Roughly 64% of U.S. households have responded to the 2020 census as of August 14, according to the Census Bureau. As the agency follows up with nonrespondents until September 30, homeowners associations can play an important role by allowing access to census takers to make sure all residents are counted.
Census takers started going door to door to collect responses in mid-July and were instructed to wear protective gear, practice social distancing, and follow public health guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Board members and community managers can encourage residents to fill out the 2020 census questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail to reduce the likelihood of in-person follow-up.
Associations must allow census takers access to their gated community or condominium to avoid fines. Field workers will have a valid identification badge and may carry bags and other items with the Census Bureau’s logo visible at all times. If no one is home, the census taker will leave information about how to respond to the census or may leave a paper questionnaire in a water-resistant bag.
Data collected in the 2020 census will drive decision-making, political representation, and economic development across the U.S. The results give a detailed statistical view of the demographic makeup of the country and are used to determine the changing needs of communities—making it paramount that an accurate count of each household is achieved.
“Whether or not the data is accurate, real estate developers and policymakers will continue to use census data,” says Olivia Snarski, program manager for local democracy at the National League of Cities, a membership association that advocates for the interests of over 19,000 cities, towns, and villages nationwide. “If they’re basing their decisions on how to develop land and how to build their cities on inaccurate data, that’s going to be poor decision-making for the population that lives there.”
Census data also can be used by community associations to decide whether to build or expand amenities and understand the demographic makeup of residents. Jan Porter, general manager at Peccole Ranch Community Master Association in Las Vegas, says that the statistics collected by the decennial census help the community determine which amenities will be the main draw, coordinate activities, and establish programs that maintain residents’ interests and engagement.
“Successful social events build a sense of community, and the census helps us get right to that community spirit,” she says.
Find information on how to respond to the 2020 census, why answers matter, privacy, and security by visiting www.2020census.gov.
HOAresources.com explores questions and comments from community association members living in condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives. We then assemble trusted experts to provide practical solutions to your most commonly asked, timely questions. We never use real names, but we always tackle real issues.
I miss hallway conversations. This has been a recurring theme that I’ve been hearing a lot lately. While no one has actually said, “I miss hallway conversations,” they have said things like:
I had no idea that was happening.
What is this request I just got in an email? Do you know anything about this?
What? Wait a minute, I’m working on something just like that.
As we’re all navigating this strange new world, where many of us are working from home and those who are in the office are maintaining a safe “social distance,” the importance and value of those hallway conversations, catch-ups over lunch, or drive-bys at the coffee machine are becoming so much more obvious.
I pride myself on being what Gallup calls an “Arranger.” I’m able to take a bunch of information and organize it to figure out how the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity. (Gallup’s words, not mine). That doesn’t come easily for others. But this capability is highly dependent on being given those pieces and parts. So, whether you’re good at arranging or not, none of us can be successful if we aren’t getting the information we need to connect the dots.
The Value of the Hallway Conversation
“What’s up? How are things? What is your team working on? Oh, did you hear about that project so-and-so is doing? My team just got asked to do this new project, but I’m still trying to figure out how we’re going to pull it together.”
Any one of these questions can open the door to a treasure trove of information and insights. How your colleague is feeling. What’s important to them right now. And of course, they might actually know something different about the project your team has been tasked with, because their team is working on something tangential, yet connected.
As head of marketing, I work closely with the head of sales enablement, and not only do we collaborate on projects frequently, but our desks are also next to each other. When I’m puzzling things out, my first step is to swivel around in my desk chair and ask him if he knows anything about the project or has more context on an “ask” I was emailed about. (Oh, those joyful days of in-person interactions!) And usually he does, mainly due to his very active office ping-pong game interactions (another type of hallway conversation).
The New Virtual Hallway Conversation
In this new COVID world, I can’t tell you the number of times I wished I could just swivel around in my chair. Connecting the dots has had to become much more deliberate both for me and for the marketing team. In the past, the team sat in the same area. We have an open floor plan, so it was very easy to overhear a conversation and say, hey – I know something about that. Today, that looks like a bi-weekly 30-minute online meeting to give updates on different projects. I’m 100% sure that we’re still not fully connecting dots because on those
calls we’re likely only focusing on a current project or something that happened that day. It’s better than nothing, but there’s still opportunity for me to improve ways to connect the dots.
For me personally, the new hallway conversation looks like this:
I get a random email from someone who says, “Hey, I was asked to send you this thing.”
Me: “Great, thanks for looping marketing in. What is this thing?”
Email sender: “It’s for this project this senior leader asked us to work on. Here’s my part.”
Me: Go outside for a walk, bring my cell phone, dial my colleague who used to sit next to me back in the pre-COVID days. “Hey, I got this email, do you know anything about this?”
Colleague: “I heard something about this project a few weeks ago. I got something like it from our other colleague, but it was for a different part of the project.”
Me: “Okay, that helps some. I’m calling Gary (our boss). I’ll come back when I know more.”
Me: Dialing the phone, while walking and talking (but not chewing gum). “Gary, what is this thing and do you know anything about it?”
Gary: “I heard something about it, but I thought it was only three projects. We need to get people together.”
Me: “I’ll set up a meeting with you, me, colleague, and two other colleagues.”
We all get together, sort out all of the dots, connect them together, and determine where marketing and sales enablement need to support, and we’re off to the races.
