Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at Set Schedule. Resident tech guru.
With inflation levels long unseen in many markets, it is clear that leadership teams must prioritize navigating economic uncertainty with laser focus.
The period leading up to the market crash at the start of the pandemic was marked by a palpable sense of unease on the part of many leaders, including myself. The pandemic caused significant damage to the economy, at least for the next decade. What’s unclear to me above all is if we’ve already seen a market crash, can we weather more uncertainty with the same approaches? How should companies adapt to a rapidly changing society?
The looming question is really how fast and how severe a potential downturn would be. This uncertainty can create a pervasive sense of fear and panic, making it challenging to lead with conviction. Even leaders who were once confident in their ability to make decisions can find themselves questioning every step.
A study found that organizations willing to address economic uncertainty have two main characteristics: they have a higher level of digital maturity and are working on their sustainability agenda. And digital maturity is not just about technology and data; it is also about culture.
Leaders who feel prepared to face economic uncertainty are more likely to work in cultures that embrace innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking. These organizations are not afraid to fail, learn from their mistakes and switch quickly to try out new solutions.
Why cohesion and culture are key to confidence in leadership
To build trust, I recommend leaders focus on two critical areas: cohesion and culture. Cohesion refers to the ability to align the organization to a set of long-term goals. Culture, on the other hand, refers to the norms, values, and behaviors that govern how work is done.
A cohesive business model with clear objectives and a willingness to adapt to a changing landscape is important to build a culture that aligns with your corporate identity and purpose. For example, at my company, we place a strong emphasis on transparency and accountability, and we regularly recognize and reward employees who do their best in their jobs.
Here are some tips for improving cohesion and culture.
• Stimulate and reward experiments. Reward employees who take risks and learn from their mistakes, even if the outcome is not always successful.
• Create safe spaces for dissent. Employees should be able to voice their opinions and challenge assumptions without fear of retaliation. This can take the form of regular town hall meetings, feedback sessions or employee surveys.
• Promote collaboration. Expanding opportunities for cross-functional teams to collaborate on projects and initiatives can help break down silos and encourage different perspectives and ideas.
• Lead by example. Leaders need to model the behaviors they want to see in their employees. This is also one of those opportunities to kill two birds with one stone, help new employees better understand the work culture while shaping the growth of the team based on company values.
Digital opportunities and culture
Digital transformation is not just about technology, and because it is a digital revolution, it requires a fundamental shift in mindset and culture. This means embracing new ways of working, experimenting with new approaches and empowering employees to take control of their digital journey.
It could be argued that the transition to the digital landscape of work is a generational issue. But hacking the mindset is a crucial factor in taking a leap from the conventional. I’ve found that fear of uncertainty is often the reason companies don’t reach their full potential.
Rather than seeing the introduction of new digital technology as a threat, I suggest leaders approach it with a growth mindset: focus on the benefits. Take small steps. Find a mentor and find training and resources. Maintain a positive attitude throughout the process and encourage all team members to do the same.
Sustainability for long-term success
For many organizations, sustainability is no longer just a nice-to-have; it is a must-have for long-term success. By prioritizing sustainability, leaders can reduce their organization’s environmental footprint, build resilience, and create value for all stakeholders. They can also strengthen their brand reputation and attract top talent, investors and customers.
For example, sustainability in my company is manifested through continuous innovation that addresses the concerns of our customers. If there are needs, we think of ways to innovate the customer experience, such as building an app.
A new approach can promote sustainability that both the industry and your company are good at.