A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece, entitled “How Much Freedom and Privacy Are We Prepared to Forsake?“, that lays out how I see things playing out post pandemic. For all — from politicians to civilians, entrepreneurs and business executives — it is clearly going to be a messy and difficult road ahead. So, I wanted to follow up with some ideas as to what business leaders and brands should consider in priority going forward. I strongly feel it will take a cocktail of curiosity, humility, empathy and courage. In the anticipated fallout (you may wish to read about the context in my prior article), there are five important ramifications. If there’s one theme to which all these elements point, it’s the need to build up trust with your teams and wider stakeholders.
- Gauge your energy. With the never-ending cycle of change, which is fatiguing even for the most fleet of foot and agile-minded organizations, business leaders will need to be in a continuous learning mode and always prepared to shift. As a result, given the effort needed to deal with a fast-changing environment, it will be imperative for leaders to gauge the energy of their teams and themselves. Practice self-empathy first, and flex your empathic muscle, especially when dealing with your colleagues. Reconfigure the way you spend your time to allow for energy-giving activities as well as to listen intently to what your team is feeling and thinking. This isn’t even a marathon, which normally has a distinct finish line. It’s going to become an always-on dragged-out race.*
- Know yourself sincerely (KYSS). With the constantly changing winds, it will be particularly easy to be blown off course, following a dead-end trend or some shiny new object. Moreover, in a highly politicized world, it’s no longer given that silence on political topics is acceptable. Silence can be taken as acquiescence, which can quickly spiral out of control with the toxic cancel culture. If you know yourself (ie. have a precise personal North) and are keen to have engaged employees, being courageous enough to stand up for what you believe can also include expressing your political opinion. You shouldn’t just add random hashtags to your social posts. You’ll need to be strategic and, as a leader, you’ll want to have genuine conviction in your beliefs. If you are dialled into your North, you’ll also be clearer about your values and be prepared to strengthen your ethical backbone. Obviously, when being political, it also means knowing well your full eco-system, all the way through to your customer base (KYC). Choose your battles carefully and go to bat for what you deeply believe in. By being true to who you are, you’re more likely to gain other people’s trust.
- Hiring and retaining talent. Whereas many companies will be facing downsizing in the coming years, there remains the issue of keeping the best talent. As such, it will be crucial to optimize the work environment, become a more effective and engaging boss and, whenever possible, insert meaningfulness into every person’s role. I’ve long talked about practicing the inside-out model, which entails employee-first customer centricity. You’ll want to treat your employees in a way that is consistent and congruent with how you wish to treat and trade with your external stakeholders. In light of complex societal changes, I’d also consider hiring different profiles such as anthropologists, sociologists or literary profiles. These types of experts will help provide new and useful insights and bring different perspectives to your innovation efforts.
- Check your media channels. With the shifting media landscape that’s noisy as ever and riddled with inaccuracies, marketing teams will need to make important decisions in terms of figuring out how best to get word out about your product or service. Trust in government, media and business remains low, as seen in the latest Edelman Trustometer Survey (2021). Be careful where and how you communicate. Where is your customer congregating? How is your customer consuming media differently? It’ll be key to do (with actions) before saying what you do. As Robin Sharma always says, make sure your video aligns with your audio. Also, beware of polls as it seems that many of them are destined to be inaccurate due to societal pressures and virtue signalling. With new media players who are still vying for a foothold while building a different kind of voice and audience, there will surely be advantageous partnerships to be made with them for willing and courageous brands.
- Cyber security will take on new significance in a world where backdoors are being opened to social networks and privacy is being undermined. If many people have previously been going along for the ride with all the new technologies, the public’s openness to share private data and relinquish control will likely diminish. Marketers will need to double-down to earn the trust to gain access to the necessary information which will in turn help to provide a more tailored experience. Meanwhile, whether state-run or not, malevolent actors will continue to seek to gain access to confidential information. I foresee a huge new wave of cyber insecurity in the wake of social media and messaging apps opening up the back ends, so companies will need to double up on their data protection policies and systems. The key to cyber security is to make sure you parse through and prioritize the data that needs to be definitively protected. At the end of the day, the breaches in security typically happen at the weakest link that, more often than not, lies in human hands. Thus, cyber security awareness and training will be vital within your organization.
There are, of course, many other issues and potential challenges ahead, including how to handle the future of work (i.e. office space and remote) or the thorny question of whether companies in a global economy will need to convert to a cyber currency. All in all, business leaders will be evermore challenged to chart their course successfully through the next period. As the Edelman survey reports, trust in business leaders is currently riding at an all-time low in many countries (including India, Brazil, Russia, France and Japan). It will be important to pay attention to cash and also to take care of your energies to deal with the long road ahead. Business leaders will have to chart a course that ensures survival, yet also have the courage to stand up for what matters and to help steer society and governments around the world to protect one of the fundamental privileges of the western world that is our freedom.
Your thoughts and comments?
*If you’re looking for booster energy sessions, please check out the Energy in Connection session I offer for teams around the world.