Originally published by Trade Show Executive
One of the most common ways to initiate a conversation is to ask, How are you doing? These days, that question seems to have taken on a much deeper meaning. For executive leadership, the “you” in question often refers to their team members, stakeholders and the overall state of their organization. As we strive to maintain order and balance during this pandemic, I have found myself earnestly asking my colleagues, How are you doing?
I have noticed a few recurring themes in their responses as they discuss their leadership strategies during this challenging time in which we find ourselves. I would like to share these with you because I find them to be a source of comfort and inspiration as we persevere to rebound from the effects that COVID-19 has had on our industry.
Strength. One of the main goals for any leader is to remain strong in the face of adversity. It is important to lead with purpose, especially when navigating the level of uncertainty we are currently experiencing. In times of crisis, the element of trust is crucial to keeping a workforce engaged and for creating a strong foundation to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. Taking the time to connect with your team, understand their concerns and incorporate these into current organizational culture helps to build the organization-wide fortitude that will be needed throughout the process. Industry leaders must be bold and proactive in their decision-making to convey the strength their workforce will draw upon for their own convictions.
Focus. Arm yourself with as much information from your management teams as possible so you have a clear understanding of the internal and external factors impacting the organization. Establish an ongoing procedure for reassessing changing needs so that concise, meaningful goals can be consistently met. Difficult times require using resources wisely, and team leaders are tasked with engaging their direct reports accordingly. The learn-as-you-go pace can get chaotic, therefore some executive leaders have turned to diversifying their teams and creating task forces to identify new trends and growth opportunities.
Transparency. Troubled times often call for re-prioritizing strategic goals and objectives. Leaders inevitably find themselves having to change directions – quickly and often – in order to adapt to the organization’s most pressing needs. The process of building trust directly involves maintaining transparency with your team. Executive leaders need to be open with their team members, even when it comes to sharing difficult news. Transparency contributes to a shared sense of belonging, which is important when supporting your workforce’s overall sense of well-being. It also opens the door to collaboration and encourages team members to step up to the plate when challenges are presented.
Positivity. Executive leaders owe it to their team members and stakeholders to stay strong, focused, realistic and yes, positive. By taking a people-centered approach to dealing with crisis, we are able to infuse empathy and support into a difficult situation. The only way to overcome the blow dealt to our industry by COVID-19 is to cling to the long-standing value that each and every member of our industry has brought to it. Our industry is one that cares about its people – a reality that was in place before the pandemic and one that will remain long after. We are accustomed to supporting each other and working together to innovate and advance exhibitions and events. This intrinsic quality held our industry in a growth state for years leading up to the pandemic, and will serve to lift us back to where we need to be as quickly as we can get there.
Communication. Each aforementioned leadership strategy requires clear and frequent communication, which is fairly commonplace under normal circumstances but even more important in times of crisis. By staying firmly and fully connected, executive leaders are letting each and every team member know that they are 100 percent in the trenches during this difficult time; they are letting each and every stakeholder know they are at the top of their game during this unprecedented challenge; and they are letting the rest of the world know that the exhibitions and events industry will overcome.
We look forward to welcoming our industry’s leaders to Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition taking place 8-10 December 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky (www.myexpoexpo.com). I will discuss the virtual and in-person hybrid format we will be implementing at Expo! Expo! in next month’s issue, so stay tuned!
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO