Every company has had to adapt, fast, during COVID-19. Some brands have completely pivoted from their core business, innovating in order to survive. Others have switched messaging to resonate better with people living in lockdown. Every company right now is considering whether it is doing enough to foster diversity and inclusion.
Strong leadership means being able to adapt fast to a changing world, and rethinking your approach to what you do, and how you communicate.
We’ve pivoted, for example, from our early beginnings in moderation and reputation management. This was back in 2002, before Facebook or Twitter launched. Our focus was very much on protecting children online, and managing the early branded communities and games. Now, we’re a global social media agency, operating in the branded communications and marketing space. We constantly spot new opportunities, adapting and growing as the market changes, while remaining true to our core purpose of creating genuine human connections for brands.
It’s critical for a leader to be agile, and to keep scanning the horizon for opportunities. But it also means letting go of things that you might have really cared about, and sometimes that can be hard to do. It can mean giving up some control, as you revise your strategy and innovate – often second guessing what might happen – in order to thrive (or survive).
Leadership now means allowing your team to be creative and trying new things.
It might mean getting some of them wrong, as you move into new territory. But failure isn’t always a bad thing, as long as you learn from your mistakes. The real death of a company is when it doesn’t try anything new.
Being agile as a leader means being ruthless about killing a project if it’s not working. I love the Google X approach of creating an environment where you encourage people to innovate and to try new things, and fail – but setting out from the start a set of ‘kill criteria’ – the point at which you end the project and move on, if it hasn’t succeeded. Because everyone has agreed the ‘kill criteria’ in advance, it takes the emotion out of it.
What I’m seeing now is companies who’ve been able to change their strategy are the ones that will thrive long-term. They’re able to see the opportunity to change their services to deliver them remotely (as we’ve been doing with our crisis simulations through Polpeo), or shift focus to products and services that are in line with what people want and need right now.
A crisis like COVID-19 really tests good leadership. It puts pressure on your values as a business and as a leader. But it also brings out the creativity in a company, and can uncover fantastic new opportunities, revenue streams and talent. Those are all things that will make you stronger.