All Points Lead to a Deliberate and Purposeful Communication
As evidenced by the above scenario, even a company like Root that is fantastic at communicating and keeping people in the loop (this is our business, after all) is challenged right now. Everyone must find new ways to deliberately keep the dots connected, the loops closed, provide the big picture, or put two and two together – whatever metaphor you want to apply here. As leaders of organizations, functions, or teams, it’s critical to your performance, your team’s emotional health, and your own sanity to make sure you’re not overlooking the importance of the new virtual hallway conversation.
We’ve Got the Tips!
What approaches can you start to take? Here are a few ideas. I’m sure you have others, and I’d love to hear them.
Set up regular connects. They can be just 15 minutes with your team every other day, and they don’t have to be a heavy lift. Plus, you should already be connecting with your direct reports on the regular. Don’t forget to turn on video cameras occasionally if you’re not face-to-face.
IM. Call. Cookie bouquets. Whatever your jam, take time each week to reach out to those people you used to run into in the hallway to ask how they and their family are doing. I mean those people you don’t typically work with or interact with in meetings. Like Corey in accounting or Jamie in marketing or Tamara in engineering.
Get outside. There’s nothing to say you can’t gather a few of your colleagues at a park and go for a walk and catch up (even better than that stale hallway air). My team meets once a month or so for lunch in the park in front of our office building. We bring our lawn chairs, spread them six feet apart, and just shoot the breeze while we consume our takeout meals. Not required, just those who are comfortable hanging out.
Sewing circles. Back in the day, ladies got together to catch up on each other’s lives and share the local gossip while they pieced together quilts. Create your own modern-day sewing circle. Bring together a group that doesn’t normally meet to enjoy virtual cocktails or lunch in the park (see tip 3) and ask what’s happening with everyone, what they’re working on, or where they might need help. You get the picture (and it’s a lot less work than creating a quilt).
Overshare, overshare, overshare. People always perform better when they can see the big picture and have all the information. Even if it doesn’t pertain to their day-to-day tasks, you might be surprised at the connections they’re able to make that you weren’t even aware of.
At Root, we’re huge fans of using visuals, metaphors, dialogue, and meaningful discussion to create connections and help paint that big picture for people. It’s proven to work. Those old hallway conversations were never one-way tells – your new virtual hallway conversations shouldn’t be either.This is a tough time for everyone, even if your organization’s performance is still strong. Making everyone’s life a little easier by giving them all of the pieces could be the lifeline they need.
In my last two articles, I’ve explored the concept of a team’s Conversational Capacity®. Conversational capacity is the ability to have open, balanced, non-defensive dialogue about tough subjects and in challenging circumstances. Teams that have a high conversational capacity know how to stay in the “sweet spot.” The sweet spot is where candor and curiosity are in balance. Dialogue flows freely, people share their input willingly and listen to the feedback of others without judgment. Good work happens in the sweet spot.
The challenge, of course, is getting and keeping your team’s conversations in the sweet spot. There are two primary factors that pull us away from the sweet spot and lower our conversational capacity: fight and flight. The fight reaction shows itself in team communication when people engage in “win” behavior. They argue, try to dominate the conversation, discount the input of others, or even refuse to listen to alternative viewpoints. The flight reaction is manifested when team members “minimize” their contributions. They shut down, don’t offer their ideas, discount their own opinions, avoid conflict, or offer half-hearted, wishy-washy viewpoints to avoid upsetting others. Both tendencies, win and minimize, pull a team away from the communication sweet spot and lower the team’s overall capacity to have productive conversations. Fortunately, there are four skills we can learn and develop to counteract our tendencies to win or minimize.
Testing and Inquiring
Let’s look at how to tame our desire to win. Since winning behavior results from a drop in curiosity, we need to learn how to become more curious about the perspectives of others. We do that by learning and using the skills of testing and inquiring. We test our perspective and inquire into the perspective of others.
What does it look like to test our perspective? It looks like holding our viewpoint as a hypothesis to be tested, rather than a truth to be proven. A simple way to do this is to ask questions that invite others to examine our viewpoint: What’s your take on this issue? How do you feel about what I’m suggesting? How do you see this from your angle? Is there a better way to make sense of this? I know I don’t have it all figured out, so what am I missing?
The skill of inquiring involves drawing the thinking of others into the conversation. It’s not just asking a few questions to invite their input, but rather delving into the rationale and thinking other people bring to the topic at hand. It’s the process of asking as many questions as necessary to get the other person’s view into the pool of information being considered. The goal of inquiry isn’t agreement, it’s understanding. Sample inquiries include: Tell me more about why you believe that? Can you provide a couple examples that illustrate your point? Help me understand how you reached that conclusion. Testing and inquiring raise your level of curiosity and combat your tendency to win.
Stating a Clear Position and Explaining Your Thinking
Let’s look at our tendency to minimize. Minimizing results from a drop in candor; we aren’t openly and confidently sharing our viewpoints with the team. To increase our candor, we can use the skills of stating our clear position and explaining our thinking.
Stating our position is like a clear topic sentence in a paragraph. It’s clear, candid, and concise, and can be communicated in one sentence, or no more than two. I think we should invest the funds in project X. Option 2 gives us the best chance for success. We should disband the team and use the resources elsewhere. It sounds simple, but just think about how often you fail you exercise this skill. Too often we beat around the bush, inadvertently hide our point in a convoluted story, or soften our opinion to prevent disagreement with others. When we fail to state a clear position, we open the door to misunderstanding and muddled dialogue.
