If you are leading a global team today, odds are you have teammates around the world experiencing a whole new reality. Recent world events have made us aware, perhaps now more than ever before, of our global connectedness and interdependence.  For many multinational companies, it is the connection of people across borders and cultures that is their strength. 

Covid-19 creates an experience for both global and domestic companies that is unlike anything ever seen and highlights why Global Diversity and Inclusion is more important now than ever before. Rather than a simultaneous global event, it is one experienced in waves, first by some regions and then by others. Global leaders not only have to navigate a rapidly changing and complex situation but have to respond just-in-time to a wide swath of employee needs and experiences. Valuing the diversity of experience enables leaders to respond with relevance and compassion.

In the case of Covid-19, there is a small window of opportunity for global leaders to leverage the experiences of employees in “first wave” regions like China in order to prepare the rest of the company. With inclusive leadership, companies will come out stronger, better able to navigate the future, and team members will feel valued and cared for in the process – especially those who experienced Covid-19 first.

How do leaders leverage the experience of colleagues who have experienced the impact of Covid-19 first, while also communicating to them that they are valued? 

Here are four ways to consider: 

First, recognize their experience 

Recognize the teams and the individuals who went through the Covid-19 disruption before others.

Determine who the people were who stepped in or stepped up – even if they weren’t the assigned leaders – to lead the effort as it happened. Recognize that these people have something to offer the rest of the team and that their experience can benefit the rest of the company. Their experience counts. It has inherent value.

Second, ask for their advice 

Find out what these colleagues believe went well in the company response. Ask them what they recommend should be repeated.  Gain their insights on what should be done differently. Find out what they know now that they wished they knew then. These team members have the 2020 hindsight that the rest of us all wish we had. Use it for the benefit of the company and remember to listen –  truly listen – since new ideas and innovation will emerge from unlikely places.

Third, build on what they learned

After you gain their wisdom, determine what they did that you can enhance and repeat. Use their experience to make the company stronger and better equipped to respond to the challenges ahead. Don’t forget to continue using them as a resource.  If you want real engagement and innovation keep the lines of communication open. And don’t forget to circle back around and tell them what action you took. Many times leaders ask for input, make the decision and never reconnect with employees.

Fourth, acknowledge their contribution 

As “first responders” these teammates have knowledge that the rest of the team doesn’t have. When you act in improved ways because of their advice or guidance, let the whole company know. These are the colleagues who walked into uncharted waters and the way the company responds and acts in better ways today is, in part, thanks to them.  When we thank and put the spotlight on others, we spark a level of engagement that is contagious and powerful.

Recognize, request, build and acknowledge – doing this will strengthen your organization and make your global teams cross borders like never before. Our approach to every project and organization is about getting to know you, understanding what “global” means to your company, and then helping you chart a course toward a Consciously Global future.

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