Look to the road ahead
In the unpredictable pandemic environment, we find ourselves in, we know that it’s hard to think beyond the end of this week, much less this month, or even this year.
Yet as leaders and business owners, we need to keep thinking about the future of our business, and to lead our teams well, as we navigate the uncertainty together.
To be successful right now, you need to be thinking ahead of the curve… to find ways to look and plan ahead as well as you can.
A story about defensive driving…
A client of ours is involved in teaching road safety training, specifically defensive driving techniques. In a recent coaching conversation with this person, I mentioned that I’ve always wanted to do a defensive driving course, but never quite managed to get around to it. More so I pondered that given there are so many road incidents these days, why is defensive driving not considered part of basic driver training?
I asked him… “What would be your number one top tip to become a better driver?” What he shared with me made so much sense, I could see its broader application.
His first response was to ensure you have space; to create space around your vehicle on all sides, to act as a cushion “You need to leave enough space around your vehicle to plan for anything to happen”, he said, essentially giving yourself the space to manage your own vehicle independent of others.
He also followed on to say that in addition to allowing enough space around your vehicle, you need to keep your eyes looking well ahead of you; at least 100-200m down the road or several car lengths. “By focussing your attention on what lies ahead of you, you’re more prepared to see what’s right in front of you. You’ll catch more in your peripheral vision this way”.
What’s the relevance of this story for business?
Well, I suggest we need to apply these same principles to how we navigate the metaphorical road of COVID-19.
Principle #1. Keep some space around you.
Even before the pandemic, we’ve been increasingly bombarded with information overload. Although we may marvel at having access to the entire world’s information, literally at our fingertips, the amount of information that is being pushed out to us is one of the downsides to modern technology. We need to learn to control the information we receive, rather than it control us.
One strategy is to create a little space around you so you can keep your attention clear. Physically this can mean having a tidy desk or a separate place to work from home that isn’t where your family eats. Mentally, it means keeping a tidy mind.
To keep a tidy mind, try these tips:
- Take time out to go for a daily walk, or practice some meditation
- Use your breathing to pause and clear your thoughts ahead of a call with your team
- Use your phone’s “do not disturb” feature to block out time for yourself
- Take a night… or week!… off from social media (it will be there when you get back, I promise!).
- Turn off those pesky notifications. Let you rule your phone, not the other way around!
And lastly, it’s important to maintain some degree of distance from the negativity. It’s too easy to fall into this trap. Try focussing on the good things to come from this time.
Principle #2 Don’t look behind you: look ahead.
It’s simply not enough to stay in survival mode and think only in the immediate term.
The defensive driving principle of looking several car lengths down the road is about expanding your vision; to be able to see more of what is around us and what lies ahead.
While it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening now, we also need to be thinking how to thrive in the long term by looking to the horizon and keeping our vision anchored to the future. This will enable you to see the important short-term actions from a clearer perspective.
Transforming your business during COVID-19
Looking to the road ahead there is no doubt that businesses will have changed due to COVID-19. This is an opportunity to re-focus and re-shape for the future. At Howardco, we’ve been doing exactly that.
Whilst the job market was quiet, we busily focussed on getting some important projects completed so that when things picked up again, we would be ready to hit the ground running. We made sure that we focussed on the bigger picture, considering what we wanted to achieve for this year, and chose not to get derailed by the short-term challenges we’ve faced.
The immediate future may still look a bit murky, yet there are things you can do to help keep your vision on the horizon… even if it’s just a few car lengths down the road:
1. Set a short-term vision – in an ideal world, where would you like the business to be in 3 months’ time?
2. Develop your team – who is showing themselves to really shine through this challenging time?
3. Train your people – not all training requires a budget. Where can you upskill and cross skill your team?
4. Know your gaps – which areas of the business need a little bit more attention?
5. Be more productive – how can you make a positive impact on your team’s productivity?
Keep a clear head about you, give yourself the space to think beyond the confines of your immediate surroundings, and keep your eye on the horizon. You are bound to see far more around you and ahead if you do.
Written by Lauren Ayers
Howardco HR and Recruitment Consultant