However, it’s not enough to just state a clear position. You must also explain your thinking. This is the why behind your position. Explaining your thinking means you need to share the data that informs your position and how you’re interpreting that data. W. Edwards Deming’s famous quote, “In God we trust, all others must bring data,” illustrates this concept. For example: We should disband the team and use the resources elsewhere (clear position). They have missed their quota by an average of 34% the last 5 quarters (data), and we know from previous experience that teams who aren’t hitting quota by quarter 3 usually don’t improve (interpretation). Stating a clear position and explaining your thinking increases the level of candor and combats the tendency to minimize.
Communication is the engine that drives team performance. Honest and open communication fosters teamwork, innovation, trust, and just about every other positive organizational dynamic. The best teams have learned how to balance candor and curiosity to remain in the communication sweet spot. The skills of testing and inquiring help to boost curiosity and temper the need to win, while the skills of stating clear positions and explaining our thinking allows us to increase the level of candor within team communications. Team members using these four skills will keep their team dialogue in the sweet spot where their best work happens.
Randy Conley is Vice President of Client Services & Trust Practice Leader for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He oversees Blanchard’s client delivery operations and works with clients around the globe helping them design and deliver training and consulting solutions that build trust in the workplace. Trust Across America named him a Top 100 Thought Leader in trustworthy business behavior and he is a founding member of the Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts. Inc.com named Randy a Top 100 Leadership Speaker & Thinker and American Management Association included him in their Leaders to Watch in 2015 list. He holds a Masters Degree in Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego and enjoys spending time with his family, cycling, and playing golf. You can follow Randy on Twitter @RandyConley.
By Kate Reilly for LinkedIN Talent Blog August 6, 2020
Most experts agree we’re in a recession. COVID-19 has slowed the economy just like the mortgage crisis did in 2007 and the dot-com bust did in 2001. During those times, like today, many organizations laid off workers, cut salaries, and froze hiring — whatever it took to weather the financial storm.
For recruiters, these times can be unsettling. Slower hiring can make you feel less secure in your job. So what can you do to weather a downturn? While there’s no playbook, we can look to past recessions for lessons and to the recruiting leaders who’ve survived them.
Keep your contacts warm even without jobs to fill. Make those calls, write those InMails, have those virtual meet-ups. “Keep building a deep network in a niche area,” advises industry expert, Lou Adler. “People are always willing to give referrals in downturns, so it’s a great time to be proactive.” Lou adds that being a subject-matter expert is key, since people are more willing to help recruiters who are credible and know their stuff.
2. Scoop the ‘new’ top talent
In a recession, you’ll likely have more choice of top applicants. Many businesses have had to part with great talent, so this may be your chance to bring them on. That was the case in 2008, when companies that invested most heavily in A-talent fared better.
Remember that the pandemic is affecting industries very differently. Find out if and where transferable skills from harder-hit industries could apply to yours. Tourism, for example, has had to let go of many talented professionals. That former cruise director could be your food store’s next sales manager. That newly laid-off travel agent may have just the right skills for your hospital receptionist role.
Also prepare for new dynamics when the economy recovers. Some jobs may no longer exist, and some jobs may but skilled workers may not be as available. Consider the construction industry in 2009. During that recession top-skilled workers left construction, so there weren’t enough skilled workers when the industry started rebounding. Recruiters played a critical role in matching talent in this new landscape. Whole new categories of jobs and skills may be needed, along with recruiters to guide them. One example already? Contact tracers.
3. Go for the gig workers
Over the last decade, the gig economy has grown mostly in areas like food delivery and personal tasks. But knowledge-based work (e.g., engineering, accounting) hasn’t played as big a role, largely due to cultural and organizational barriers.
The recent surge in remote work, however, has removed many of those barriers, making it much more feasible for an organization to hire a software engineer for a three-month gig, for example. In fact, Google now employs more gig workers than full-time employees. The flexibility and cost-savings that come with contractors and temps is a real advantage, and with the uncertainty around the pandemic, professionals may be especially open to gig opportunities.
4. Show your agility
If you can quickly and easily pivot your skills to work elsewhere in HR or another function, you’re that much more valuable. John Vlastica says that during these times especially, “You need to make yourself visibly valuable. Align directly to business-facing, critical work — not just projects that only benefit HR.”
Consider how you could use your skills to improve things like retention or employer brand. Offer a plan for treating laid-off workers, for example, harnessing what you know about emotions and how they directly impact your reputation and value as a company. Don’t forget to invest in your own development too. Consult these 7 skills that will help recruiters.
5. Recruit in another industry
Like past recessions, this downturn isn’t affecting all recruiters the same way. Some in healthcare, for example, have never been busier as the demand for frontline workers is up. Historically, the most economically resilient industries have been healthcare, education, government, food manufacturing, food stores, and discount stores. Our recent analysis shows similar top jobs in demand, and the companies with the most openings.
If you can hire in these categories, you’ll boost your job security. You likely already have the technical and hard skills needed to be successful, but building relationships and becoming a subject-matter expert in a different area will take time. If you’re thinking long-term about your career, pivoting to a more recession-proof industry now may make sense.
6. Count on positive change, eventually
The 2007-09 recession ignited the gig economy, making employers more accepting of job-hopping and resume gaps. It fueled people analytics and recruiting technology innovation, moving teams away from post-and-pray job boards. It also sparked the Candidate Experience movement, says HR Pro, Tim Sackett. “In prior recessions,” he recalls, “organizations tended to treat candidates poorly. But after 2009, we saw the rise of Candidate Experience. Organizations truly caring about how they treat candidates seems normal now, but it wasn’t back then.”
