What can leaders learn from the constant change of the pandemic? 


While cities all over the world, and even our own Melbourne, have experienced multiple, lengthy lockdowns, most of Australia is experiencing its second crisis. In particular, the current lockdown in Sydney has seen organisations moving their teams to work from home once again. However, with experience under our belts, this lockdown is (and should be) different from the first. So, what have we learnt? 

Change happens and it can happen fast

The first global lockdown in March 2020 was, as everyone was eager to say repeatedly, unprecedented. Everyone was scrambling to respond appropriately, not sure of what restrictions would look like, how long a ‘lockdown’ might last and how their business would survive the crisis. The whole world was in the same boat, facing circumstances many of us had never even thought about, let alone experienced. 

Now, nearly 18 months later, we are still seeing how fast change can happen. With city-wide lockdowns being announced mere hours before they’re enforced, most people are still needing to react quickly. The difference is whether we’ve taken on what we’ve learnt from our experience throughout the pandemic. 

There are organisations and leaders who are well-prepared, ready to communicate changes to their team and support them as the changes are implemented – many of them may not even need to make drastic changes, having taken on board the adjustments that needed to be made to survive in 2020. Then, there are those who still have the blinkers on. Instead of taking the learnings from the first lockdown and adjusting their operations, they’ve gone back to ‘normal’. These organisations either find themselves scrambling to react once again or they simply create environments that are unfavourable to their team, requiring them to work from the office even when it’s possible not to. 

A pandemic is not the only disaster organisations are likely to face in their lifetime. Fires, floods, alarm systems backfiring, even renovations – all these things can throw a spanner in the works, stopping your team from working in the office or making it unsafe to do so. The organisations and leaders who thrive in these situations are those who have planned for it, know how they will communicate the changes and do so with confidence and calm. 

Communication matters 

In times of crisis, people want to know what’s going on, how it’s going to affect them and what’s going to happen next. This can be seen simply in search results – searches for health-related topics nearly tripled in 2020, going from 4.6 million to 11.8 million. People want answers, even when there aren’t any answers to be found. 

Panicked and reactive communication fosters panicked and reactive behaviour in teams. Teams want to know where they can go for information and they don’t want to be left in the dark by their leaders when they find themselves in crisis. 

Clear, calm and considered communication builds trust in teams giving them reassurance that leaders understand the circumstances and are working towards a solution, even if a solution hasn’t been found yet. 

The reality of adapting in uncertain times 

We’ve seen how important it is to be agile and willing to adapt amidst the constantly changing environment that the pandemic has bred. It won’t be the last time a crisis like this hits your organisation and this agility will be important in the new world of work. 

A new generation of workers – those who have entered into a remote workforce, or who have experienced a large chunk of their education online – is coming and they’re looking for workplaces that are empathetic to their team and willing to be flexible to suit different circumstances. Organisations who aren’t ready to offer that flexibility will be missing out on some of the best talent making their way into the workforce. 

Organisations and leaders who have weathered the storms of the last 18 months and still refuse to see the value in effective communication, change management and flexibility will see themselves on the back foot as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and tackle the future crises to come. 

Are you ready to examine your organisation’s learnings from the pandemic? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.