As companies struggle to ensure business continuity during the novel coronavirus outbreak, leadership development may seem like the last thing on anyone’s mind. But good leadership is needed now more than ever to keep business moving forward and emerge strongly from the current challenge. For leadership development, it is time to pivot, not pause.
In China, the coronavirus caused quarantines and movement restrictions for more than 500 million people. Citizens have been banned from gathering in large groups, which has affected face-to-face training and development. Businesses are carefully considering the overall impact and are doing everything they can to maintain continuity as far as possible. Many are relying on their ingenuity to adapt their training programs.
As governments around the world begin to implement more onerous containment measures, here are some things to consider as you think about how to modify your development programs to support and grow your leaders at this time of greatest need:
1. Switch to virtual options that continue to engage people with one another. Virtual classrooms allow your leaders to continue professional development while engaging and learning from one another without travel. As you switch to these virtual options, make sure there is time for employees to meaningfully connect, whether through video calls to debrief, follow-up activities, or mobile tools.
2. Curate experiences that focus on building key soft skills. Emotions run high during times of crisis, making soft skills more important than ever. To address the fear and anxiety on their teams, leaders need to listen actively, show empathy, and meet the personal and practical needs of each person. You may want to curate experiences that teach these skills, either for the first time or as a refresher for those who have received training in the past. You may use a mix of microcourses, simulations, web-based training, or virtual sessions to help leaders brush up.
3. Help leaders develop skills to better lead virtually. As some businesses shift to having more people work from home, your leaders may need to change their approach to how they lead virtually. While working remotely has been a factor in the business world for years, leaders are still struggling with holding virtual meetings and other workplace practices. In fact, in our work with Dr. Steven Rogelberg, who wrote The Surprising Science of Meetings, we learned that nearly 33 percent of conference calls are wasted by distractions and disruptions. To keep things running smoothly, leaders must be able to ensure their virtual leadership skills are up to par to avoid wasted time and productivity.*
4. Use the time to take advantage of development opportunities there may not have been time for in the past. During a crisis, some parts of a business may be busier than ever, while others may grind to a halt. In cases where workstreams are halted, leaders and their teams may be able to help other parts of the business, and take advantage of development opportunities that may have otherwise fallen by the wayside.
While the future may be a bit unclear, continuing to develop leaders can be one of the best ways to help your company maintain normalcy and maintain a positive trajectory. Not only that, your leaders will come out on the other side stronger and better prepared to take on future challenges.
*Become a Better Virtual Leader
As you adjust your business plans to accommodate the virus outbreak, we know many businesses will have people working from home, which can introduce new challenges. Recently, we partnered with Dr. Steven Rogelberg, the world’s authority on meetings and author of The Surprising Science of Meetings, to create a short course on optimizing virtual meetings. During these tough times, DDI is pleased to offer this free course, to help leaders maintain effectiveness and team performance.