Great leaders must adapt to their surrounding environments and chart the course in uncertain and unknown territories. No matter how dire the situation, effective leadership requires finding a way to keep moving, even if in incremental steps, because nothing good comes out of staying in survival mode.
Responding and adapting to the daily challenges of the COVID-19 era has been a bootcamp for refreshing my leadership skills. There are four skills I am honing every day.
Planning and making good decisions
The ability to plan, make good decisions, and make the best use of the resources available is crucial, and sometimes, you have to make those decisions in a time crunch. Due to the pandemic three of my scheduled speaking events have gotten cancelled so far and at my other company, MyGradeBooster Tutoring, we stopped in-home tutoring to contribute to slowing the spread of the virus. This meant we had to get creative really fast to make sure we can pay ourselves and our staff. We decided to move everything online and start offering virtual tutoring instead. We tested out different technologies, platforms, and methods to find the optimum structure for online tutoring, and experimented with a few sample individuals to determine the best practices to achieve high level of student focus and engagement. We set up these new systems and methods, updated the website and notified all of our students. Because of our early planning we were able to spend time experimenting and finding the best way to offer effective online tutoring and achieve the same level of lesson productivity as in-home tutorials.
Foreseeing obstacles and challenges
A key component of leadership is to try to foresee challenges and obstacles so you are not caught off guard. This is another thing Covid-19 is teaching me – to anticipate problems and think about possible solutions. I suspected that despite the strategies we’ve set in place to maintain the same level of engagement and productivity with online tutoring, many elementary school students and parents would not be open to trying it. And this is exactly what happened. Parents emailed saying they don’t believe their young kids can focus through the lesson. To tackle this we decided to offer a risk free half hour session where students could have a session with their tutor to try out the new method. If they don’t like it, then they don’t pay. Removing the risk from the purchasing equation encouraged more elementary school parents to give it a try and allowed us to retain more students.
Looking for and embracing opportunities
Leaders must be on the lookout at all times because in every unknown and uncertain situation there are opportunities. We realized that due to the social distancing requirements many summer camps would get cancelled. Parents were also asking us if we knew of any online programs or workshops where their kids could continue to grow and develop their skills over the summer. So we created and set up a virtual Youth Leadership Program for our students to learn the key life skills such as self-discovery, goal setting, and growth mindset learning. We had a feeling the program would be in demand especially during this time. Even though we had a limited time to put everything together and introduce it to the community, the launch was successful with a 2.6% conversion rate which reassured us that our hunch was right.
Being a good communicator
Communication is not easy but being an effective communicator is a core leadership trait. Good communicators are authentic, real, and also good listeners. After creating the online tutoring components I scheduled a one on one virtual chat with every tutor to go over our strategy and methods with virtual lessons and answer any questions or concerns they had about the setup. This turned out to be a great way to connect with my team on a one-on-one basis and have a check-in with them.
Going through uncertain times is challenging and can be scary, but we have to carry on, no matter how slow or small the steps. Better times are coming, but until then I’ll be practicing my leadership skills.