Lessons learned in leadership after two years of a pandemic
It was two years ago this month that COVID-19 began its stranglehold on the world. And no doubt, it would be adding massive insult to injury if leaders failed to learn lessons from a pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the globe.
That’s why Executive Education at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business caught up with Bo Storozuk. He holds an MBA in international business from Daniels and is a strategic learning and talent management consultant at technology and solutions provider Jacobs. We wanted to get his thoughts on some of the lessons he believes leaders should consider from COVID-19.
Storozuk, who specializes in organizational development with a focus on strategic consulting and leadership development, works with clients on innovation, strategy, team effectiveness and culture, among other topics. And he has taught at Daniels as an adjunct faculty member for two and a half years, most recently in Executive Education’s five-week-long Accelerated Leadership Experience program for high-potential employees.
Storozuk says that as he’s considered the pandemic, five lessons came to mind:
- Create clarity around a shared purpose.
“Teams often understand what they do, but not always why they do it. Whenever I’m asked to charter teams, help resolve dysfunction in groups, or even help achieve a new level of team performance, I am often finding there is an assumption of clarity and alignment around a shared purpose, but in actuality, there’s not. When teams finally get to a deeper level of understanding behind their collective why, it sets the foundation and strategic focus for team development, culture and priorities—especially when faced with a force that’s as disruptive as COVID.”
- Challenge paradigms to prepare for the unexpected.
“The pandemic disrupted and challenged our concepts of what we think is normal, comfortable and possible. We need to use this example as a constant reminder to be pushing our boundaries and asking questions that start with what if and how might we. It requires an intention and willingness to learn new skills, technologies and concepts, unlearn outdated archetypes, and relearn new ways of doing things. This will allow teams and organizations to better innovate strategically in the good times and be more resilient in the face of challenges.”
- Balance the need for face-to-face human interaction.
“New technologies have clearly enhanced our ability to work remotely across the globe. However, when it comes to building stronger relationships, there still is and will always be a time and place for in-person connection. There’s simply no substitute for the experience and energy of being in the same room with others. That said, it’s equally important to be purposeful and intentional in what we can get done virtually where we once thought we had to be in person. Organizations need to find what that right balance is for their culture.”
- Create a strong culture of values and put your people first.
“After two years of all the variants and lockdowns, as well as all the fatigue and burnout from blurred lines separating work and home, people are getting more in tune with their personal purpose and passions and not putting up with jobs or careers that don’t align with their values. Creating personal connections with your people to understand their passions, talents, ambitions, struggles and capabilities is the bare minimum to being able to engage, retain and develop people. People want to know their leaders truly care about them, and leaders need to know their people at a level that allows them to harness their full potential.”
- Encourage dynamic and agile collaboration.
“As the pandemic accelerated our move into virtual working, it made it easier for groups to connect globally and cross-functionally. The nature of cross-functional groups that form so quickly makes it easier for them to fall into the trap of operating in silos, having finite roles and lacking clarity around their own shared purpose. We need to think water polo versus swim lanes. The best teams work to solve problems and they’re flexible in how their work gets done. Team members have each other’s backs and pick up whatever needs to get done. When building teams, clarity and accountability around roles and responsibilities are important, but encouraging both dynamic and agile collaboration with a focus on a shared goal will breed more efficiency and effectiveness in teams.”