While it’s too early to say, the rise of remote work could lead to at least one positive change for recruiting — more hiring managers engaging candidates early in the process. Lou Adler, who’s always advocated that hiring managers conduct exploratory phone screens, has seen much more willingness to do so now given social distancing guidelines. While the real benefits of hiring manager phone screens are time-savings, less first-impression bias, and a more high-touch candidate experience, it may be these extreme circumstances that actually change behavior for the better.
As difficult as this time may be, one thing is certain — it will pass. As Lou Adler likes to say about hiring: “What goes down, must go up.” We’ve endured 11 recessions since WWII and every one has passed. Follow these tips for recruiting success now and for when the world recovers.
A powerful effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been to expose the gap between what company leaders say and what they mean.
When a company demands that its workers produce a sick note to qualify for paid leave, it’s really saying it doesn’t trust its employees. Likewise, when a CEO restricts remote work for employees who could reasonably work from home, it often means they can’t deal with the perceived lack of control they have over people working in remote settings.
This way of thinking leads down the wrong track. Leaders today should be embracing trust, and deliberately extending it to their teams, because the currency of trust is the single most important asset they have. That’s truer now than ever as companies navigate a drastically changed economic outlook and a highly uncertain future—and they need inspired and trusted employees to help them do it.
This is how one tech industry CEO put it to me in March, shortly after the stock market’s worst day in over three decades. “Trust is baseline humanity,” he said, “and we need it to solve our problems. If we get better at trust, that will help us navigate everything else.”
By saying this, he wasn’t downplaying all the other important things companies have to do to survive the crisis, such as being agile, collaborative, creative, and innovative. He was saying that having a high-trust culture is the key to being able to do those things more effectively.
Trust is a hard asset that accelerates speed and efficiency throughout organizations. Low levels of trust create a crippling tax, snarling companies in excessive controls, endless meetings and office politics. Leaders who aren’t trusted—or who don’t trust others—can communicate all they want, but people will discount everything they say and won’t act on it quickly or effectively.
By contrast, when credible and trusted leaders share information or create a plan, their teams get to work. Teams feel safe to innovate and take risks. High trust becomes a performance multiplier.
The tendency in crises like this is for trust to go down in the workplace because leaders often aren’t deliberate and intentional about developing trust while in the midst of disruptive change. They sometimes revert to low-trust behaviors or tactics that may appear to be high trust but are really counterfeits. How leaders do what they do makes all the difference.
The good news is that leaders can build up trust quickly, even and especially during a global pandemic, by adopting several key behaviors. The following four are a good start:
1. Confront reality. Bad news and tough decisions are pretty much inevitable at times like this. The best leaders confront these stressors head on and encourage open discussion around them, getting to the root of the problem even if it’s painful. This leads to higher confidence and trust. The counterfeit behavior is kicking the can down the road or paying lip-service to the problems while avoiding them, perhaps by focusing on busy-work or side issues.
2. Create transparency. High-trust leaders encourage transparency because they understand that hiding bad news or controlling the flow of information is counterproductive. People are inspired by and trust leaders who are open, authentic, and real—especially with difficult news. When information can’t be shared, it’s important to be transparent about the reasons why. The counterfeit version of transparency is limited openness, sharing some things while trying to hide or control others.
3. Talk straight. It’s instinctual to try and protect people from bad news out of concern they will panic or get fearful. But this approach betrays a lack of trust in people’s ability to deal with adversity, and only leads to more distrust as employees question the sincerity and honesty of leadership. Now more than ever it’s vital to tell it like it is. The counterfeit of talking straight is the soft-pedaling or spinning of information we see too often from organizational leaders.
4. Extend trust. Even high-trust leaders can revert to bad habits in a crisis, when uncertainty seems to justify more of a “command-and-control” style. But this approach creates the opposite effect by denying people the trust and opportunity to rise to the occasion. Employees who don’t feel trusted aren’t going to perform as well as those who know they have their leader’s confidence. In fact, I would say that being trusted is the most inspiring form of human motivation. The counterfeit of extending trust is giving a fake trust or a false trust. It’s where your words might say “I trust you” but then you hover over, micromanage, or “snoopervise” people’s every move and activity, and your behavior says, much louder, “I don’t trust you.”
In order to create a genuine high-trust culture, these four behaviors need to be rooted in the personal credibility of leaders. Without that credibility, a leader’s actions risk being seen as manipulative, lacking in integrity, or self-serving.
Credibility stems from both our character and competence. Character needs to be founded on integrity and intent, aligning our actions with our values and basing our agenda on genuine caring and mutual benefit. Competence derives from our capabilities and results that give people the confidence that we can and will deliver. It also means acknowledging gaps in our knowledge and seeking support when needed, which is especially important during times of uncertainty.
So before implementing any changes, the onus is on each of us as leaders to look in the mirror and assess our own credibility, crisis or not. The reality is that with trust as our currency, we can be far more agile, collaborative and innovative. We can not only conquer the challenges we’re facing but can come out even stronger in the end—but only if we trust each other first.
Stephen M.R. Covey is the co-founder and Global Practice Leader of FranklinCovey’s Trust Practice, and the author of the book The Speed of Trust.
