Turning Crisis Into Opportunity: Preparing Your Organization for a Transformed World

Turning Crisis Into Opportunity: Preparing Your Organization for a Transformed World

The current COVID-19 crisis is massive, and what comes next is profoundly unclear.

Senior leaders must avoid the temptation to hope for a mere “return to normal,” and instead seize this chance for organizational transformation, because the current moment offers not just an opportunity but an imperative to push toward reinvention, not retreat.

Flourishing in a post-COVID world will require the ability to articulate a bold and flexible vision, cultivate a culture of innovation, and lead change with empathy and integrity. The most forward-thinking leaders will be the ones who hold the tough conversations and take the bold actions necessary to reimagine the future for their organizations.

We don’t know how long this new reality will last, nor exactly what lies on the other side, but we do know that leadership can be the differentiator in every organization. To turn crisis into opportunity, leadership is more important now than ever.

Seizing the Opportunity for Organizational Transformation 

Hardships can be powerful learning experiences for all of us, both individually and collectively. For individuals, hardships can provide deeper self-knowledge, increased sensitivity and compassion, greater flexibility, and new perspectives. For organizations, hardships can serve as a catalyst for organizational transformation and provide an opportunity for the senior team to identify and carry out the bold actions necessary to align the organization, move it forward, even reinvent it entirely. 

Yet if the past is any indication, this opportunity will be missed by many senior leaders. The single biggest strategic mistake that companies made before the pandemic was failure to change when change was needed. Now, the strong desire to “return to normal” may further deepen the mindset. Senior leadership teams may feel tempted to retreat to the status quo and focus on survival — but that will leave the organization weaker and less prepared for the future than it should be. 

That’s why now is the time for senior leadership teams to be at their best, operating as a cohesive collective, to architect the trajectory of the future and turn crisis into opportunity. 

Avoiding bold action and tough conversations will leave organizations weak and less prepared — instead, it’s vital that leaders and organizations reimagine their mission and purpose and engage in discussions that their competitors are unwilling to have. They must change how they work together and continue to engage their people. 

How to Move from Threat to Challenge, From Crisis to Opportunity 

Shifting the collective leadership mindset will require addressing key roadblocks to turning crisis into opportunity. 

In order to do this effectively, we believe leaders should focus on creating Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC). For people to pull together in any context, they need shared DAC. But those outcomes are even more important in a crisis. 

DAC is created through the interactions and exchanges among people with shared work — between managers and their direct reports; among colleagues, teams, and committees; and in the relationships, structures, and processes of the entire organization. DAC allows people to work together to achieve results they would never accomplish on their own. 

That’s why, to turn crisis into opportunity, the senior leadership team’s critical role is to: 

1. Build direction by articulating a bold and flexible vision, 

2. Strengthen alignment by cultivating innovation through collaboration, and 

3. Inspire commitment by leading change with empathy and integrity. 

Effective, impactful, bold leadership is more important now than ever. 

Organizations and individuals who are able to move from feeling threatened to feeling challenges by uncertainty — and who are able to pull together to achieve shared, desired results — will be the ones who turn crisis into opportunity, together reinventing their organizations for the future. 

Learn specific tactics to take to build direction, strengthen alignment, and inspire commitment, both within your team and organization — and how you can navigate the current crisis and pave the way for a successful future — by downloading this white paper now. 

Download White Paper

Download this white paper to learn how to turn crisis into opportunity and to discover how to prepare your organization for the transformed world that comes next.

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May 18, 2020
About the Author(s)
Bill Pasmore
An international authority in organizational leadership, Bill is an SVP at CCL, where he advises CEOs and Boards on challenges of the future, including business disruption, new ways of organizing, creating more effective digital networks, leading continuous change, and improving senior team effectiveness. He holds a BS in Aeronautical Engineering/Industrial Management and a PhD in Administrative Sciences, both from Purdue University.
Alice Cahill
Alice is the Director of CCL’s Organizational Leadership Practice, where she applies her extensive facilitation and consulting experience to the design and delivery of leadership engagements for executive and senior level leaders of organizations in a wide range of industries. She holds a PhD in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University, as well as graduate degrees in several disciplines, including Adult Education and Public Health.
Mike Smith
Mike is a Director and Strategic Business Partner at CCL, where he leads teams to develop leadership solutions for clients that advance business strategies and drive organizational performance. He holds an MA in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, as well as executive certificates from the University of Chicago, the University of Virginia, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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