• Noeleen Bruton


Updated: Nov 4, 2021

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on each and every one of us. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't been affected - both personally and professionally. But as the dust begins to settle, we have to brush ourselves off, take a deep breath and own the day ... or the day will own you.

As leaders, we have no choice but to lead. As Robin Sharma said "Rough seas make stronger sailors. Tough times build more resilient people." But leading in these tough times is easier said than done. Your company may be struggling to make targets, the pressure may be mounting to grow revenues, and if you are fortunate enough to have a team left, it's likely to have reduced in size. Staff will be feeling battered (even scared) and fatigued as the COVID hangover takes its toll. Your company culture may have shifted thanks to remote working and your business model may need to be realigned or even re-invented. Tackling all of these areas requires agility, energy, positivity, and leadership. But who is helping you? Leadership is lonely - people seldom ask if you are okay. Well today, I am asking? Are you okay?

The bad news is, there are no quick fixes. Getting your mojo back will take some time and it's damn hard work. These 6 six steps are a journey - a journey, that with time and focus will get you back on track and ultimately help you not just survive ... but really thrive in this strange, 'new' world.

1: Ascertain your company's business goals - understand where you are heading

Pressure on marketing to right the ship will invariably be immense. It is incredibly daunting - but also a great opportunity to get involved, to make a difference, and to create a name for yourself.

Some advice;

  • Remember "the power of the pause". Don't dive straight in and start 'doing'. Rather take time to think, to take stock, and to reflect. Consider what needs to be done to ensure maximum growth ... operate in the space of high-level thinkers to really add maximum value.

  • Marketing strategy needs to take its lead from the corporate strategy. Without clearly defined business goals, the risk of wasting resources and even failure increases immensely.

  • Ensure there is consensus and commitment from all stakeholders. Drastic measures may be required which will necessitate buy-in to a common goal from multiple divisions. From HR (cultural changes, employee support); operations (new product lines, supply chains); IT (digitization, technological support); finance (resources, contracts), and sales. The CEO also needs to articulate and drive the new direction as well as show active support.

  • Be the voice of reason. Be that person. Try to get the group to adopt decisions using evidence and logic. Avoid becoming emotional - stay calm and cool-headed.

2: Determine 'strategically' what marketing needs to do to help achieve the company goal/s

When the pressure is on, our tendency as human beings is often to get busy and increase our outputs. But just like in Step 1 above - think strategically. Not tactically.

That new FaceBook ad format or 'three things to do on Instagram to treble your revenue' ... may work (a little bit) but they are NOT going to revolutionize your business. As tempting as it may be - do not become a Tactical Titan.

Draw up a focussed marketing and digital strategy. Assess how your digital marketing aligns with the business's digitization road map. Do you have the financial resources to be able to implement the digital marketing strategy? Do you have the strategic and technical know-how and resources to deliver on a full-funnel strategy? Do you have internal support from other divisions? Look at your team - do you have the requisite skills internally - if not, can you recruit, upskill or outsource?

Do what you need to do to set yourself up to succeed!

3: Step up as a leader

There is not a leader in the world worth their salt, that is not asking him or herself right now - 'how they can lead better during tough times' and 'how they can support their team'.

In times of crisis, leaders should;

  • Stay calm and be confident: I remember an adage that I once heard "when flying and you hit some turbulence at 38 000 ft - you obey the 'fasten your seat belt' instruction, put away your tray table, and generally feel okay - if not a little anxious. Right? But if when the seat belt signs came on you looked over and see the air hostesses huddled in an aisle looking troubled and afraid. How differently would you feel?" You cannot let your team feel your fear - be cognizant of what you say as well as your body language.

  • Be visible: now is not the time to hide behind your door. Your team needs you to be visible and present. Even if you are still working remotely - check-in, set up catch-ups, and strategize together. Connectedness is so important.

  • Be transparent: Without showing your fears, you need to let your team know that you do not have all the answers. You need to be open and transparent yet still remain confident - a tough and delicate balancing act between safety and reality.

  • Communicate frequently and consistently: Remind your team that things won't be perfect - that you are trying new things, some of which may not work. Embrace uncertainty and reassure them that by working together, focusing on a common goal - solutions will emerge.

