By Tina Judic, CEO of Found
In the Strategic Digital Transformation book, chapter 6 is titled ‘How to become a digitally enabled and visionary leader’. In this blog post, Tina Judic discusses leading a digital business through a global pandemic.
This is the first time in my life as a leader that I’ve been faced with a world of so much uncertainty; not just business uncertainty but general life uncertainty.
As a leader, my staff rely on me, as do my clients. And it’s never more imperative than now to lead from the front and forge a way through this pandemic we find ourselves in with a core focus of business protection (for those affected), and a future focus of business realisation. And I thought it would be worth providing some thoughts on how I have managed Found through this period, and some recommendations I have.
As a leader, first and foremost, start with yourself. Resilience is essential through testing times and it is how you will be able to work through achieving long term success of your business. If you’re not functioning well, if your team’s not functioning well, you will not be able push your business forward. Not only do you need to be functioning at 100%, you need to be functioning at 100% whilst working in an unfamiliar environment, in uncertain times.
I would classify myself as an optimist and an extrovert. The prior has helped me immensely to navigate this new way of working and leading, as I gain reward from seeing potential and realising opportunity. And that helps with my resilience, when I goal-set, reflect and push forward. The extrovert in me – that feeds off social interaction – has struggled more and I’ve had to adapt my way of working and engaging (Zoom and Hangouts are now my best friend), however I’m focusing on resilience to drive through.
Managing your team
The three key team challenges during this time are, undoubtedly:
- Keeping teams motivated and engaged.
- Ensuring productivity and quality of output.
- Keeping team spirit up.
Managing your team during this time, for many, will be a whole new experience. We’ve all had people working from home at times, and probably all engaged in video conferencing. But leading a company in a virtual manner is something else. Whilst it’s not been the easiest, I have seen some key things shine through that help to make a difference:
As a digital agency, we had an excellent set-up in place to facilitate management, direction, action and support.
We manage all of our logins to all platforms through Okta – a secure single sign-on platform – and lots of our business through G-Suite, again through secure work emails, not personal Gmails.
We utilise Salesforce for our sales activity management, HubSpot, for website marketing engagement and Accelo for task management. We also use Slack as a single communication platform to engage with teams, and sometimes clients. And, of course, we utilise various video conferencing platforms.
The biggest thing that everyone is undoubtedly missing, is seeing and engaging with their colleagues; from general catch-ups and brainstorms to all of the things you would normally overhear in an office. The latter is now near non-existent, so it’s imperative to ensure there is fluid communication with the team, more communication than you might deem necessary. But an engaged team, who understand the business and understand what role they are playing in it, will be a far more productive team.
At Found, we have daily teatime slots where people can jump on Zoom for a chat and a cuppa. We also have our regular Friday meeting where everyone shares what they’ve been doing for the week and what’s coming up. Just last week, we held our first quarterly review online – rather than in a local cinema – so we could share business insights in detail with the team, and celebrate successes.
Transparency, certainly at Found, is key. We have a strong culture of togetherness but that is because we are open and honest with each other. I’ve been very clear with the team on some of the decisions we’ve made as a business, the future direction we’re heading in, and how we’re going to get there. Having your team behind you, willing each other to succeed is so imperative at this time.
Laughter is so important. And we laugh a lot. Laughter is a mechanism to get through the crazy world we found ourselves in and I find it’s a great enabler for stress relief and closer relationships with colleagues.
Managing your business
So many organisations are in different situations; some are challenged and are shoring up their businesses; others are assessing the space they are in and determining what their next steps will be; some are pivoting, seeing opportunities to continue to propel forward in the space, whilst others are investing and flying. My responsibility is making the right decisions for my business, and ensuring there is a key focus for myself, and the broader team.
We work with the SOAR framework – a strategic planning framework that focuses on strengths to drive decision-making and performance:
- Strengths. What can we build on?
- Opportunities. What can we leverage for success?
- What do we care deeply about?
- Results. How do we know we are succeeding?
We find SOAR to be a powerful tool that brings all stakeholders together to recognise the potential of our business and to create a shared vision of the future. We decided on one clear focus at Found for this quarter, agility.
Agility is showing you can adapt to change around you. We are currently in the middle of something which will probably change how we manage our lives and do business forever. And we’re already adapting – each and every week – to new environments, scenarios, decisions, activities. An agile business set-up enables us to move flexibly. With the ever-changing landscapes, we’re making quicker business decisions than we did before, but we’re not making reckless decisions.
There are three steps in the path to agility Gallup
- Speed and efficiency.
- Freedom to experiment.
- Communication and collaboration.
Many of us are working from home so, it has never been more important than now to make every job and process as simple as it possibly can be; whether it’s choosing the right technology to facilitate action or creating processes and empowerment to ease bureaucracy and decision-making.
It’s about determining what risks are necessary and what failures are acceptable. At Found, we often talk about failure – as we have a company-wide test & learn policy – but we don’t simply talk about failing, we talk about failing smart; taking the right calculated steps to solving problems against a measured outcome. We’re not a huge team at Found – yet we have a huge appetite for growth and experimentation so we created FoundLabs, a hive of ideas and innovations that anyone in the company can contribute to.
Finally, it’s about working really closely together as a team; breaking down the silos between teams and departments and creating opportunities for regular idea and knowledge sharing. We do this through innovation meetings, cross-team meet-ups and cross-team projects. The power of the collective and passionate mind has helped us immensely.
There was a quote I recently read by Bruce Lee that really resonated with me: “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo survives by bending with the wind.” I used it to wrap up Found’s recent quarterly review. Whilst agility was our theme, I wanted something for us to connect with and this quote nailed it. This quarter’s focus is agility, but our motto is to #belikebamboo.
There’s no one ‘right’ way to be a leader at this time. The final point I would simply make is to manage your business in a way that makes you proud. For me, fairness and empathy are the essential ingredient to being a good leader. Choose which leader you are, or want to be, because how you navigate through this crisis will likely be remembered for years to come.