Four months after the pandemic descended, New York City co-op and condo boards – like all Americans – can be forgiven for feeling coronavirus fatigue. But there’s no rest for the weary. As the city moves through its phased reopenings, boards need to shift from their initial concern over safety precautions and begin addressing two looming challenges: protecting themselves from legal liability; and getting back to routine governance matters that have been largely put on hold.
All businesses that have reopened were required to adopt a COVID-19 safety plan and file an affirmation of compliance with the state. The safety plan must be posted in the workplace, distributed to employees and, most importantly, it must be complied with. Any employer or business that has not yet adopted a safety plan should do so at once. Co-ops or condos that do not yet have a written safety plan in place should consult with their legal counsel or managing agent regarding what is required. The Real Estate Board of New York, Local 32B-J of the Service Employees International Union and the Realty Advisory Board have also adopted joint guidelines for boards and landlords. These are updated from time to time and posted on the REBNY website.
Failure to take reasonable steps to protect employees and residents from the virus may constitute unsafe working conditions in violation of federal, state or local laws. In at least two cases outside New York, labor unions went to court and obtained injunctions against owners who were operating workplaces without acceptable safety precautions. In addition, a co-op or condo board that fails to document and follow proper precautions could face litigation if someone contracts the virus on their property. With the guidelines, sample forms, and professional advice available in New York, there is no reason to run these risks. Boards must protect people from the virus and themselves from legal liability.
Case in point: with apartment alterations resuming in many buildings, outside workers are once again entering common areas and individual apartments. If they have not already done so, co-op and condo boards should adopt modified forms of alteration agreements, which will require that in addition to the other usual requirements, health and safety measures be put in place to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. Similar precautions should also be in place with respect to move-ins and move-outs and for other situations in which non-residents are again being allowed access to the premises. Legal counsel can help tailor the right policies for a specific building’s circumstances. As always, it is important to document the board’s decision-making in the board meeting minutes.
Boards also need to make sure that management complies with federal, state, and local sick-time laws and regulations affecting building employees. This is especially important with respect to employees who may contract the virus, come into contact with someone who has contracted it, or have virus-related family responsibilities.
Which brings us to the numerous challenges that have been put on hold while boards have been consumed by the pandemic. For example, boards are still required to keep records of any transactions involving potential conflicts of interest for inclusion in the annual disclosure report. And boards must determine whether and how to conduct an annual meeting at a time when an ordinary, in-person shareholder meeting is not possible, especially for larger co-ops and condos. Virtual annual meetings are now allowed under the Business Corporation Law, and many co-op boards are making the leap.
Perhaps most important, it appears that the COVID-19 crisis will not result in any extension of the timetable for meeting building carbon emission thresholds under Local Law 97, known as the Climate Mobilization Act. Fines will be imposed beginning in 2024 for non-compliant buildings, then more stringent thresholds arrive in 2030. Pandemic or no pandemic, now is the time to start planning for ways to retrofit buildings to comply with this far-reaching law. For boards that may have put these and other non-virus-related matters to one side while dealing with the emergency, it is time to focus on them again. No rest for the weary, indeed.
Ira Brad Matetsky is a partner at law firm Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer.
It’s been a challenging year, to say the least. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, business owners and CEOs have had to navigate unprecedented scenarios and obstacles never accounted for in even the most thorough business plans.
The post-COVID-19 environment is a whole new ballgame in many respects, and unfortunately there’s no proven playbook for continuing to lead a winning organization. CEOs across the country are facing their own nuanced challenges that vary by industry, location, and the regulations associated with each. While some are just trying to keep their business afloat or grappling with government regulations, others are struggling to meet changing customer behaviors that may even include increased consumer demand for their product or service.
However, while the details may differ, the fundamentals of effective business leadership remain the same across industries and locations—even in this unpredictable climate. In fact, the pandemic has made some leadership mindsets more critical than ever for running successful organizations. How CEOs embrace them moving forward will make the difference between companies that fail and those that thrive.
Here are three powerful mindsets that will set successful CEOs apart in the post-COVID era.
Mindset #1: Focus on Survival
Do whatever you need to do to ensure your business survives—no regrets.
As CEO, you’ve probably had to make some tough business decisions this year, or will have to in the near future, in order to keep your business alive. Whether it’s making budget cuts, furloughing your staff, putting a new line of business on hold, or moving out of your office or warehouse space, know this: If your business has survived, you made the right call.
Whatever action is necessary to keep your business running is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family, for your employees and their families, and for the future of your organization as a whole. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t fun to make these decisions, but your company’s future success depends on its survival now, plain and simple. When business picks back up, you can rehire staff, move back into a bigger office space, or launch that new product line down the road. But if the company goes under, you’ll be completely out of options.
Shifting to a survival mindset and knowing it is still the best thing for your employees and their families will help you make the tough decisions necessary to stay in business in the short term and achieve your long-term goals.
Mindset #2: Embrace Risk
Continue to lead boldly and take the risks that spur business growth.
While we now have some idea what the post-COVID business landscape looks like, at least in terms of sectors that are crippled versus sectors experiencing growth, the future is still largely uncertain. Some business leaders may shy away from risk and try to “wait it out” until things are more stable, but successful CEOs will continue to lead fearlessly and embrace risk head-on. After all, the key to successfully growing a business is risk—or everyone would do it.
If your company is struggling because it was highly leveraged prior to the pandemic or invested in an area that’s not paying off in our new reality, don’t blame yourself or an otherwise proven decision-making process. We are continuing to experience an unprecedented global event that businesses were simply never meant to be prepared for. If companies operated in constant anticipation of these types of situations, they would never grow.