  • Empower People: Share your vision, get input into your goals - that way your team will feel part of the solution and actively work towards finding answers. Allocate responsibility to people so that they feel like they are actively participating - keep them productive, self-confident, and positive.

4. Stay in School: In times of uncertainty - ensure you stay relevant. Stay in the loop. None of us will have all the answers - so spend time focussing on the right research articles, the right books, or podcasts, engage the right people, encourage information sharing, encourage debate. Ask for the difficult details - as much as for solutions. Resist the urge to find the silver bullet - especially with fad tactics. Choose your 'source' carefully (be it a book, an article, a podcast - a chat) - you want to gain insights from high-level intellects that will elevate your thinking and not go down a rabbit hole in search of the next best thing.

If you wanted to learn in-depth about life on the PGA , who would you rather engage - Tiger Woods or Virat Kohli? They both may be superb athletes and sportsmen - who will invariably go down in the history books as one of the greats. But only one has the experience, the 10 000+ hours playing on the Professional Golfer's Association tour. I know which one I would pick.

5. Be Kind: More so than ever before, leaders need to be kind and demonstrate empathy. Your team members may be hanging on by a thread - they could've suffered the loss of a loved one through Covid, they themselves could've fallen ill but recovered, they may be having to live on significantly less household income and battling to make ends meet - you may not know all the details, but what you will know is that they are scared, they are stressed and they are likely feeling disorientated.

To cultivate a healthy, productive, and resilient workforce able to handle the post-pandemic challenges means creating space for people to be their whole selves - to feel heard, understood, recognized, appreciated, and acknowledged. In short, they need empathy to thrive in the turbulent and constantly evolving new world.

6. Look after yourself: I left this for last - not because it's the last thing you should do. But because it is so important - it could (and probably should) be a blog all on its own. While you are taking care of the business, taking care of your employees ... who is taking care of you? If you are anything like me, you sometimes struggle to get up in the morning, to put on your brave face, keep your chin up and embrace the day.

If your self-motivation tools are running thin and you battle to sleep, wake up exhausted, are short-tempered, and need an extra glass of wine (or two) every evening to take the edge off. You need to stop, breathe and put a self-care plan in place. You need to take care of number one TODAY - not tomorrow or when things get better ... but NOW, because there is no guarantee that things will get better. Your mental and physical well-being has to be your first priority ...

Write up a plan - put goals and strategies in place to help you.

  • Get enough sleep

  • Cut down on alcohol

  • Take time out to be alone, to be with your friends and family. No interruptions, no email, no social media. Trust me - they will all be waiting for you, the world (or your company) will survive without you being available 24/7.

  • Replenish your 'soul' - take a walk in nature, get up early and watch the sunrise, sit on your couch and just listen, really listen to some beautiful music, meditate (download the Headspace App - there are some free sessions that are great to get you started.

  • Practice Presence. When we are tired and stressed life seems to pass us in a blur. Even that 'time out' can be wasted if your mind is in your inbox, at the office, or compiling a mental checklist. You will cheat yourself and your family. Try live in the moment - compartmentalize and practice active presence. I did a Mindfulness course which has helped me immensely. Give it a bash. Maybe even Yoga.

  • Establish boundaries - remote working brought the workplace right into our homes. Boundaries became blurred - office hours and contact protocol were largely thrown out the window. You need to put those parameters back in place - for you, your team, your colleagues, and even your superiors. A burnt-out workforce is not what anyone wants.

  • Don't carry the monkey on your back - avoid taking on other people's burdens. As a leader, you need to be cognizant of your time management and focus on how and where you serve the organization best. This article from the Harvard Business Review is a must-read on the subject.

  • Eat healthier - I am not suggesting you go on a strict diet and start immediately calorie counting or do anything drastic (unless you want to and it's part of YOUR plan) - but at the least, opt for a healthier eating choice if you can.

  • Exercise - if the gym is not your thing (I am no gym bunny myself), that's okay - do what you enjoy to get some exercise. Over and above all the obvious benefits, regular exercise improves your memory and brain function, improves your quality of sleep, and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help

and lastly, please remember .....


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