Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Adaptability:  A Key Leadership Trait in the Pandemic (and Always)

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I always enjoyed it when a team member demonstrated adaptability by willingly pivoting to a different task on a project, or moving to a completely different effort all together – all with a positive attitude and approach. Adaptability can be looked at as effectively adjusting to changing conditions. It’s important for team members to be able to be adaptable, but it’s critical for leaders to be able to adjust to changing conditions, especially during the pandemic we are experiencing.
My wife Tammy and I enjoying eating out a lot. We also enjoy having pizza delivered to our home. I’ve observed three types of adaptability regarding food service providers during the past several weeks – No, Slow and Go.

No Adaptability – In my state, we went under a “stay at home” order on March 22. Since that date, we have not been able to eat inside restaurants in Illinois. Restaurants were only allowed to serve customers via drive-thru lanes, delivery service or curbside pickup. Some restaurants that had not previously provided carryout or delivery service, didn’t adapt and just decided to close their doors. Some of those establishments have since announced that they were closing permanently. I wonder how many more will close permanently before this is all over.
Also in this category are businesses that have not adapted by taking all of the recommended safety precautions. An example is an ice cream shop in town that also sells food (burgers, etc.). My wife went recently through their drive thru lane, and was stunned to find that the person handing her the food was wearing neither a mask nor gloves. We haven’t been back there since.

Slow Adaptability – Some businesses initially remained closed, only later to open with limited menus and carryout service, curbside pickup or delivery. An example of this is our local Cracker Barrel. They initially were closed, but within a few weeks, began offering curbside pickup service. Even though they already had carryout service, I assume they needed time to develop processes to handle the curbside pickup service, as they had not previously offered it.   But their menu no longer included mashed potatoes?!
Some restaurants began advertising on television, telling their customers that they were open for carryout, curbside or delivery service. Some quick service restaurants, such as Arby’s, began advertising that their food was being delivered. All kinds of food service providers began offering delivery service through firms such as Door Dash, Uber Eats and Grubhub. One company, Papa John’s Pizza, advertised “No Contact” delivery for “extra safety and peace of mind” of their customers.

Go Adaptability – Some businesses demonstrated innovation as they adapted to the changing conditions. Our local Chick-fil-A, with all personnel wearing masks and gloves, continued to operate two drive-thru lanes, with personnel taking orders outside as the cars proceeded through the lanes. But then, Chick-fil-A decided to improve service further by adding a third drive thru lane – that’s right, three drive thru lanes. This took leadership, innovation and additional coordination, but the lines, even during peak periods, continued to move at a good pace.   Another good example is Bob Evans Restaurants quickly shifted to delivering 3 meals a day, and doing it well, without delivery fees.
These are just a few examples of how one industry – restaurants – have adjusted to the changing conditions in my town. My guess is that many restaurants are doing all they can to hold on during the pandemic and various stages of shutdown and recovery. Most areas of the state will soon be allowed to offer socially distanced outdoor dining, creating another opportunity for leaders to show their adaptability.

How have you seen restaurants in your area demonstrating adaptability – be it No, Slow or Go?

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

One thought on “Adaptability:  A Key Leadership Trait in the Pandemic (and Always)

  1. I joined a FB group, Blo-No Curbside Restaurants, that provides a ways for patrons to support local restaurants on social media, and also a means for those restaurants to advertise daily specials and changes in hours/offerings/types of service. What I have been REALLY impressed with, though, is the group self-moderates: absolutely NO negative comments are allowed whatsoever. Several people have posted complaints of one kind or another, and invariably someone else will tell them to delete the post and either put it on their own FB page, or better yet, take up their complaint with the restaurant itself. I think doing that – maintaining/enforcing positivity on social media – takes leadership courage.

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