Don’t allow fear of the unknown to hold you back from making the business moves that fuel success. Maybe you need to max out your sales and marketing budget one month to achieve additional growth. Perhaps you need to finance a big project with debt and personal liability in order to make it happen. Instead of pumping the brakes on your usual vigorous leadership, look at this as an opportunity for growth. Continue taking the risks that will potentially pay off big for your business.
3. Mindset #3: Regain Confidence
Overcome imposter syndrome to lead confidently in the face of the unknown.
C-level executives, entrepreneurs, and (let’s be honest) professionals everywhere can experience imposter syndrome: that nagging feeling you’re unqualified or lack the right skills for your position, and that you’ll be found out at any moment. It’s a common mindset that can hold you back from realizing your full potential as a company leader. And if you felt this way prior to the pandemic, chances are, you might be feeling more doubtful than ever about your leadership capabilities.
As a first-time CEO myself, I’ve personally struggled with imposter syndrome. However, if this pandemic has helped me realize one thing, it’s this: Everyone feels like they are not the right person for the job at some point, no one really has all the answers, and that’s okay. By overcoming this imposter mindset, you can regain confidence in your own leadership abilities, stay focused on what’s really important for keeping your business going, and view your situation as an opportunity, not an obstacle.
The bottom line is, there is no perfect, wise CEO to lead organizations “the right way” through our current scenario. That person doesn’t exist. No one truly knows what the future holds, and you can’t be expected to anticipate every obstacle or live in fear of the unknown. The best thing you can do as a company leader right now is to adopt a survival mindset to keep your business afloat, continue embracing risk to generate new growth opportunities and remain confident in your ability to lead your company into a successful future.
Christopher Doyle is an entrepreneur and business leader with extensive hands-on construction industry experience and a proven record of launching successful startups. He is the founder, president and CEO of Billd, a disruptive payment solution for the construction industry that helps contractors and suppliers grow their businesses with less hassle and risk. Recognizing cash flow hurdles contractors face when purchasing materials, Doyle launched Billd to make traditional Wall Street working capital accessible to these small business owners.
As the vast majority of companies rush to reopen, they’re falling into the trap of “getting back to normal.” They’re not realizing we’re heading into a period of restriction once again, due to many states reopening too soon. To survive and thrive in this new abnormal, and avoid the trap of normalcy, leaders need to understand the parallels between what’s going on now, and what happened at the start of the pandemic.
Reality Check in a Tech Company
Consider Tim, the CFO of a 90-person tech start-up based in Texas that provides HR and Payroll software and other business back-end software. Unfortunately, the company’s leadership team, including Tim, believed Elon Musk’s statements when he downplayed the coronavirus in March.
Since the C-suite thought the pandemic wasn’t a big deal and would blow over soon, they didn’t take the necessary precautions and preparations and ended up in a bad place when the shutdowns occurred. They had to turn to a very basic business continuity plan that did not factor in something as significant as a pandemic. Thinking that things would “normalize” soon, they held off making major decisions, such as moving their operations to a virtual setup.
Tim decided to contact me for a consultation after learning about my work through a recent webinar I conducted for CEOs about how companies can adapt to the changes brought about by the pandemic. When he called me, his company was already embroiled in internal team conflicts and service interruptions, which resulted in several clients having problems with the software and a couple of major clients threatening to cancel. It was evident that the company needed help getting out of the murky waters — and soon.
Facing This New Abnormal
When I met with Tim as well as the company’s CEO and COO over Zoom (by this time I had already moved my previously hybrid in-person and virtual consultations to all virtual) I told them that there were some essential points they needed to understand for their company to survive in the new COVID-19 reality.
First and foremost, we won’t get anywhere if we don’t face the facts. We need to acknowledge that COVID-19 has fundamentally disrupted our world, and turned it upside down. Regrettably, it will not disappear soon.
However, you might be wondering why Elon Musk – and even some political leaders – downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s not like doing so had personal benefits for these leaders. They wound up humiliated when proven wrong, hurting their credibility.
Like Tim and the other leaders of these companies, these globally-renowned leaders fell into what cognitive neuroscientists call, the normalcy bias. This dangerous error of judgment refers to the fact that our gut reactions drive us to feel that the future, at least in the short and medium-term, will function in roughly the same way as in the past. As a result, we tend to vastly underestimate both the possibility and impact of a disaster striking us.
Normalcy bias is one of more than 100 mental blindspots that cognitive neuroscientists and behavioral economists like myself call cognitive biases. Fortunately, recent research has shown us how we can effectively deal with such dangerous judgment errors.
For normalcy bias, it’s critical to understand the dangers of falling into it and acknowledge the pain you may cause yourself and the company by doing so. Then, you need to consider the long-term outcomes realistically and plan for a realistic scenario that addresses the likelihood of significant disruption.
It was pretty clear from my first Zoom call with Tim, the CEO and COO of the company, that their leadership team had suffered from normalcy bias. However, it took until the second consultation for them to admit (more than a bit grudgingly) that they had succumbed to this mental blind spot. This refusal to admit to reality had less to do with the veracity of the facts I presented, but rather with their initial unwillingness to let go of their “gut feel.”
After discussing the above points with them, they admitted that it was time to face what lies ahead. It was time to prepare their company for a much more significant disruption than they had anticipated. We used the “Defend Your Future” technique to help them plan for a variety of potential futures. We decided that while they would hope for the best, they would plan for the worst, a wise strategy for addressing normalcy bias.
