Business Resilience: Leading Through Change

Vector image of woman with red hair.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin

We certainly are living and working in unprecedented times. But without a shadow of a doubt, I believe business resilience through all of this is possible.

I’ve covered leadership and management trends in the past, but times like this call for a new approach, one that is part grit and part grace. It takes an increased focus on an organization’s people, and making collaboration, agility, and innovation key priorities. Leaders must listen to their employees more than ever, communicate more clearly — sensitively and with compassion — and be in tune with their team’s needs like never before. Here are some tips on how to do that.“

Use this time to build your team’s digital maturity

For organizations that haven’t been focused on digitizing team workflows, the current crisis may be eye-opening. It’s no surprise how businesses that have already spent time digitally transforming are finding they are more resilient to change. And for those who might be on the lower end of the digital maturity curve, there’s still time to reinvent and set up the organization for long-term success. Setting up your organization and your teams with the right tools and processes for data-backed decisioning is key, as is democratizing data across the organization.

Beyond building a foundation for data and insights, leaders must also encourage their teams to use this time to figure out what processes can move to digital, and then prioritize the ones that enable agility and allow the company to be more responsive to customer needs. Digitizing an organization’s processes doesn’t just mean that the company’s workforce is able to effectively work from home. Digital maturity is about building a technology foundation to empower teams to work, pivot, and iterate rapidly no matter where they are. Digital technology also enables more strategic management and makes businesses more efficient, collaborative, and effective.

Work collaboratively with your executive counterparts to create a common vision

It has always been important as a leader to work closely with your executive counterparts across the organization to identify and execute a new strategy — this was key for Adobe when transforming Adobe Summit. The fact is that the need for cross-departmental alignment grows more in times of crisis. Listening to and considering the different points of view of your leadership peers are keys to ensuring that the entire organization works in tandem toward the same goal. Think democracy, not autocracy.

Just about a month ago, Adobe made the decision to move the annual Adobe Summit event to an on-demand all-digital format, and make it complimentary. Our leadership team quickly came together (virtually) to brainstorm the vision. We agreed that Summit has always been about sharing our stories, points of view, and customer and partner thought leadership to inspire companies and individuals to change the world through digital experiences. This remains the vision for Summit Online, but now the onus was on our teams to execute on this vision in a completely different format, with a different tone and feel, given the current unprecedented climate. Without cross-departmental alignment from leadership, it would have been impossible to get all of the different teams in such a large organization to march to the same drum and align to the same goals.

Empower and trust your team

As they say, “Necessity is the mother of all invention.” In a crisis, there is more often than not a sudden need to pivot strategies and tactics. Above all, we talked about the need to work together with other leaders across the organization to create a common vision and strategy. Once that is set, clear communication on the vision and focus to your team is imperative. Leaders must translate a vision to their teams through the use of metaphors, shared experiences, or common ideas to better bring concepts to life. They also need to let their teams provide feedback on this vision. From there, leaders must step back and let their teams execute toward this vision. Trusting your team is really important here.

Moving Adobe Summit online is something Adobe never had to do previously. All of us on the leadership team set the vision together, and our teams ran with it. In just weeks, our teams brought keynotes with Adobe leaders, product demos, news announcements, and more than 100 breakout sessions into an online, on-demand format. In fact, Summit has now become a digital destination, where people can browse content to watch at their own leisure. Of course, we are disappointed not to be together, in person, with our community, but we are so excited (and proud) of all the work the team has done to reimagine Adobe Summit as an online experience.

Recognize your team’s efforts

Hard work should always be rewarded, but this is especially true in a time like this. Letting your people know you’ve noticed all the hours they are putting in is a great way to inspire others to work hard too. As a leader, I’m being purposeful and proactive about giving shout-outs, and I’m encouraging peer-to-peer recognition. Employee recognition helps increase productivity, reduces turnover, and, in turn, leads to an increase in customer satisfaction. It’s a solid way to keep people engaged and motivated to achieve positive results for the company.

Remember that showing your appreciation by no means has to be monetary. Other forms include autonomy, work flexibility, more time off, special projects, and other privileges.

Make it a priority to check in with your team regularly

Strong leaders are already connecting with their teams regularly to update them on what is happening at a high level inside of the business. That is, of course, still important at a time like this. But I also think it is important to set aside time to just talk with your people.

For example, last week I called an impromptu meeting with my direct reports. Rather than using the time to talk shop, I opened the floor and asked them how they were feeling and what their work-from-home situation was like. Listening to my team helped me understand just how overwhelmed they were feeling with the adjustment to working from home — whether it was juggling work and kids or just craving watercooler talk at the office. The stories went on, and while everyone had their own unique situation, I better understood what individuals on our team are going through, and I’m all the more empathetic. More importantly, the experience of being able to share their stories with each other is leading all of us to be more compassionate and patient with each other.

Leading in times of change

It’s clear that leaders (and our teams) are trying to adjust to new ways of living and working. And while change can be intimidating, I see it as an opportunity to reinvent yourself and your business. By using this time to build on your team’s digital maturity, working with your leadership counterparts across the business, and empowering and trusting teams to execute on your vision, leaders are bound to see innovation and out-of-the-box thinking from their people. Recognize this stellar performance, and your team will be on the fast track to success.