Don't just bounce back - leap forward

Posted on:

8th February 2022

​​I find optimism can carry you a long way. It can be easy to get sucked into the news cycle, and of course, I’m under no illusion as to the severity of the situation, but I genuinely believe many of us have the opportunity to come out of the other side stronger – provided we are ready and willing to learn certain lessons.

Although it’s true we have been forced to change the way we live during the lockdown, I believe we have an unexpected chance to take something positive away from this crisis. We have the chance to re-evaluate, evolve, start over and really consider who we are, how we operate and the contribution we can make to society. We’ve been hearing a lot about ‘bouncing back’ recently, but what if we could bounce not just to where we were before, but higher?

Culture shock

As a society, we have had time to pause and reflect on the things that really matter. And while I don’t for a minute want to overlook the enormous challenges many continue to face, I have been moved beyond belief by the collective will to pull together and get through this. All around me I see signs of people reprioritizing, putting real work in to build a future that’s even better than before. This spirit was not orchestrated, it isn’t a directive we see on the 8 o’clock news. It emerged organically as people, incredibly quickly, thought fast and mobilized to respond to the challenge.

All in it together

As people and as colleagues, we’re all in this together and how we emerge will be defined by how we collectively rise to the challenge and what we want the future to look like. For me, as a business leader one of the most important responses to the current crisis was to increase transparency across the business, to be open and upfront about the challenges we face, and in so doing, inspire a sense of collective focus and unified control.

Since lockdown, I’ve produced regular weekly videos for the team - to help facilitate connection, but also to share the reality of the challenges we face as a business and ignite debate and communication in collective solutions. It’s important to be honest and upfront, treating people as the equals they are and not sugar-coating the challenge ahead.

It’s important to share real data and insights into the health of the business, showing how we have performed over the past weeks and months, and indicators of what is required into the future. This information should be recognisable, it should enable your people to work out how they can make an impact and contribute towards achieving these goals.

Own it, Earn it, Love it

I appreciate this degree of transparency is not for everyone, but it is what we are about at Austin Fraser and Austin Vita. Being authentic fits our values of Own it, Earn it, Love it – and I consider myself very fortunate to work alongside colleagues who share values; collective responsibility, hard work, ambition, positivity and care.

But alongside openness and transparency comes the need for action. While normal business function has been affected for many, it’s good to be thinking about things differently. On one level action is important to collectively address fresh challenges arising in unexpected places.  On a larger scale, we’re talking about action for the greater good. Just as furniture manufacturers or engineering firms have pivoted to produce ventilators, or furloughed workers have volunteered as grocery store shoppers, now is the time for businesses to help other businesses. We all have a stake in the economy and we’re all cogs in the machine, so if we can take the opportunity now to support outside our immediate interests, either by being a sounding board, an open door or tangibly getting stuck in to help problem solve – then it will serve us all in the long run.

Changing tack

Take the recruitment sector, for example. Interviews and placements were naturally down, but now the opportunity for consultants is in supporting the supply chain, from working with candidates to identify the new skills and opportunities of tomorrow, to working with employers and talent teams to help try and map future resource models. We don’t know yet what the future will bring, but its needs are likely to be quite different from the past so the more we can work collectively to help shape and model for that, the better.

Personally, seeing people progress, and more importantly, the positive impact that progression can have on their personal and professional lives has always given me great pleasure. It’s one of the key reasons that gets me up and excited every day. I get the same pleasure from sharing challenges and finding solutions with other business leaders. Whilst face-to-face meetings look off the cards for a little while, doing more of this, even virtually, is definitely something I’m going to take forward.

I genuinely believe the response to the crisis can serve as an inspiration to the business sector, providing the opportunity to reassess our ethos and values, and consider the new DNA strands and ways of being that will define how we want to operate moving forward. As an optimist, I was confident we’d find a way to bounce back, but after reflection, I’m excited about the chance to take an evolutionary leap forward.

I’d love to hear what others think about this. Please share your thoughts on LinkedIn with the #TalentVoices hashtag.

Originally posted on LinkedIn by Pete Hart, CEO.