Tapan Barman is the Co-founder and CEO of Mihup, a leading conversational AI platform founded in 2016. The company uses AI to empower humans with the ability to seamlessly interact with the digital world around them. Mihup’s mission is to make technology inclusive and accessible to all regardless of their language, accent or dialect. Tapan leads the general management, sales and product portfolios. He has over 14 years of experience in building world class products and is passionate about sales.
Challenges and unpredictable scenarios are a part of any business leader’s job description. It has almost become the DNA of leaders to take challenges head on and reinvent their approach to ensure business sustenance during an unprecedented disruption. In the wake of the global pandemic, the concept of leadership and the expectations of employees have changed completely. Today, employees are unwilling to report to those who don’t come across as genuine or understanding. Emotional intelligence in leadership has emerged as a core quality in the current scenario. Even from a public perspective, masses are unwilling to deal with a brand that doesn’t come across as socially conscious and customer friendly, even if the product is good or cheap. Thus, leaders in the new normal need to follow certain practices and cultivate traits to strategically bond with their teams and ensure business sustenance in the new normal.
Proactively caring for the employees: It is easier to assess employees’ mood or general current of thoughts when people work from office. However, this becomes difficult in a remote working environment. That’s why it is important for leaders to proactively show their concern and care. Taking a minute or two at the start of a zoom call to ask employees how they are doing and listening to their responses is a great proactive step.
Sharing own thoughts: Employees value transparency and trust. They don’t see you in the office, and that’s why it is important for leaders to occasionally and appropriately share what’s going on in their life or how they are feeling, etc. Leaders who sometimes show their emotional and social side are likely to be more likeable than someone who just means business.
Build a sense of safety and belonging: People are more productive and loyal to a business when they feel a sense of belonging and safety. Job satisfaction comes when you know that the leaders you are working for care for you. The day employees in an organization start feeling alienated and compelled to work only for the salary, productivity and loyalty are tossed out.
Adaptability: In an uncertain climate, responsive strategies and behaviour are the best way forward. If leaders remain rigid and steadfast to pre-pandemic practices, chances are that they would distance themselves from the reality. Flexibility, quick-thinking and making well-informed decisions are the need of the hour. Regularly sit down and assess the winds. How are things going? What could happen if scenario A took place or how would you react to your sales dipping? Be ready for the unforeseen and uncomfortable eventualities before they occur.
Be optimistic: Uncertainty is a part and parcel of the new normal, and there are always going to be stories of failures, businesses shutting down or stock market upheavals. Nothing should be ignored as you need to keep a grasp on the reality at all times, but don’t let pessimism enter your thought process. A leader has to see the silver lining in every cloud and show it to the teams as well.
Harness technology: Digitization of work processes is an unavoidable and empowering choice. Don’t delay or resist it even if you have the best human resources. Cloud technologies, AI, data analytics, marketing automation, cybersecurity and automation are things that will only make your organization more future ready. By deploying tech, you can free up your workforce from the burden of routine tasks and let then focus on creativity, innovation and greater sales/customer experience performance.
Listening to the consumers: Consumer behaviour has changed drastically and that’s natural. They are being forced to stay indoors. Online shopping and swift processes have been on the rise. You can get almost anything delivered to the doorstep in a contactless and quick manner. Business leaders need to innovate as per the consumer preferences and feedback. Virtual fitting rooms, no-contact delivery, cashless payments, customizations, and other such demands need to be integrated into your practices to enjoy unparalleled customer experience and growth.
Focus on sustainability – In the wake of the pandemic, business leaders are under the scanner for their ethical and socially conscious approach. That’s why you need to focus on environmental sustainability by integrating renewable energy sources, reducing emissions, water and waste management into the company’s core operational strategies. People are no longer looking at businesses as a separate ecosystem, but as a component of the society. The other aspect is employee sustainability which relates to the physical and mental health of employees. The vision of the leader should therefore reflect the greater good of the business, the employees and the society.
The world of business has changed and no matter how much we wish, there is no 100% going back to the ways of 2019. Good business leaders didn’t waste time in hand-wrangling when the disruption came, but rather pulled up their sleeves and steered their businesses through. You need to take the path of optimism and enterprise to show that the new normal is not necessarily a setback, but just a change!