COVID 19 has presented those who govern and lead organisations with an unprecedented environment of uncertainty in which we must operate our organisations in.

So how does one handle this and what does good governance and good leadership skills involve in times of extreme uncertainty? 

Plus ca change, plus cést la même chose

Somehow this lovely French saying meaning; the more things change, the more they stay the same seems very appropriate.  In some ways COVID-19 has meant that everything has changed and yet in some respects nothing has changed.  Good governance and good leadership skills remain the same, no matter what the situation.

My view is that having to operate with much higher levels of uncertainty than previously is likely to be the new normal.  Hence with that in mind here are some thoughts on governance and leadership fundamentals to ensure survivability and success.

Some Fundamentals for Success in Uncertain Times

  • Remember your organisation’s key focus – it is far too easy to get sucked into all the noise and drama going on around you.  Most of which will be totally outside of your control. This distracts from focusing on what your organisation exists for and what needs to be done to ensure it delivers on its primary purpose.   
  • Trim all the superfluous stuff – When times are tough you need to focus on what really matters.  To do this you need to be more ruthless and cut all the non-essential activity.  This will allow you to focus on what is truly essential, so you have the space and focus to execute well.  The trimming also applies financially; when under financial pressure then the “nice to have” expenditure items are usually a luxury you may need to do without.  Sound financial prudence is a key to organisational resilience and sustainability.
  • Get good info – monitor and measure on a timely basis.  Know your numbers and make necessary decisions accordingly.  Getting good intel of what is happening in the wider environment and markets that you operate within is also critical.  No organisation is an island and good timely info from a wide variety of sources is key to identifying risks and opportunities.
  • Lead your team with confidence and ensure they are accountable – Successful organisations are a team game.   But they still need leaders who lead.  And in uncertain times teams need the reassuring confidence of inspiring yet calm leaders even more.  Articulating a clear plan, identifying individual team member’s roles within that plan, and then holding them accountable for progress and delivery is essential to organisational success.
  • Remember to celebrate success – When times are tough and uncertain it weighs on people.  A crisis is great for creating intense focus and adrenaline fuelled energy.   However, when the initial crisis morphs into longer term economic and operating uncertainty then burnout is a very real risk.  No racing car can operate at top speed without the occasional pitstop to refuel.  Hence, we all need to look after ourselves, and to keep the spirits up of those around us.   Celebrating successes on a regular basis, no matter how small is a great way of refuelling.

Parting thought

Uncertainty can be frustrating.  However, possibly the most frustrating thing about it is how it paralyses some people.  Uncertainty can also throw up interesting opportunities and force and present new ways of achieving.  So we say; embrace it!

WATCH AGAIN: Live Webinar - Governance and leading through change

Follow up Links: 

Charting the Future: A framework for thinking about change

INGO Health of the Sector Report