How to Lead Through Tumultuous Times
Whether changes are occurring inside the organization, or outside forces are creating conflict, the key is to accept and encourage change, rather than deflect it.
Change is hard, whether in personal or work lives. There’s no other way to phrase that. It’s just hard. Change management is a discipline, in and of itself, within the realm of human resources because the impact to morale, to say nothing of the bottom line, can be intense when changes aren’t introduced properly.
It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. ~ Charles Darwin
People want to guard what they know, their little piece of the business pie, for fear that they will become expendable if they share it with others. Any changes in an organization often lead to people hoarding their pie slices even more closely than in normal times.
There is one key to effective change management within an organization and that’s the attitude of the leaders. If they don’t buy into the changes, or they’re discomfited by conflict, allowing their agitation to show to the rest of the team, they won’t be able to lead their team through whatever upheaval they need to manage.
All leaders deal with turbulence or conflict, within the organization but they must also deal with influences from without. In fact, a good leader will have a nose for what’s coming and be ahead of the game, where they can.
Strategic, long-term thinking, which is a major focus for most leaders, has to be done in the context of the real world: the current economic climate, the international market, the political realities of the day and so on.
So how can you lead through tumultuous times?
Lead by example
This one should be obvious to most any leader worth their salt but, perhaps in these days more than ever, it’s worth repeating. If you expect your team to work through change or conflict, you have to show them how.
That’s what leadership is, at its most distilled level. Your team is looking to you to show them the way and will be scrutinizing every move you make. Don’t make them guess at what to do next: communicate your vision and goals at every step!
Adapt with positivity
Look at change as an opportunity. The evolution of digital is a great example of how massive and very fast changes can be upsetting but if you alter your frame of mind and see them as opportunities for growth or to capture new business, you can ride the wave with more confidence and success. Example? Banks could have balked at changes in the digital sphere.
After all, there is far less call for tellers when everything can be done via a smartphone. Rather than lose their collective minds, they adapted and built apps and online resources. It’s what customers were asking for, so they embraced it.
Embrace differences of opinion
It’s important not only to acknowledge conflict or change but in fact to embrace it. Through conflict, new ideas are often born.
You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity. ~ Golda Meir
It doesn’t need to become toxic or overwhelming to be effective, but a little adversity can create a new vision. This goes back to the previous point about adapting: it’s often from places of difference that these new and interesting opportunities develop.
It’s a question of having an open mind, in order to be able to see the possibilities. Within a team, within an organization or even within an industry, or a country, adversity can lead to interesting changes so long as the leaders acknowledge it in the spirit of growth, as opposed to destruction.
Doing things the way they’ve always been done isn’t an open door to growth, but endless conflict isn’t either. A good leader will weave a path between these two extremes and inspire their team towards change. It’s not always an easy sell but worthwhile for the company, and leader, that can get it right.
It’s not always an easy sell but worthwhile for the company, and leader, that can get it right.
The New Brand Differentiators Are Operations and Logistics
Operations and logistics are frequently viewed as secondary functions that can be handled by someone else. But here’s the thing: With data so richly available, using it to help reinvent operations and logistics can help you stand out just as much as the next electric car or purple cow.
Just take a look at some of the world leaders in business.
Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and other sharing sites are turning their industries around with structural and operational changes that challenge old paradigms. It’s not the products or services that stand out but the operations, logistics, and method of delivery.
For example, Amazon does not just succeed on lower prices or by offering different products than their competitors. They have revolutionized, simplified, and automated ordering, customer service, distribution, and warehousing.
The results have been staggering. It’s estimated that in 2016, they represent about 30-40% of internet retail sales and 8-10% of total retail sales.
Operations Innovation Isn’t Just For The Big Businesses
You might be thinking, “But that’s for the big businesses. How can that help my small business?”
Changing operational paradigms is for small businesses, too! Take a look at GrubHub. They are a publicly traded company, but think of whom they help: restaurants, big and small. They’ve helped thousands of restaurants expand their sales by providing seamless delivery.
Outsourcing key activities like web design, social media, cloud services, CRM, and even distribution have become both less complicated and more affordable.
No matter the size of your business, you can streamline or maximize your operations to take your sales and profits to a whole new level. The key is maximizing forecasting, inventory control, and distribution to maximize service, investment return, sales, and profitability.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Many operations experts say that 80% of sales are with 20% of your products. It’s often true, yet suppliers continue to proliferate styles, colors, sizes, models, and features to presumably serve more customers and provide more features. By keeping it simple, you help yourself and your customers.
- Pursue profit and not volume. Businesses frequently fail by adding too many stores, products, and marketing. In contrast, focusing on competitiveness, bestsellers, reducing costs, and reducing structure can have huge payoffs.
- Conduct a simple “SWOT” analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to get a perspective on your business. The surprising aspect of this exercise is that we frequently take our strengths and opportunities for granted rather than maximizing them. For example, approaching key and repeat customers usually presents the greatest opportunity, lowest cost, and most profitable source of additional sales.
- Encourage testing new ideas and scrapping ones that don’t work. You will make mistakes. Focus on solving them rather than blaming someone. Consider using the process of develop, test, measure, and adapt. The measure step is, by the way, the most frequently forgotten.
It’s easy to get seduced by design, marketing, or the next flashy idea. Plenty of businesses innovate in these areas. Don’t forget, though, that just as frequently, success comes from innovation in operation and logistics.
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