Last week, it was Valentine’s Day and our focus was “All You Need is Love.” This week, as we progress through the rebuild phase of the recession, our focus is in an area summed up in another Beatles song, “Come Together.”
We humans are social creatures by nature. We love to spend time together, talk, laugh and joke, share stories and ideas. For many of us, being on our own for any extended period leads to loneliness, boredom, frustration and worse.
So, aside from the obvious individual tragedies associated with the Covid Pandemic, the hardest thing for many to deal with has been the effects of lockdown, the personal isolation and the remoteness from our colleagues, customers and suppliers.
Many people have been in furlough, missing the interaction with workmates and feeling remote from their businesses. Others have had to cope with increased pressure and workload to cover for absent colleagues during a period of intense pressure, pivoting business practices, innovation across the product and service model. And of course, working from home, or as it feels on occasion, living at work, presents further challenges.
For business leaders this presents a particular challenge. As they prepare to ride the wave of growth that will come as the vaccination program rolls out, lockdown is released and the flatline at the bottom of the L-shaped recession returns to the upward trajectory of strong growth for the next decade, what do they need to do to ensure they take maximum advantage?
Key to everything is that leaders must lead, and they must do so with a human response to the situation. Within the business and outside of it, they need to get people to come together, to reintegrate their teams and to build communities that will collaborate to identify problems and work together to find solutions that will benefit all, within a manufacturing process, a supply chain, an industry or to bigger societal problems.
Initially, the focus must be on the internal staff. In spite of all of the Zoom, Teams, Web-Ex, and Skype meetings, the virtual pub nights and the company quizzes, there is a need to reintegrate. People need some time to rediscover shared values and purpose and to understand the strategy to address the ‘new normal’ and the changed business model.
It is a process that has to be handled with care and gentleness. Staff will be tired and anxious after a year of bad news, economic gloom, infection rates and movement restrictions. You will need to be patient in reminding them of the history of your company, the journey that you were on prior to the recession and the pandemic, and how that may now have changed. Find ways for them to collaborate, to share projects, to unite on purpose and move from silo to integration.
Get your people working in a way that shifts the dialogue from “How do I…?” to “How can we…?” from “my” to “our”. By understanding problems, challenges and opportunities on a wider scale, we can innovate and drive solutions in a more impactful way.
Once your internal teams are engaged, you can extend your focus to the external opportunity, where still, the key imperatives are to lead with purpose, not sales messages, to build relationships and communities based upon positive values.
Big brands have already started doing this with some great social campaigns.
Burger King, recognising the difficulties faced by independent restaurants offered them the opportunity to promote themselves to the entire Burger King Instagram following at no cost. This opened up a massive online community to small businesses and saved them fortunes in marketing spend.
And Weetabix collaborated with many leading brands to create one of the most innovative campaigns in years, asking ‘Why should bread have all the fun?” promoting Heinz Beans on Weetabix rather than toast. The campaign was joined by organisations as diverse as Specsavers, Nandos, Wagamama, Lidl, the NHS, The US Embassy, the UK Police, Viz Comic and Christian Aid. If you haven’t seen it, have a look on Twitter – it’s a brilliantly innovative, collaborative effort that has provided positive brand exposure for many brands to millions!
Focus7 would be delighted to help you to build your community or to support you with purpose-driven, brand-led communications. If you would like to discuss your strategy or objectives with us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we would be delighted to help.
With passion and professionalism in abundance, Vida Barr-Jones has an impressive track record of establishing and meeting business goals. Vida brings 34 years of commercial experience, having spent eleven years as a Board Director at Europe’s largest FTSE-listed office products wholesaler. Vida is an inspirational leader known for excellent communication and engagement across all levels.