How Asian organisations can navigate through the ‘new normal’

In a recent interview with the Center for Creative Leadership, 20 CXOs across Asia identified the six paradoxes around people and business to be navigated in order to successfully overcome COVID-19.
By: | May 6, 2020

Leadership will be the key differentiator between organisations that come out stronger and those that will suffer and perish, said 20 C-suite leaders (CXOs) across Asia.

In a recent interview with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), the CXOs also shared six paradoxes around people and business that Asian leaders must navigate, and the essential skills needed to win the ‘second set’ against COVID-19.

Slow down, go fast

Leaders may feel compelled to take immediate and sometimes drastic actions, but may need to pause. Evaluate the situation, measure the potential damage and possible options, advised one CXO, while another urged leaders to go back to the drawing board and revisit what the organisation had set out to achieve, and if they are able to do that in the new world.

High tech, human touch

In today’s work-from-home (WFH) climate, employees have learnt to embrace virtual collaboration platforms, and organisations are readily accepting that virtual conversations can be as productive as physical meetings.

However, a high-tech environment should not compromise the human touch, said a HR leader in India. “It is not an either-or situation; technology and human touch must not only co-exist but thrive together.

Axe the fat, preserve muscle

With a global recession an inevitability as a result of COVID-19, organisations have already slipped into an introspection mode. They have begun to evaluate who is ‘essential’ in the organisation, and who has the necessary growth mindset to thrive in a new world that may require a different skill set, shared the ex-CEO of a bank in Malaysia.

Companies are also questioning the merits of maintaining large high-end offices in prime locations, while CCL expects technology costs to emerge as business-critical investments.

Globalise digital, localise profit

As the world becomes increasingly digitised, organisations need to turn their focus from cross-border movement of goods to cross-border movement of data, information and capital.

Both Asian organisations and economies will need to pivot quickly to include more digital products and services in their portfolio. And as the economic power balance shifts from West to East, Asian leaders need to strategise, contextualise and roll out global plans for Asia and the rest of the world.

Embrace flexibility, enhance control

A ‘new normal’ is likely to emerge from the shadow of COVID-19, as mindsets towards telecommunicating are re-shaped. “Telecommuting is working very well, and there seems to be no big hit on productivity,” shared an HR leader.

A Singapore-based CXO said that even if 30% of people telecommute post COVID-19, it would still be a huge mindset leap from the traditional rate of 5-10%. While leaders will need to trust their teams around work ethics, people must also show enhanced accountability and maintain productivity.

Empathise, display tough love

Besides the natural health concerns arising from COVID-19, leaders have also had to allay employee fears over salary cuts and layoffs.

While leaders must be empathetic, they must also subtly enforce the new rules of engagement. Employees must understand that they will need to stretch and take personal onus for making the organisation succeed.

These, according to CCL, include developing newer capabilities, working extra hours, displaying customer centricity and helping win incremental business.