Leadership Training Programs are Essential to Save the Future of Startups During Covid-19

If there is one lesson we have all learned over the past 19 months is, we are living in an age of unpredictability – or perhaps how Nassim Talib, author of The Black Swan, would put it,  that we are coming to terms with our inability to actually predict true randomness.

The impacts of COVID-19 – being a “Black Swan,” an unpredictable event that was deemed improbable yet caused massive changes – have ultimately altered our workplace ecosystems.

That is why the word ‘pivot’ became a big part of our vocabulary throughout the pandemic.

If you fail to reinvent and adapt as a startup, you and the organization will stall and ultimately fail.

The effects of the pandemic did not only call for a change in physical practices – from office spaces to virtual meetings – but also in the way our managers lead teams.

Over the past few decades, we have seen precarious periods of crisis in supply, recessions, and financial problems. But right now, with this pandemic, we are experiencing all three simultaneously, with an additional health crisis to top it off. And just like a ship in a storm, it is essential to have good leadership to change the boat’s course towards the apparent horizon.

As Dana Brownlee writes for Forbes, “if this pandemic experience has taught us anything, it’s that leadership matters.”

For the past months, CEOs and experts have tried to develop a user’s manual on how to deal with the pandemic. While there is still no set playbook, one thing is sure; leadership training programs are essential to save the future of startups during COVID-19 especially during peaks of The Great Resignation.

The connection between the founder-CEO, the managers, and employees represents a vital component for the success of any startup.

Startups have tight, ever-evolving communities and teams. Hence, the foundation and development of startups are inevitably connected with leadership.

The truth about leadership is that it is about an individual willing to develop others. And as a fast-growing company, your leaders must be equipped to take your team to the next level.

Startups’ cultures thrive in adversity, but what about their leaders?

Opposite from other companies, startups rely on a culture of development. The startup advantage lies in its ability to pivot and adapt with a lot quicker agility than larger organizations.

Innovation and learning become the startup’s superpowers.

Individuals constantly wear multiple hats, dealing with different scenarios, departments, new skill sets, etc., and, as a result, have a great range of access to the information.

But with the pandemic, external factors are changing daily, and organizations rise and adapt to their leaderships’ capacity. Meaning even the most experienced of leaders need to tread lightly with their teams and their leadership.

As outlined in the book What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself as a Leader Before Your Businesses Outruns You, a critical aspect of leadership is, “no matter how effective you were yesterday, you will find that today and tomorrow will present new demands on you as a leader.”

The underlying truth is that anyone with the right team leadership training can effectively become a leader.

Personalized team leadership training such as the Unicorn Leadership Development Program allows startups to upskill their managers and internal culture.

The training coaches employees and managers alike to increase loyalty, employee engagement, builds skills to internally train the next generation of leaders and improves well-being and productivity.

Better leaders mean better performance, and better performance means faster growth.

The combination of all three, leaders, performance and growth, are key to the startup’s future during and after COVID-19.

Leadership requires initiative and a willingness to create belonging, develop relationships and give feedback.

For startups to be successful in a post-COVID-19 era, they have to create this culture of development which is ultimately built through its leaders.

With leadership and management course, managers learn:

  • The best strategies to keep employees engaged.
  • How to navigate difficult conversations and give effective feedback.
  • The importance of cultivating psychological safety among their teams.
  • How to be empathetic to best support the team during turbulent times.
  • Becoming an effective coach.

The World Economic Forum writes that leadership has to do with change and transformation, and in an era of evolution, it is essential to have the right skills to ignite and lead that change.

With the development of your team and the circumstances, the management role fundamentally shifts from managing to leading.

As outlined by John P. Kotter in his famous essay What Leaders Really Do, leadership is different from management.

Management is about coping with complexity. Its practices and procedures are primarily a response to the emergence of large, complex organizations in the twentieth century.

Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change. Part of the reason it has become so important in recent years is because the business world has become more competitive and more volatile. More change always demands more leadership.

