Transform Challenges into Opportunities

COVID-19 is the embodiment of our worst enemy: uncertainty. We don’t know all the challenges humanity currently faces across the globe. But what we do know is that in times of uncertainty, we look to our leaders. We also know that leaders are forged in crisis. As we weather the storm, we must look ahead to how we resurface on the other side. Our challenges will have to be transformed into opportunities. 

I want to share the steps we are taking to accomplish this change. But with all of these decisions here at SAP, we are sticking to an essential aspect of our culture: putting our people at the center of everything. The safety of our people and business continuity are our priorities, and the measures we have taken can be summarized in three major categories: firefighting, caring, and looking to the future.  

Putting Out Fires

No leader wants to be in this position. Even in management, constantly putting out fires is not associated with good teams. But sometimes circumstances overwhelm us. What we are going through now is just such an occasion. In this firefight, collaboration is crucial. That means joining efforts by bringing know-how and resources together along with a crisis task force that will guide your workforce now and lead them to our new normal. Take the steps of preparing and ensuring the necessary IT infrastructure for a productive home office. Processes, such as on- and off-boarding and device home delivery, now need to be 100% remote. Firefighting requires quick action as well, so company practices and policies will need to be updated fast. This includes regulations for working from home. As those fires are put out, you owe it to your people to keep them updated. Remember, uncertainty is the enemy. Be honest. Be direct. Let them know what measures are being taken to tackle your challenges. In times of crisis, over communication does not exist.

Caring

Go the extra mile for your people. Lead the way in caring. Provide enablement for them as they work from home with kids, manage health and well-being, and cope with all of the COVID-19 challenges. I can’t tell you how important empathy is here. Check-in with your people even more frequently than you had done before. As an organizational leader, leverage the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse checks to understand in what ways you can support your people. Be mindful with your communication and be understanding of any personal challenges they might be facing. Inclusion and diversity must continue to be priorities. Your people come from different backgrounds and have different needs. That hasn’t changed since our shift to working from home. Taking vacation time, even while on quarantine, can help mental health and offer time for family affairs. Leaders need support as well. Being held responsible for people as circumstances shift daily takes a toll. As everyone adjusts to the new normal and settles into the new working environment, it is important to recognize the immense efforts that everyone provides. My motto is, bring your emotional intelligence to shine.

Look Forward 

We can’t wait until all the fires are out to lead our people into the new normal. Now is the time to start shaping our new environment. During the firefighting and caring phases, we have introduced many new offerings. Remote work solutions, as well as health and well-being offerings should stay for the long term. We also have been quick to break down bureaucratic boundaries and adjust our policies. Now we need to make sure to stay flexible and further improve the agility of our organization. Bureaucracy needs to be reduced to allow for more agility.

Let’s keep an eye on what skills and competences are needed in what will be a new environment. Help your people adjust and even redefine themselves. We want them to remain successful in the extended COVID-19 era, but this will take some reflection.

Learning and upskilling will help us in the post-crisis but what else might? I want to hear from you. As we start to look forward, what skills will help companies post COVID-19? Tell me more in the comments. I am convinced that after the crisis we will see many organizations re-emerge with more resilience and tighter bonds and with leaders who have more empathy.