No Longer Struggling, But Thriving
When I last spoke with Tim at the end of June 2020, he told me that he had decided to share their findings and the points we discussed during the coaching sessions with the rest of the leadership team. It was an awkward conversation, due to the growing conflicts in the company and mutual recriminations.
However, after realizing that there wasn’t much sense playing the blame game given the urgency of the situation, the C-suite decided to buckle down and address the problems head-on. After outlining the problems and potential solutions, they eventually got widespread buy-in to do what needed to be done to propel their company to recovery.
The leadership team swiftly addressed internal conflict — a necessary first step to addressing all the other issues.
They focused more effort on a long-term transition to virtual. The COO led the effort to minimize their physical footprint, having only a couple of people in the office to take care of necessary paperwork. Tim, the CEO, and the VP of IT made quick, practical changes to the company’s policies and processes so that operations would be in line with their virtual transition.
After the internal conflicts and systems had been addressed, the leadership team focused on reaching out to clients who were threatening to cancel due to the service interruptions. From these efforts, most of the cancellations were avoided, although two smaller clients did cancel.
Tim told me that he and the leadership team were pleased with the results of the changes. They were especially pleased when they realized how prepared they were when COVID-19 cases began rising again, prompting a pause of the reopening process, that led to shutdowns again.
During these disruptive times, it’s essential to be agile and resilient. Keep in mind that even if your company was not able to make the best decisions at the onset of the pandemic, you can still steer it back to the right path by fighting and protecting against the trap of normalcy bias.
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is a cognitive neuroscientist and expert on behavioral economics and decision making. As CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, he has consulted and coached hundreds of clients worldwide, including Aflac, IBM, Honda and Wells Fargo. His academic career includes 7 years as a professor at Ohio State Univ. and dozens of peer-reviewed pieces published in leading academic journals. He authored the bestselling “The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook.” and his new book is “Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters.”
Learn seven ways HR leaders can keep diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) top of mind amid economic and business disruption.
What seems like a watershed moment for DEI could be lost as senior leaders tackle the coincident pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial tensions and an economic downturn. But HR leaders can keep DEI efforts at the forefront.
While recent, widespread protests against racism prompted countless organizations to make public commitments to diversity and equitable treatment for all employees, the pandemic only highlights glaring inequities that organizations must still acknowledge and address.
Workplace equity isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s a strategic and financial advantage
“Underrepresented groups — racial/ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and women — have been disproportionately affected by the health and economic impacts of COVID-19,” says Lauren Romansky, Managing Vice President, Gartner. “And yet, in a recent Gartner survey, only 2% of HR leaders identified DEI, by itself, their No. 1 priority in light of the pandemic.”
And now, many organizations may be tempted to reexamine and potentially roll back commitments to DEI programs or initiatives, especially as cost-conscious leaders weigh or implement hiring freezes, furloughs and layoffs to combat the economic fallout from the pandemic.
In the U.S., at least, early studies show that people of color are experiencing higher COVID-19 infection and mortality rates than their white counterparts, and economically, women and people of color are experiencing the greatest proportion of job losses.
This partly reflects the fact that women and minorities are overrepresented in the types of jobs most affected by social distancing measures — notably, positions in hospitality, travel, recreation and retail industries. Women and minorities are also more likely to be less tenured and hold marginal or low-authority positions, increasing their risk of suffering job losses during layoffs.
Help managers and leaders understand the link between DEI and business outcomes
But as organizations navigate the pandemic and its effects, HR leaders can help limit the disproportionate impact on marginalized groups and ensure that DEI remains top of mind for leaders and managers.
To do so, they must emphasize company culture and branding during and after the crisis, and help managers and leaders understand the link between DEI and business outcomes (including crisis resilience).
Employees, customers and other stakeholders are already paying close attention to how companies are responding to this crisis. They are likely to remember how different companies responded and which issues were stressed, acknowledged and communicated, as well as those that were sacrificed or went unaddressed.
Companies that appear to practice their values will likely be viewed favorably, while those whose actions don’t align with expressed values may lose out — whether in terms of lower levels of trust, branding appeal, customer satisfaction, or employee engagement or retention.
The suggested actions for HR leaders reflect the reality surfacing in a growing body of research: Workplace equity isn’t just the right thing to do; it is a strategic and financial advantage.
7 ways to rally support for DEI initiatives
Identify highly affected employee segments and provide additional support. Consider how COVID-19-related disruptions affect different workforce segments, such as parents, certain demographics (younger or older), different gender groups, races and ethnicities, or those with disabilities (visible and invisible, e.g., those without technology skills).
Leverage employee resource groups (ERGs) to communicate and connect with a wider network of employees throughout the organization and create social connections that might be missing in a remote work environment.
Identify “volunteer” or expanded opportunities for HR and DEI teamsto partner more closely and support critical engagement and employee experience projects — especially in developing emotional well-being resources and remote work best-practices.
Ensure that rapid response teams are diverse. Make sure these teams represent different parts of the business and geographies, as well as varied demographic groups.
Partner with internal communications to embed DEI messaging. Advocate for communications that emphasize unity and shared sacrifice. Ensure that changes and strategies, including the DEI strategy, are positioned in an intentional and inclusive manner.
Support and coach managers to incorporate inclusion in a remote and high-stress work environment. Ensure managers know what inclusive behaviors look like in a remote environment, are modeling them properly, are prepared for how they will be tested in a stressed environment and know how they can help all employees to be inclusive.
