2020 has been a period of unprecedented change in all aspects of our lives, from how we interact with friends and family, to how we run our businesses and organisations.
At Livingston James, we understand that great leaders must be adaptable, ready to respond positively to this period of disruption. As such, we are launching our ‘Recognising Potential in a Crisis’ series.
In this series, we connect with the CEOs of Scottish organisations across sectors to find out how they are using this period of evolution to reimagine their own potential, and that of their organisation, to have the greatest impact.
The next CEO to feature in our series is Andrew Devlin, chief executive of Curtis Moore Ltd, the industrial and commercial roofing and cladding contractor.
During the pandemic, many organisations have accomplished what had previously been thought impossible. What have you learnt about yourself through the crisis so far?
It’s not so much what I have learned about myself, but about my staff and colleagues in general. Prior to lockdown, the thought of remote working and virtual meetings was very much not a part of our business plans and model. In the first week of lockdown there was a genuine fear as to how we would cope and work under such unusual conditions. Over the following weeks I was astounded at how we all adapted and there was a definite camaraderie formed which saw us through difficult times. Lessons learned throughout lockdown will change how we view certain activities going forward and the positives of the lockdown will be remembered more than the negatives.
What beliefs or deep-rooted assumptions have had to reset in your organisation to ensure your business is still moving forward?
Being in construction, for the first time in a long time we can say that we are fortunate to be in this sector. Whilst Covid has given us logistical issues, we have still on the whole been able to work. I would reiterate that a dedicated staff, prepared to overcome challenges has been the backbone of our success at coming through these difficult times. Going forward we will be continuing flexible and remote working as part of the ‘new norm’.
In your opinion, what changes would you implement into the organisation for the future, and do you believe they will alter the CEO’s day to day activities?
Remote meetings, less business travel, remote working, and a flexible approach to the staff and workforce. We will also look at our disaster recovery plans to prepare for God forbid, any similar issues which could impact the business.
Do you feel your own leadership style evolved or changed during this time?
Our board immediately formed a board communications link and we communicated very frequently on Teams meetings in the early days of lockdown. These meetings were Covid and business sustainability related, rather than operational and planning. As CEO my active day-to-day involvement was less over recent years, however I stepped in to the helm to lead the team as required. What became very apparent early on, was that my team had come a long way since we formed the executive board, and this situation gave them an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership and management qualities.
What personal qualities have you found most effective when guiding your leadership team and wider business through the uncertainty, and why do you think those qualities have been prevalent over others?
Being understanding and considering other people’s situations. Whilst the main board and management continued to work, I was mindful to ensure that any staff on furlough were communicated with on a regular basis to check on their well-being and remind them of their importance. I am a people person, and I suppose my people skills kicked in to just rally the team on a regular basis.
Beyond role modelling, what advice would you give other CEOs when influencing and encouraging their leadership group to expand their networks, increase their learnings and resilience and share best practice with their peers across other industries, particularly when a large percentage of face to face interaction has been replaced by technology?
Communication is key and lockdown made this point even more visible. All too often people ‘hide’ behind emails. MS Teams and Zoom created an environment which put suppliers, clients, and consultants at ease, seeing them operate in their relaxed home environment. I genuinely feel that our client relationships were made stronger by remote interaction, taking into consideration the circumstances. Nothing will replace face to face and a handshake, however there have been a lot of positive things to come out of this terrible global situation.
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