If we’ve learned anything about business from the Covid pandemic, it’s that we have an enormous capacity to change.
So says Campbell Macpherson, the renowned change leadership speaker and facilitator with decades of experience enabling CEOs and leadership teams to instigate strategic change.
‘The pandemic has had a seismic impact on business leaders’ thinking, and irrespective of the fact that the shifting circumstances have forced us to re-think the way we operate and behave, we’ve embraced a number of important principles:
• We are fundamentally able to change, and do so in lots of ways, and quickly;
• Emotions are at the heart of our propensity to change
• Change will never stop.’
The coronavirus change paradox
Campbell has seen a real paradox in the way that people have responded to the pandemic.
‘On the one hand, it has spawned innovations and accelerated the rate of evolution in many industries; the creative thinkers have sought new ways to serve their markets, or focused on new ones altogether. They’ve pivoted, demonstrated their agility and – in many cases – reaped spectacular rewards.’
The yang to this yin is the inertia seen in others. They have put everything on ice, waiting for the planet to return to the ‘new normal’, a phrase that makes Campbell visibly shudder!
‘There is no ‘new normal’; the world has changed forever and will continue to keep changing. It has always been so, and it will continue to happen, so anyone who is waiting for things to go back to the way they were, and going to be left floundering.’
Being able to reflect has enabled us to see things more clearly
‘2020 provided us all with a unique opportunity to step back and reflect. And despite the many personal and financial challenges, many senior business leaders actually began to see things much more clearly.
‘The more visionary leaders took the opportunity to re-assess what success looks like, and what is really important. They got back to basics
‘Covid made them think about the new reality of the world, the true value – and values – of their people, and whether their organisational culture reflected them. Having witnessed the emotional roller coaster their colleagues experienced, and the anxieties they suffered, they thought about how we might extricate ourselves from the numbers-based definitions of success.
‘In short, we recognised that we have to revisit our strategic fundamentals, and lead change within our people in order to effect change within our organisations.’
Making the changes we need to make
For the first time in almost two generations, human beings have experienced a sustained, global, traumatising event.
As a species, we have been through a collective bereavement, and we are demonstrating all the classic symptoms: shock, denials, depression, experiment, frustration and decision… and it looks as if we are heading for the last point on this curve – integration.
‘In order to optimise the conditions as we emerge from the pandemic, we need to adapt our strategic thinking. The uncertainty isn’t likely to abate for years, so we have to learn to lead through it.
‘Our 5-Year-Plan approach will be almost meaningless, but at the same time, we must not fall into the trap of short-termism, on the basis that if we don’t know what the world is going to look like next week (let alone next month, next year or in 2026, what’s the point of planning anything?
‘We can show them that being happy and healthy are not the outcomes from success, but the ingredients of success! And in order to create those conditions, we need to treat them as individuals, each built on a foundation of creativity, gratitude, respect, kindness, empathy and tolerance.
‘As leaders in tomorrow’s world, we need to shine an emotional light on how our team members can be a part of something amazing. We have to instil in them the confidence to use their ingenuity, wisdom and compassion to shape a glorious future based on the reality of the day, not on the possibilities of some far-off dream.
‘The past year has shown us all that we can change, but can we change the way we lead change?’
Campbell Macpherson is the author of the 2018 Business Book of the Year, published by Wiley – ‘The Change Catalyst (secrets to successful and sustainable business change)’.
He has been enabling organisations to successfully instigate sustainable change for almost thirty years across the UK, Europe, US, Australia, Asia and the Middle East and has a remark able wealth of experience across a variety of industries and business disciplines.
He has been a trusted adviser to CEOs and leadership teams, board member, Strategy Director, HR Director, Marketing Director, eBusiness Head and internal change leader.
Campbell is an Executive Fellow, Executive Education at Henley Business School, and will be the keynote speaker at The Henley Partnership’s Masterclass event in December 2021 entitled ‘Mission Impossible – Leading Successful Change’.