Managers promote stability while leaders press for change, and only organizations that embrace both sides of that contradiction can thrive in turbulent times.

Leadership is not a replacement for management.

Many managers work on the traditional premises on assumptions that managing is about reducing risk, driving profit, or overseeing operations and processes meticulously.

But, the future of leadership is about managers who lead and coach rather than command and order.

While improving the manager’s ability to lead, companies should remember that strong leadership with weak management is no better and is sometimes actually worse than the reverse. The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other.

“Adversity does not build character; it reveals it,” – James Lane Allen.

This pandemic has proven to us that life is truly short. Employees are no longer willing to put up with poor working conditions or bad managers.

Similarly, nothing will drive your employees’ loyalty and engagement more than knowing their manager and boss cares for them as human beings and not just as a piece of the puzzle in their company.

As a leader, the COVID-19 pandemic is a defining moment, and if you don’t know how to show your employees you care, adequate leadership and management courses might be a good stepping stone.

Preparing your managers for the future

As we all know, COVID-19 has presented many challenges for the local economy.

With the “new normal” and the evolving crisis, startups need a plan to sustain their efforts and achieve their goals in the future. That’s why organizational preparedness is vital, starting with leadership and management courses.

“The most difficult part of a CEO, is the psychological part,” – Ben Horowitz.

Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things talks about how there is no recipe for challenging situations. And it’s true. Every company faces different internal and external challenges.

With startups, in particular, many founders start the company with boundless enthusiasm.

“The sky is open, the possibilities are endless, and success is inevitable.” Until reality hits and startups begin to struggle, the first hires start to leave; the company is not meeting its goals, clients are backing out, you get it.

Almost every startup has experienced these struggles. Whether it was at the early stages of the company or now because of the pandemic, having a solid team is essential to overcome such hurdles.

As Horowitz says, training people is one of the most valuable activities a company can do. It is a great and robust strategy to leverage the skillsets, and potential your start-up already has.

-> "Say you spend ten hours training a group of ten people, who collectively work 20,000 hours in their first year. If you improve their performance by 1%, you have converted 10 hours of your time into 200 hours of extra team productivity."

A well-prepared startup offers team leadership training, so its managers are well prepared to effectively evaluate ongoing changes while having the skills and ability to support its team members in difficult situations.

Four Key Functions of Effective Leaders

A well-prepared startup offers team leadership training, so its managers are well prepared to effectively evaluate ongoing changes while having the skills and ability to support its team members in difficult situations.

In a study of 300 self-managing teams of fortune 500 companies, Vanessa Urch Druskat and Jane V. Wheeler, two respectable university professors, studied both average and superior-performing leaders of self-directed teams.

They compiled the research to the key findings that made the most effective leaders of empowered teams.

They had four key functions which are:

1. Create strong relationships with the team and organization:

  • Foster an environment of psychological safety
  • Be socially and politically aware of the organizational dynamics
  • Build team trust
  • Lead with compassion and care for team members

2. They become a liaison for information, people and problems:

  • Seek information from other managers, peers, and specialists both as advice, technical knowledge ad general understanding.
  • Seek to understand team members behaviours, motivations, and actions, requiring leaders to have high levels of emotional intelligence
  • Investigate problems systematically utilizing an inquiry approach with internal team

3. Persuading and Influencing:

  • Advocating on behalf of their team to upper management and the broader organization to gain support on projects and changes.
  • Influencing the team, while not dictating, ordering, or taking back decision-making power

4. Empowering:

  • Delegating authority by giving more responsibility and decision making power 
  • Committing to Team decisions and exercising flexibility
  • Coaching team members to grow and learn to be more effective

These capabilities to coordinate and adapt, lead and empower, especially during uncertain times will help determine the future of any startup.

Ask yourself, are you finding yourself spread thin? Have you become an oversized individual contributor? Then you are limiting the ceiling of your leadership and the potential of your sustainable advantage.

Team leadership training will help managers lead their teams effectively for the remainder of COVID-19 and the post-pandemic world.

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