Employee experience has certainly met some hard knocks during the global pandemic. Numerous forces have made it harder to communicate with colleagues, nurture staff members, feel recognized for your hard work and sacrifices, be confident in your job security, and much more. For customer experience as well, the pandemic has required a lot of patience, with lingering uncertainty due to supply chain issues, workforce interruptions, and so on.
Nonetheless, there is a silver lining to gray clouds. Granted, it may take time to discover and appreciate your silver lining. One way to rise above all this adversity is to dig-in to Joseph Michelli’s recent book, Stronger Through Adversity: World-Class Leaders Share Pandemic-Tested Lessons on Thriving During the Toughest Challenges. Michelli is well-known for his books about companies such as Airbnb, Mercedes-Benz, Ritz Carlton, Starbucks, and Zappos.
Keys to employee experience and customer experience are essentially understanding and meeting expectations. When you’re juggling so much extra change during a crisis, it’s less likely you’ll succeed in understanding and meeting their expectations. The more resilient you are, the better things will be for employees and customers, and in turn, for your rewards.
Some of the silver linings we’re seeing already are faster digitalization, greater attention to employees’ needs, higher sensitivity to diversity and inclusion, acknowledgement that contingency plans are vital, and more options for getting work done and getting things as customers. Certainly, we should have already been doing these things without being forced to do so through a global crisis. Still, we’ve made strides, and we can build even higher and more broadly with further resilience.
As Ghandi said, “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” This new book is an inspirational guide for anyone during any circumstance: managers, non-managers, executives, first responders, heads of households, etc. It’s especially useful for inspiration to overcome tough circumstances: how do we learn, adapt and lead in a post-pandemic world. It contains 140 interviews with people in public safety, non-profit organizations, and businesses of all types. Each chapter of the book includes practical sections: a breath of insight, resilience recap, your strength plan with exercises for self reflection, discussions with others, and application to your leadership, family, and business.
In my talk show with Michelli, one listener said their go-to leadership trait is “actively listening to employees and soliciting inputs from stakeholders”. Michelli agreed wholeheartedly with the importance of this trait, saying: “A metaphor in the book is called Lead Front-Middle-Back and it’s about horse herds, where the alpha mare leads the herd and the alpha sire guiding the herd from the back, and there are horses in the herd shaping herd behavior. During a crisis, often you need to be right there in the herd listening. Sometimes you need to be in the back, to make sure you don’t mute or color or influence what the group is telling you, so you truly solicit the input of your team.”
The book has five sections that build your competence for rising above adversity:
1. Set the Foundation (i.e. self-care is not selfish)
2. Build Connections
3. Move with Purpose
4. Harness Change
5. Forge the Future
Related to the topic of adversity and resilience is one of my favorite quotes from James C. Morgan, former chair of Applied Materials, where I worked for 11 years. He said “Good news is no news, no news is bad news, and bad news is good news.” This quote resonated well with our engineers and managers who recognized that early warning signals from customer and employee insights are a gift, allowing us to make changes proactively, before it was too late.
Now that we’ve all experienced a lengthy hardship, let’s make the most of it by maximizing our lessons learned. Let’s tap into the collective wisdom from this adversity to benefit employee experience, customer experience, family, friends, and ourselves.
Hear Joseph Michelli describe his approach and book highlights in the recording of our talk show. A portion of the book’s proceeds go to a non-profit to help people on the front-lines.