Charting an uncertain future
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2020 - 12:00am

Think about this. As leaders, you and I today are still asking the same questions.

We do not show this in public; we do not reveal our sentiments to our employees, but inside the boardroom or the privacy of conference rooms, business owners and top executives still ask the same questions they asked some 15 years ago.

• How do we embrace change?

• How do we prepare our people for change?

• Would high quality well known and branded products become more valuable in a transformed marketplace?

• Should we fight a price war?

• How do we get out products and services to the customer in a relevant and more innovative way?

• How would the changes in consumer behavior affect our business, and how do we make ourselves relevant?

• Yes. We know technology and the digital age that can easily cause disruptions, but how can we adapt?

• How can we use technology to power growth in our business?

• Should we get into the game and come up with our own technology platform and even disrupt our existing businesses?

• Humans have a short memory, but these questions are practically the same questions we used to ask some 15 years ago when the iPhone signaled the age of mobile computing.

Leaders today have a very vital role in helping their people chart an uncertain future. Technology today and the changes it has caused demand so much from us and costs money. Creating  apps, creating a  technology platform, and creating content and all these “creation” activities would require additional investments. But this is just one part of the equation. Add the losses incurred by undercutting your traditional businesses, and all these would mean that there may be a profit reduction over a few years initially and may take a little time before success would be measured in profit. But when done correctly, then the business growth may achieve scale and expand into a more extensive market base that would not have happened had the decision to disrupt one’s self was not made and... allowed! This is where effective leaders with their effective leadership skills need to come into play.

Migration from existing business processes to another one will always have casualties. The work is never easy.  Leaders should exhibit courage and commitment. Change initiatives require a greater sense of urgency. There are new expectations that have to be lived up. This would bring in additional pressures, and leaders should, at this juncture, communicate effectively and repeatedly. Needless to say all these can be stressful to the leaders as well.

It is prudent to realize that people can become nervous and unsettled as their traditional way of doing business begins to erode, and a new model emerges. Leaders should always be present for his or her people because there will be a lot of personnel issues involved at every stage of the change process. Leaders are always busy, and a lot of activities would require their attention. It is easy for leaders to send signals whether wittingly or unwittingly that their time is too valuable to be dealing with individual problems and concerns. There is always the temptation to just say, “Bring your issues to HR and let them take care of it...” But this is not a good thing. The leader’s presence motivates people. And when the same leaders send the signal that they are available for them this positive contributes to the morale and effectiveness of a company going through the change process. Leaders have to be sensitive to the pressures their people are feeling.

You will never find any rulebook in the world that would teach you on how to manage this kind of challenge effectively. But leaders need to recognize that the stakes are high and that the change process is always a highly volatile emotional state, and any wrong move would be costly in terms of losses not only in profit but also in human talent.

I have in my leadership seminars reiterate that leaders are “Merchants of Hope” as Churchill would say. It is of no advantage for leaders to project their anxiety onto the team and nothing to be gained by putting additional pressure on the people working through the change. Leaders need to make sure that what they are communicating is NOT sharing the stress of their people and that leaders need the people to deliver so that, in doing so, relieves the leaders from their anxiety. This is very counterproductive.  Instead; leaders are to communicate the truth that he or she is with the team and will always be available for them and are rooting for them.  Leaders are change catalysts so they better make sure they have the leadership skills to bring their people from where they are to where they ought to be.

Perhaps we will still be asking the same questions a few years from now and the answers will still be the same. It has been said that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” And I totally agree.

(Attend two inspiring days of leadership training with Francis Kong. His highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership seminar-workshop runs this March 11 and 12 at Makati Diamond Residences (near Greenbelt 1). For further inquiries or reservations contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)

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