A former air force commander shares where leaders should focus when times get tough.
In February of this year, we entered a familiar world. By the end of March, we lived in a completely different one. What seemed a couple of months ago like a temporary upheaval of the way we work is now settling in as the new normal – one that isn’t going away any time soon. And still, though many of us have been working remotely for months, we have no idea what’s coming next, and how it will affect our economies, organizations, and work habits.
The COVID-19 crisis and the uncertainty that has ensued leaves leaders unsure how to manage remote teams effectively. They are struggling to create organizational glue to retain top talent, when the competition is high. One executive at a global tech company told us: when your manager lives inside your laptop screen, it’s much easier to replace them with another manager.
As the new normal continues, engaging employees becomes harder. Other than damaged retention, what are the impacts of an unengaged team on an organization’s performance? Can you innovate over Zoom? How do employers shape a new work-life balance that works, rather than being dragged along by other trendsetters? How do companies continue to improve continuously in a time so challenging, it demands flawless execution?
To answer these questions, Chair of Shamaym’s Board of Directors, Elyezer Shkedy, sat down for a conversation with 11 executives and CEO’s of global & local companies in Israel. Having served as a pilot in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) for 33 years – with four of them as Commander, and CEO of El-Al, Israel’s national airline, Shkedy shared his ideas on bold leadership and effective management in times of crisis and uncertainty.
His top three tips:
Give it your all – don’t rely on your talent alone. Were you the kid who got 100 in math class without studying for the test? You’re lucky, but the assumption that your talents will help when a crisis hits is flawed. Your baseline assumption should be to never settle for the status quo – both individually and as the leader of your organization. Companies succeed when they constantly learn. Learning means taking an honest look at what actually happened and asking: What will you do differently next time? What will you keep?
Believe you can succeed – and make sure your employees believe you. In crisis, people look for a leader to convince them their ship is headed in the right direction. As an executive, no task is more important than projecting to your employees that you believe in the company’s success. You’re surrounded by smart people to overcome logistical and technical challenges. But without a message of hope and positivity, your company won’t go far.
Embrace the unknown. Crisis can lead companies to two scenarios: certainty of a bad outcome, or uncertainty that may result in a good outcome. We tend to want as much information as we can get, but actually the second scenario is preferred – because it presents opportunities for positive change. When you’re faced with an unknown outcome, that is the exact time to leverage the brilliance and talents of your people, and innovate.
There are different ways for change to happen. It can happen as a result of a slow, lengthy process. Or it can come out of a punch to the gut, like the COVID-19 pandemic has felt for many of us. The future we face will not be a simple one, but it opens the door for sound leadership that doesn’t settle and sees challenge as a time for growth.