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I, along with the rest of the world, experienced my fair share of anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic — not the least of which came from leading a global company with boots-on-the-ground service focused through a lockdown. Leading the list of these challenges, one of my teams was stuck in Canada for more than eight months while we tried to navigate constantly-changing travel bans and uncertainty. But even within this dark cloud, we were able to find some silver lining. These employees, tied together by their unexpected separation from family, created their own familial bond and leaned on each other for support — humanity at its best.
Covid was, all things considered, a tragedy and stressful time for the entire world; but even for all the problems it brought, we saw businesses adapt, overcome and grow through adversity. It taught me that it’s important to look for (and see) the opportunities in every crisis. As innovative leaders in the 21st century, we have to be looking for ways to support and improve our businesses. Here are some ways the pandemic helped me do precisely that:
It’s almost cliche at this point, but the Covid-19 pandemic opened our eyes to how productive employees can be while working remotely. Granted, more self-discipline and never-before-thought-of communication processes were developed to improve interaction and productivity. Cloud-based collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting, which were originally leveraged mainly for geographically dispersed organizations, became indispensable for office workers who were outside the office.
The pandemic helped us discover new processes and communication systems that let our employees work on international projects completely remotely. An example of this is remote controls rooms for industrial facilities. These operational control rooms give us the opportunity to work remotely in a mine with no need to be on site. These new systems and communication processes helped us improve our internal communications in the organization. Our communications are now more streamlined, deliberate and clear, due to the unique problem set posed by Covid.
I believe Covid accelerated the business world’s migration into the cloud, as well as laid the foundations for tech businesses in particular to create some truly revolutionary tools. We’ve already mentioned remote work, but we’ve seen significant progress in online shopping, robotic delivery, and even streaming entertainment. In the mining industry, we’re watching the growth of several trends like drone usage, data collection, automated vehicles, digital twins and artificial intelligence. We’ve also seen significant new e-learning tools develop to continuously educate and keep our workforce at the forefront of the latest innovations. The interesting part? These are all technologies that have grown by leaps and bounds during the pandemic.
Re-emphasis on natural resources
At-home energy consumption increased drastically during the pandemic, which brought with it a renewed interest in the results of mining. Even though we’ve seen demand plateau, people saw the vital need that the mining industry fills in their everyday lives. We’ve seen delays at all layers of the supply chain, and that’s no different for mining, but the pandemic did open a lot of people’s eyes to just how critical raw resources are to their lives.
We need hobbies
Covid forced us to get back to basics in a lot of interesting ways. We saw the start of the Great Resignation, for one, where people started leaving their jobs en masse for different opportunities or out of necessity from pandemic life. People working from home started seeing into the daily lives of their co-workers in intimate ways, and a lot of us had more time and opportunities to spend with our families.
One thing I realized was how important it is that we find an engaging hobby. When the ennui from endless weeks at home starts to set in, sometimes the only thing keeping us sane is that new, fun skill we’re trying to master.
Engaged leadership is the key
Getting through the challenging times was an exercise in leadership more than almost anything else. We had to believe in our employees, our strategy, our business and keep a united positive front across the management team. Starting from the mindset of “we can,” it was simple to find creative solutions to problems. Another helpful mindset shift was to plan for change. When you’re expecting changes to occur, it makes handling them much simpler.
The key to seizing victory from the jaws of Covid was to use the fear and uncertainty to motivate us to bring out the best in our teams. The only thing that’s certain is that we live in an uncertain world, and the Covid-19 pandemic helped us embrace that.