Develop a working draft of your response to this question, “What did you do for your customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?” Partner with DEI teams and other organizational stakeholders to clearly articulate the ways in which the organization practiced its values and commitments.
One solution for the unemployed, or employees hoping to maintain job security in their current positions, is to change roles—or even careers. Upskilling gives workers an advantage in the race to acquire stable careers during these challenging times.
Although economists have been forecasting a recession for several years, no one could have predicted the source of the current downturn—or how quickly the economy would crash. The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced immediate closures of non-essential businesses around the world to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, also left crippling unemployment and a massive recession in its wake. As of May 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate was at a staggering 14.7 percent, with 30 million Americans out of work from the effects of the pandemic. The Pew Research Center reports that “43 percent of U.S. adults now say they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a cut in pay due to the outbreak.”
Although at first those job losses seemed temporary, the scale of the economic crisis has left many businesses on the brink of bankruptcy. As restaurants reopen, for instance, it is not at full capacity, to allow for social distancing. And consumers—even those with the financial means—are unlikely to return quickly to their previous dining habits. Workers in those businesses may not go back to their positions in the future.
One solution for the unemployed, or employees hoping to maintain job security in their current positions, is to change roles—or even careers. Upskilling, or acquiring necessary job skills, gives workers an advantage in the race to acquire stable careers. As reported in the Harvard Business Review, “90 percent of workers feel they need to update their skills annually just to contend”—and that was pre-pandemic. In the past, individuals facing unemployment may have sought a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. This is an alternative if you have a long-term focus and resources. But for those people who want/need to get back on the payroll as soon as possible, there are much less expensive, faster, and arguably more lucrative methods of obtaining the skills necessary to pivot into a recession-proof career.
Investing a few months in continuing education to upskill and reskill can improve the chances of employability, especially in a recession. It is a small commitment over the course of an entire career, and the skills can provide a much-needed safety net in this time of uncertainty.
1.Certifications. Many organizations, including Association of Supply Chain Management (ASCM), offer certifications that provide the knowledge and skills necessary to pivot into a more stable career. According to a DHL research brief, “Demand for supply chain professionals exceeds supply by a ratio of 6:1.” And the importance of a functioning supply chain has never been more evident than it is today as consumer demand for groceries and delivery services continue to escalate. ACSM provides free online access to Basics of Distribution and Logistics. This online module teaches the fundamental concepts required to create an optimal distribution and logistics strategy, and is a great way for people outside of the supply chain field to explore their options. For those who decide they want to pursue this path, obtaining an APICS certification will fast track them into a supply chain career. ASCM offers two APICS certifications (CPIM and CLTD) for which a college degree is not a prerequisite. A third certification (CSCP) is more geared toward those who are already in the field and want to advance their expertise. A survey conducted by ASCM showed the median salary for respondents with an APICS certification is 25 percent higher than those without.
If changing careers isn’t an option, there are many certifications that can improve marketability and stability in an existing job. CompTIA, for example, offers IT professionals certifications in various programming languages and other transferable skills, which can open the door to a greater variety of unfilled positions.
2.Individual courses. If you’re not in the market for a certification, there are plenty of opportunities to take courses to build your skill set or learn a new one. Companies such as Coursera, Skillshare, and Udemy offer online classes in everything from marketing and data analysis to entrepreneurship and public health. Committing a few hours or days to mastering a new subject may allow you to pivot to a similar role in a different industry. At the very least, completing courses demonstrates a personal commitment to furthering your career.
3.Digital skills. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Nearly two-thirds of the 13 million new jobs created in the U.S. since 2010 required medium or advanced levels of digital skills.” Clearly, digital skills are more necessary than ever for obtaining a job and earning a better salary. The Brookings Institute reports that “employees are rewarded for the depth and breadth of their digital skills through increased wages. Workers in occupations with medium or high digital skills in 2016 were paid significantly more than those in low-digital occupations.”
4. Soft skills. Executives, industry managers, and recruiters all cite the lack of soft skills as the biggest deterrent in finding the right candidate to fill open positions. The DHL report points to “leadership, strategic thinking, innovation, and high-level analytic capabilities” as needed in supply chain careers. Entrepreneurmagazine cites “connectability,” or “the authority you exhibit, the warmth you convey, and the energy you exude and bring out in others.” Essentially, the ability to collaborate effectively with other team members, manage tasks and people, and maintain friendly relationships within the organization are all important factors to securing a job.
Acquiring these skills, however, is a bit more nebulous than training in a concrete task. But improving soft skills often comes down to one thing: communication. Many of the most-needed attributes thrive with in-person interaction, but even in the era of social distancing, workers can improve communication via video conference, e-mail, and real-time chat. Exercises in creative expression, online collaboration, and teambuilding games are all ways to practice problem solving and build leadership skills. These are useful tasks for workers who are still employed and trying to become indispensable, but they’re especially valuable for job seekers. As social isolation and remote work continue, the ability to communicate effectively while navigating the unknown is more important than ever.
Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE, currently serves as the chief executive officer for the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). Eshkenazi has provided business, operational, and compliance consulting services to professional service organizations, associations, and tax-exempt and government organizations. ASCM is a global leader in supply chain organizational transformation, innovation, and leadership. As the largest nonprofit association for supply chain, ASCM is an unbiased partner, connecting companies around the world to the newest thought leadership on all aspects of supply chain. For more information, visit: www.ascm.org.