‘How’s business’ and ‘What’s are the biggest challenge you’re facing right now as a leader’?

These are two questions we’ve asked leaders in over 100 companies across construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors over the last two weeks. We’ve had some meaty conversations.

From these, business position is falling into three categories: 

  • Those that are thriving, with Covid-19 bringing opportunities for expansion or the opportunity to ‘pivot’ quickly – nine businesses were in this position
  • Those that are already in the tough space of restructuring as a result of the impact that Covid-19 has had on their market – six businesses were in this position
  • The majority that are feeling a bit in limbo. This doesn’t mean that they are sitting on their hands but rather that there are a number of different scenarios they need to prepare for. The big question for these business leaders is: ‘Will there be a second spike in infections?’

And there are several businesses that are experiencing all three of these at once, as the ramifications of Covid-19 are experienced in different parts of their organisation or in different countries.

At the same time, business is inevitably moving and there is increasing clarity around the questions that need answered. We were particularly exploring those that related to people leadership as this is the area where our expertise can add most value. Those that came out most strongly through our conversations were:

Leading remote teams

  • How do we lead remote teams – what do we do as this becomes the norm rather than an interim position? 
  • How do we lead when working with teams, where some are in the workplace again (whether that workplace is an office, on site or on a production line) while others remain home-based? 
  • How do we manage the loss of water-cooler conversations which were so crucial to sharing tacit knowledge, impromptu brainstorming and generally being ‘in the know’? 
  • How do we maintain innovation and creativity when working remotely?

Having difficult conversations

  • Many leaders are questioning if it’s okay to have difficult conversations about poor performance – should performance issues be tackled when people are already dealing with many other challenges? And, if it is, how do you have this kind of conversation remotely? 
  • Some leaders are preparing for redundancy conversations, never easy and particularly challenging when the cause of these redundancies has been out of everyone’s control.

Taking care of myself

You’re probably as sick as I am of hearing everything Covid-19 related being described as ‘unprecedented’ and yet acknowledge that leaders have been making decisions at a fast pace in, yes, an ‘unprecedented’ situation. There’s opportunity in this too – one leader we spoke to said that we now have the opportunity to be pioneers in our changing business landscape. However we look at this, leaders have been setting direction, supporting others and managing their own pressures for several months now. Many are tired, finding their patience is less robust than usual and yet are still having to gear up and keep focussed with more uncertainty ahead. 

  • Their question: How do I maintain my own energy and resilience and help my teams to maintain theirs?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be running leadership discussion sessions to explore each of these areas, starting with ‘Leading Remote Teams’ on 18th June, 12 noon – 1 pm (BST).

I’m excited that Craig Darroch, Head of Executive & Senior Leadership Development at Shell, will be joining us. Craig will kick off our discussion, sharing insights built up over 20 years leading teams that were dispersed around the globe. Craig has worked in Utilities, Subsea and Digital sectors and has a wealth of knowledge to share about leading remote teams.

To allow for discussion and exploration, and to establish a space to create ideas together, there will be just 12 places on this event.

To reserve your place, simply reply to this email and we will send you the relevant details.

Stay safe, stay connected and look forward to some good discussions.

What’s the biggest leadership challenge you’re facing right now?