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How adaptable leadership enabled transparent communication during the pandemic

Ria shares insights on the importance of adaptability in leadership and how it ties into helping commuication with employees during a pandemic.

How adaptable leadership enabled transparent communication during the pandemic

Adaptability is a key quality of a leader, but great leaders understand how to share this skill with their teams. And what better test for this than a pandemic?

For many companies, the arrival of Covid-19 brought about a change in day to day life and normal methods of communication. As a result, the search began for new working patterns and processes that would better suit employee’s changing circumstances. 

Whether it was a company of 3 or 3000, there was a shift in the way we communicated. However, with the loss of loved ones and the crutch of regularity and routine being swept away, employees, managers and leaders quickly began to realise the mental and emotional effect the pandemic was beginning to have. This was reflected in a report carried out by the Office for National Statistics that found that the proportion of the public experiencing anxiety had risen from 21% to 49.6% between the end of 2019 and March 2020.

It was time to adapt.


Suddenly, for many office-based workers, the friendly atmosphere that had once been a place to thrive or maybe escape to was transformed into a virtual space. Whilst the initial response was perhaps focused on continuing to work, successful leaders also prioritised the emotional wellbeing of their employees.

With the arrival of a new virus, fear is high and knowledge is lacking, therefore providing your team with dependable and transparent communication is key for easing anxiety. So how did the face-to-face environment of the office transform to a virtual space, whilst still recognising workers as people beyond the screen?

Transparent communication

At NKD, we recognise that there may be no set formula for these new ways of communicating and that instead, leaders need to become chameleons in the way they adapt and change to these new and uncertain times. Adaptability becomes the integral key for communication during a huge shift in company culture and employee engagement. So how have leaders been achieving this?

Brenda Schmidt, CEO of Coplex explained how transparency has been integral to adaptability and this transition, “When we began working remotely, we needed to be much more intentional about supporting our culture and staying connected while we were physically distanced. We also needed to overcommunicate with each other, as the informal office conversations no longer existed…” Rather than the usual hallway chats and short, sharp, sweet communications we were so used to, leaders like Schmidt understood that there was now a greater need for more frequent and transparent communication across their employess in their company.

But this adaptation wasn’t new for everyone. Tim Barber, cofounder of Growth Sites found familiarity in this format having worked remotely for years. However, even he was not immune as a leader to the ever shifting priorities of communication. 

“Whereas before, our conversations were centred mostly on work tasks, now there’s a new underlying current of care and concern for each other’s well-being”.

Barber’s adaptation to the never before seen aspects of the pandemic was key in demonstrating the importance of transparent communication and effective leadership.

How do you eat an elephant? Bit by bit.

What we can see in both Schmidt and Barber’s leadership is a ‘build on the go and adapt along the way’ approach. By prioritising the wellbeing of their workers over long term planning, they were able to keep the machine running to focus on the next task at hand, finding solutions bit by bit. 

Knowledge is power. At NKD, we recognise that from strong communication, we gain clarity and at a time like this, clarity is priceless. 

For more on our approach to leadership development click here.