Buzzwords exist in our culture at any given moment. Sometimes society clings to specific words and uses them constantly - because the words either provide an important question, or the words provide an answer.
In my recent book, Own the 8, the 5th chapter kicks off by discussing “purpose” as a buzzword that’s been used heavily in recent years. The question “What is my purpose?” has been asked and quoted to death, especially by coaching consultants and motivational speakers who launch entire platforms by telling people they must find the answer to this question (and promising to help them find the answer - with an easy payment of $399).
When Covid-19 started, “quarantine” and “distancing” were among the first buzzwords that emerged. Then “normal” was/is constantly thrown around in some form - "New Normal," "Back to Normal," "Finding Normalcy," "Next Normal." Now, “uncertainty” seems to be rising in the rankings of words used anywhere and everywhere.
It’s fair to use “uncertainty” so often. I’ve overused it myself. It describes our current situation perfectly. Any version of “fearful” or “scared” aren’t correct - not everyone is afraid. “Chaotic” isn’t right - not everyone is losing their minds, getting into Twitter arguments, or hoarding toilet paper.
“Uncertainty” summarizes our current climate with one precise word. It’s an answer to the question, “What are we facing right now?” We don’t know what next week, next month, or the rest of 2020 will bring. Uncertainty doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation to it: It simply depends how an individual chooses to embrace or fear the uncertainty
With uncertainty looming in our immediate future, it’s important to remember there are still things we know to be certain. From an individual level, we know human connection matters. We know nutrition is important. We know staying within our budget will keep us financially stable.
And there are certainties in business and organizational contexts as well, and I’d like to focus on those. Your business might look different at the start of 2021 than it does at this very moment, but there are fundamental certainties that are always important - certainties that are arguably more important now than ever. Let’s focus on three of the biggest:
1. Leadership makes or breaks any organization.
I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum during this Covid-19 pandemic: Both very good and very bad.
I’ve seen leaders who acted selfishly, refused to provide support when their employees needed assistance, unnecessarily risked the health of their employees, and prioritized their personal agenda over everything else.
I’ve also seen leaders who rose to the occasion when leadership was required most, provided extra money, food, or additional resources to their employees and families, and did everything in their power to prioritize their employees’ health and safety.
Leadership always matters, but a crisis will prove how much leadership truly matters. When things are going smoothly, a poor leader can sometimes get away with their blind flaws. But when things aren’t going well, those flaws become exposed, and you quickly discover who can handle big moments in leadership and who cannot.
If you’ve stayed awake and informed during this Covid-19 crisis, I’m sure you’ve witnessed many different leadership behaviors in recent months. You can bet the leaders who did right by others will have loyal employees and customers for the foreseeable future, and leaders who behaved poorly will be scrambling when the economy opens and everyone gets back to work.
2. Those who make sacrifices win.
My neighbor is a regional director of hotels located throughout the midwest, including several around Indianapolis (where we live). His company decided to save around $10,000 each month by doing their own landscaping - mowing, weeding, trimming bushes, etc. As the regional director, he could have asked interns or front desk workers to do this. Instead, each week he loaded and dragged his personal lawnmower to multiple locations, mowed, and did the landscaping himself. That’s just one sacrifice he and his company made to stay open and serve customers - including hospital workers quarantining to assure the safety of their families.
Those who make sacrifices win the game of life. Period. Sacrificing morning doughnuts for the sake of better health means a longer life and increased energy. Sacrificing the sports car you can’t afford keeps you out of the debt and less anxious that the next phone call will be from debt collectors.
Those willing to make necessary sacrifices in business are almost always more successful than those who are not willing to sacrifice. You can wisely sacrifice money, personal profits, time, or resources in hundreds of ways - all for the good of the organization. Those who strategically sacrifice today for a better future increase their likelihood for success, while those who do not will wish they had sacrificed when they had the chance.
3. It’s important to remain hyper focused on the mission.
Businesses don’t exist strictly to make money. There’s no passion felt through the walls of an organization that exists solely to profit those in charge. A world-class business exists to strive towards a larger mission.
The most profitable organizations in the world have a powerful, hyper focused mission. Google’s mission is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Apple’s mission is “to bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.” Disney’s mission is “to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world's premier entertainment company.”
Organizations that remain vigilant and hyper focused at sticking to the mission - both during good and not-so good times - increase their chances of success and are more equipped to weather unsuspected storms. They don’t get distracted with unnecessary details or chase distracting carrots that don’t adhere to the mission. When they face times of uncertainty, they rise to the occasion and support their employees and their customers. Why? Because they know they don’t exist to make money and cling to dollar bills, but to make the world better in some way. (I recommend Simon Sinek’s Infinite Game for more insight to how a mission-oriented organization finds more success than a profit-hungry organization.)
Uncertainty looms over every business at the moment, but those who focus on the fundamental certainties are more likely to overcome this and any uncertainty in the future.
Interested in setting up leadership strategies for your organization? Navigator is here to help! Whether you are interested in facilitated leadership courses or need a consultant to set up your strategy, we have ideas to get you started.
This blog was written by Nick Sherwood for the Navigator Leadership Corporation.