With Thanksgiving just a week away here in the U.S., the list of things I’m thankful for keeps growing. Not to say there haven’t been challenges but reflecting on how things look now compared to a year ago gives me another reason to express gratitude.
Like many small businesses, in responding to the pandemic, our team at OMI had to work even harder than before. Especially since the economic and social impact directly affected the most important aspect of our work: data quality. We removed millions of invalid contacts across our industry-leading B2B database and made sure our B2B contact data maintained the high accuracy we stake our reputation on.
Today, however, I’m not writing about our data. I’m writing about something closer to my heart: our people at OMI, and how we’ve quickly adjusted the way we work together these past few years. The experience has made me really understand how leading through change is about leading people through change. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned navigating the pandemic as a small business owner.
The early days of the pandemic were “unprecedented” and “uncertain,” and even though those adjectives quickly became overused, they accurately described those first few weeks and months. No one really knew what was coming next, how long things would last or how they would change business for the long haul.
At OMI, I had to make big decisions quickly, like choosing to have my employees work from home, finding the best technology—like video conferencing and messaging channels—so we could communicate effectively, and figuring out daily processes for teams to keep working together when they weren’t together. It was a trial by fire, but I’m proud of the decisions that were made. And even if I didn’t get every little thing right every time, my team saw that I could be decisive and make choices with their best interest in mind using the information I had.
In challenging times, it can be hard to think of anything besides staying afloat. But as a leader, you’re only as good as your team. One of my top priorities was to make sure my team felt supported and safe during the pandemic. I made it a point to check in with them individually on a regular basis, to make sure everything was going well for them professionally—with their roles and responsibilities, physical work environment, and other adaptations—but also how things were going personally, especially in regard to mental and emotional health.
I try to keep a sense of calm within my business, and in my life overall. This principle helped tremendously when facing situations that were anything but calm. When there’s a culture of tension, anxiety or stress in the workplace it is not only dangerous for the mental health of your team, but for your business productivity, too. If a leader is overwhelmed and showing it, the team they lead will be less likely to share new ideas or ask the questions that need to be answered. But by staying level and approachable, leaders can encourage the kind of true collaborative teamwork needed to get through challenges together.
If you’re a marketer, keep marketing. If you’re a seller, keep selling. The point is, whatever you’ve been doing, keep doing it. I wrote a few blog posts about this early in the pandemic from the business perspective, that while many people had to pivot, there were still ways to move forward and it was important to keep marketing. But it’s also important from the leadership aspect.
Your team needs consistent guidance when things are rocky. It’s something my staff has told me that they appreciated at OMI. Chris Lelles on our team relayed to me that it was reassuring to have steady leadership during such a tumultuous time.
The pandemic no doubt brought many professional, economic and social challenges. It would have been easy to focus on the change in terms of what we’ve lost. But shifting that mentality and choosing gratitude not only improves your own perspective but has a positive trickle-down effect to your whole team.
Leading through the pandemic, I cared about my business and knew I had to steer my company properly, but I also cared about the wellbeing of my team. I’m grateful for the business success OMI has achieved, but also for the team we’ve built. Chris shared with me that he was grateful we all prioritized each other throughout the pandemic.
I’ve had many jobs over the years: I’ve worked for small businesses, big businesses and my own business since starting OMI in 1998. The opportunity to lead a team of talented, hardworking professionals is an experience that I am grateful for daily – and maybe more today than ever before.
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