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The Importance of Culture and Leadership During Covid-19

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How do you start your day?  Do you take the time to center yourself over a cup of coffee?  Or, is your mind spinning like an E5 tornado?  Since Covid-19 officially became a pandemic, life has not been the same.  Nor is what people expect from their leaders.  Whether you are a corporate executive, a plant manager, or a small manufacturer, employees are looking to you for guidance.  The problem is, where do you go for help?

Finding Focus

You can't address all the unknowns at once.  You need to identify the top three priorities to address first.  Not five or seven.  Three.  Let your corporate values and culture help direct your priorities.  How does the company do business?  What is the business's purpose?  Are there corporate principles to guide decisions?

As you move through your priorities, are your decisions in line with your corporate values?  For example, manufacturers like most businesses are confronted with a health crisis and a looming economic crisis.  How do you balance employee safety with economic survival?  The balance you create will have far-reaching consequences, especially if it appears to conflict with company principles.

Narrowing your focus includes limiting the number of news sources.  For information on the pandemic, look to the WHO and the appropriate Center for Disease Control.  Rely on the industry sources that you've always trusted and monitor public health sites for changing orders.

Encouraging Innovation

There's minimal certainty right now, but one thing is certain, life will never be the same. Don't look at changes as stop-gap measures. You may need to put in a short-term solution, but you should be planning on a long-term alternative. Encourage innovation. Let employees explore ways to accommodate any required changes.  Who is more knowledgeable about how something is done than the people who do it every day?

Don't forget the adage that necessity is the mother of invention. Set up working groups that can collaborate virtually to develop ideas to address Covid-19 challenges. Evaluate proposed changes in a systematic manner rather than rushing to put something in place.  View any downtime as an opportunity to improve business operations in a post-pandemic world.

For example, look at company processes. Can technology perform any manual processes? Finding ways to limit the number of employees in a single space makes it safer for people and technology can perform many tasks more efficiently.

Communicating Continuously

Communicate often.  Finding reliable information in such a rapidly evolving situation can be a challenge.  Become that trusted source.  The more time people spend looking at social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, the more anxious they can become.  You need to help them focus on accurate information, even if the answer is -- we don't know yet.  Keeping employees focused is essential to keeping them productive.

Communication is not just about information. Communicating is also about establishing a rapport with employees, so they feel comfortable with your message. Be authentic and empathetic.  Being able to connect with people at an emotional level helps build trust. It lends credibility to your plan for moving forward.

You can't over-communicate, even though you may feel as though you are repeating yourself. Remember the 10x10x10 rule. Say something 10 times in 10 different ways for people to retain 10%.  That may be a generous percentage since people tend to retain even less when under stress.

Responding Thoughtfully

Phones are ringing, emails keep arriving and a line has formed outside your door. Everyone is looking for answers.  You feel the pressure to respond. After all, it's an agile culture, so shouldn't decisions happen faster?  Fight impulsive actions designed to quiet the noise. Take time to think. Collect more data and evaluate possible outcomes before making a decision.  A hasty decision may be contradicted when more information is available. Thoughtful responses provide clarity and help employees understand a course of action.

Create an environment where non-binary problem-solving is encouraged. Viewing a problem as having only two options limits innovation. Asking for ways to minimize the number of people on a factory floor fosters collaboration and can result in innovative solutions. Posing the question -- should we stagger shifts -- limits answers to yes or no. Even if discussions move beyond the yes or no, the idea of staggering shifts can direct the conversation.

Leveraging Knowledge

Having a knowledge management system can provide transparency as companies move forward. It can serve as the source of information pertaining to the pandemic. It can alert employees to the latest work changes so they can be prepared. Keeping people informed about what is occurring, and its impact on day-to-day operations can minimize the anxiety that comes with change.  

Ensuring that corporate information is available 24/7 on any device makes it easy for employees to stay on top of what is going on. Centralized data means that training materials such as videos or tutorials are available to employees who may be performing tasks outside their scope of work. No one knows what the workforce will look like once everyone is working.  Companies may need to adjust work assignments or hire new staff. With readily available tools, employees can access the pool of corporate knowledge.

Don't forget the 10x10x10 rule. With a knowledge management system, you can deliver the same message in different ways. From a website to a mobile app, you have access to multiple channels, making it easier to communicate throughout an organization. You can use the system to disseminate future plans or outline upcoming changes.  Employees want to know where they're going, even if it is only until the end of the week.

A knowledge management system (KMS) can reflect a company's culture, contribute to effective communication, and provide information for employees to do their job. Although it cannot predict the future, it can help you navigate it. A knowledge management system contributes to an agile work environment that enables employees to quickly adjust to changing conditions. To create an agile work environment, contact Gutenberg Technology.  Our solutions work to calm that E5 tornado in your head.

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Gjergj Demiraj

Gjergj is the President and CEO of Gutenberg Technology. Before joining GT, Gjergj worked internationally in the software and media industries with expertise in digital publishing transformation. He studied in Milan, is a polyglot, and Co-founded a crowdfunding company while living in France.

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