How to Lead During a Time of Unprecedented Change
Originally published: 09.01.21 by Jeff Plant
While the demands on leadership may be more urgent during times of crisis and change, the principles involved remain the same.
The world is always changing, but 2020 proved some periods are more turbulent than others.
For industries already in flux, the challenges of COVID-19 were particularly acute. Even before the pandemic, the HVACR industry was experiencing seismic disruption due to advances in technology, ongoing demographic and economic shifts and evolving customer expectations.
The pandemic accelerated many of those disruptions, presenting conractors with major decisions on what seemed like a daily basis.
Even veteran industry leaders have been tested by the coronavirus pandemic, but their experience points to an important lesson.
While the demands on leadership may be more urgent during times of crisis and change, the principles involved remain the same. When uncertainty strikes, remember the core tenets that support success.
Having a vision is one of the foundations of leadership. But it’s equally important for leaders and managers to present a clear, concrete plan to make that vision happen. When team members know what’s expected of them, they can take ownership of their roles.
When they know why certain processes and standards are in place, they can buy into the mission. When they have avenues for their feedback and questions, they feel empowered and invested.
Now your team knows where it’s headed. You’ve empowered them to take initiative and demonstrated you trust in their abilities and character.
But empowerment isn’t a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process. Make sure your team has the resources it needs, including training and technology. Provide positive reinforcement for quality work. And finally, remember that competitive pay is the most direct way to show employees how much you value them.
Salary and wages matter, but most people also look for bigger meaning in their work. Team members who feel recognized and appreciated, and share the values of their employer are a keystone of success.
Companies that truly operate as a team benefit by retaining talent, improving recruiting and efficiency, and reducing the costs associated with hiring and training.
Don’t let poor performance or disruptive personalities drag your team down. Make sure employees know the standards they’re expected to meet, clearly communicate the possible consequences of falling short, and act decisively when necessary.
Be firm and fair, and don’t exclude yourself from accountability. When you make a mistake, own it.
You want team members to buy into your vision and strategy. In return, you’ll have to trust them to do the work that supports your common goals. Delegation of many day-to-day tasks allows you to focus on a high-level agenda and also empowers team members.
One of the primary responsibilities of leadership is preparing team members to be leaders themselves. Believe in the processes you’ve built and the culture you’ve developed. Most of all, believe in the people who believe in you.
The direct challenges of COVID-19 appear to be receding, but many issues that were highlighted by the crisis continue to affect the HVACR industry. The mission to deliver essential heating and cooling services is as critical as ever, but the combination of evolving customer expectations, increased health and safety awareness, complex supply chains, continual shortages and changes in the labor market, and rapidly developing technology has injected unprecedented uncertainty into the industry. For contractors who want to not only survive but thrive in these fluid conditions, building a solid foundation of leadership is key.