Scenarios for resilient leaders in the years to come
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Recently, Deloitte and Salesforce partnered up to share an insightful, detailed look at possible future global scenarios in the years to come. This is presented in their report called “The world remade by COVID-19 – Scenarios for resilient leaders in the next 3-5 years”; you can download a copy here.
It is refreshing in a way to think about longer range views of what the world will look like. At least in my house and in my community, there is an intense focus on the here and now, lengthening out to perhaps the three-to-six month time frame. Here in the U.S., we have an upcoming presidential election in November (not a minute too soon!) We currently have a deep and profound awakening on racial injustice and ways to move forward. And we still have that global pandemic that is unlike what the world has ever seen.
So I’m delighted that these thought leaders put shape around longer-range scenarios for reflections by business leaders. This project team considered five key areas:
….when developing four possible future scenarios:
The passing storm: where the pandemic ends within 2020 and the economic recovery takes hold in 2021
Good company: where governments and large companies partner to create solutions to mitigate damage from the pandemic
Sunrise in the east: where China and other East Asian countries prove to be world leaders on effectively managing COVID-19’s impact
Lone wolves: where the pandemic period continues for a prolonged period, in part due to government mismanagement and poor coordination across countries
I encourage you to review the report and consider both the conditions under which each scenario could take hold, as well as the impacts to each of the five key areas considered. What you will quickly notice is the diversity of outcomes and impacts around the globe. The report suggests core questions for reflection by each of us on business impacts to be considered.
In addition to their suggested questions, since I’m in the people operations business, I'll pinpoint some things to encourage you to think about for your workforce and for you personally. As you read through these scenarios and consider how your business may be impacted, consider the following for you and your teammates:
· Your network and affiliations: where do you have personal or professional interest in growing your network? This may be to meet a person or join a group that has insight to help move you forward. Universities, those with common political or societal goals, those in adjacent business lines…think about where you’d like to expand your network and then think about how best to accomplish that.
· Your teammates: what do they need to think about now for themselves, if anything? What skills need to be built within your team? What structured or lightly-structured learning opportunities should be pursued now, for the benefit of both your company and of your employees? Take a look at what firms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Udemy have on offer --- a lot of which is free. Your teammates’ biggest barrier may be the clear permission and encouragement from you to learn in this way; don’t assume that they will self-advocate or self-identify their interest in learning more to help emerging business needs.
· Speaking of teammates….who are they? There has never been a better time to think about fresh ways of collaborating with others to accomplish work goals. Think about project/gig workers, offshoring & distance teammates, part-time advisors. I recently learned of a role in my network titled "entrepreneur in residence", for which a mostly-retired, seasoned senior leader is paid a monthly fee to advise an organization on fresh ideas and potential pitfalls to help grow the business smartly. So when you think about business needs to plan for, push yourself on how to identify and work with people and firms that can help get you where you want to go.
· Team communications: How are you going to communicate plans, updates, and decisions regularly to your team? How will other managers on your team do so? How will employees have the risk-free opportunity to share their perspectives, ideas, and frustrations with management? It is critically important, in my view, to build systems and expectations that are uniform across the organization and come at a cadence that all teammates can rely upon. You want to try to minimize misinterpretation or concerns across your team if communication practices feel different across different groups of people, or feel different over a span of time. In addition, be thoughtful about how to maximize getting real feedback and input from those on your team. Remember that they may be stressed and stretched like never before, for reasons that may or may not be connected to their work with you. When people are stressed and stretched, it is less likely that they will share constructive ideas and feedback with management. Dig into systems and platforms that can be used to hear input in as safe a way as possible for those employees.
· What do you stand for? It is never too early to really pin this down for yourself and for your team. Especially now, the more concrete that you can define, prioritize, and publish your company’s guiding principles and what you all stand for, that will help make decisions and provide a sense of purpose and unity to all those on your team. This also gives a framework for other leaders and managers to make decisions for their groups while still aligning with the overall company principles. My friends at uIntent have made this clear as a company manifesto, which you can read here. You’ll want to minimize internal friction and debate in the months and years to come as the world keeps evolving; a clear set of business and people principles can help with that goal.
Above all, there are three attributes that I believe the best leaders in the years to come will keep top of mind. Those are: intentionality, authenticity, and flexibility. With so much change all around us, each person in your circle is making their own assessment of their priorities and their relationships. Your employees and teammates likely need different things from you than they needed just a few months ago. Moving forward with intentionality, authenticity, and flexibility will put you in the best position for whatever macro circumstances unfold in the years to come.