was used to tie them and was enough to hold them. As they grow, they were conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
My grandfather always ended the story by saying, no matter how much the world tries to hold you back, always believe in yourself and that what you want is possible. Yesterday’s barriers may indeed have no relevance tomorrow. Believing you can be successful is the most important step in actually achieving it.
The pandemic held us back in many ways. The business world changed dramatically. The last year compelled us to do things we thought were not necessary … or perhaps, not possible.
The most successful warriors see no ropes holding them back. They meet the demands of this transformed environment through inspiration and influence.
As we enter the post-pandemic era, adopt ideas to: Reinvent. Realign. Reinvest. Reengage. Rebound.
Published January 20, 2021.