I sat in a recent pipeline review with our sales team, and during the meeting it became evident that we are positioned to have the best revenue generating year in our firms’ 30+ year history. How did we accomplish this achievement? All companies approached dealing with COVID-19 differently, and I reflected on the key beliefs we followed during the pandemic which have put us in a position to excel and come out stronger on the other side.
1. Optimism always wins.
- There is a saying that, “over the long run the future is decided by optimists.” The key to that saying is, “over the long run.” If you are confident in the long-term future of your industry, products, and team—you can enter any environment with optimism.
- Companies that approached this pandemic with short-term thinking were led to stop projects and lay people off, in essence, contract and consolidate (even if it wasn’t a financial necessity). These companies waited to see what would happen before deciding on their next move.
- On the other hand, companies with long-term thinking leaned into the belief that optimists will win in the long run, that optimism is the only way to conquer adversity. These companies kept momentum with their initiatives and retained their talent so they were stronger on the other side of adversity because they knew that would give them a higher likelihood of success over the long run.
- Teams watch how their leaders act and react. They want to see courage from their leaders when they see uncertainty everywhere else. Give them what they want. Give them courage, in your words AND your actions, to inspire them through difficulty. Never lose sight of the fact your team is the only thing that can bring you through adversity. Don’t shrink back, lead with optimism.
2. Trust your people.
- I like to share my favorite Steve Jobs quote, “I don’t hire really smart people so I can tell them what to do; I hire really smart people so they can tell me what to do.” When you surround yourself with really smart people they help you put together processes that enable the growth of your business.
- However, in times of uncertainty it’s easy to forget that your smart people are there to help your business grow in ALL climates and ALL situations. If you simply freeze because the world around you is changing then you are robbing your smart people of the ability to be resourceful and rise to the occasion.
- Companies that don’t trust the ingenuity of their people in times of uncertainty, and instead wait for a more certain future to emerge before creating a plan, will fall behind. Depending on processes that made them successful in the past will make it much harder to adapt to an ever-changing world. In fact, if they have not trusted their people to push consistent change and reinvention, even during “good” times, they were probably already behind and just didn’t know it—COVID-19 simply revealed it to them.
- We must approach business with the understanding the world is always changing and certainty is a myth, that’s why people matter. If you lead your team to embrace a philosophy of innovation and adaptation on a continual basis, changes won’t disrupt your business as much, or for as long, as your competition.
- In the end, companies that wait will not win. We live in a world of uncertainty; we always have, and we always will. The key to trusting your processes through challenging times is all about trusting your team. When you get the right team in place, you can trust them to make the adjustments necessary to your processes—only then can you move forward with confidence.
3. Don’t back down.
- If you’ve gotten this far, don’t let fear rule your thinking. It’s natural to go through many different emotions during times of instability. When you start to reach for the panic button, go back to #1 above, and be honest with yourself: if you believed that your industry, products, and team were strong—and your future was bright before the pandemic—then don’t quit.
- Think about the long-term success of your business and lead your team, and yourself, with optimism. Then move back to #2 above, and be honest with yourself: have you consistently invested in the best talent you could afford to ensure the long-term success of your company? If you have, then it is likely that you have been adjusting on a quarterly, monthly or even daily basis to change with the changing times. Now, more than ever, is the time to show high levels of trust to the amazing team you assembled and let them show you the way.
- Don’t back down because you’re scared. Your team needs you to give them optimism and trust. If you give a team of intelligent people those two things, there’s no pandemic that can stop you.
I have done my best to follow these three principles in leading Accutech Systems this year. They sound simple, but I can’t tell you they are always easy. What I can tell you is this framework has positioned us to have the best year in our company’s history—in spite of COVID.