The Disciplines of Excellence During COVID-19

An excellence program is an organized approach to expanding the abilities of leaders; to help them deal with an ever-changing and challenging environment.

COVID-19 has changed almost everything about our personal and professional lives. Offices have been closed and are slowly reopening, and most people are trying to be productive while working from home.

During these troubling, stressful, and turbulent economic times, organizations must encourage their leaders to open their minds and take into account new (even outrageous) possibilities to help them succeed in their jobs—whatever those jobs might be. This same thinking applies to every level of the organization but is especially important for organization leaders.

Changing the rules helps people think outside of the box. If they’re leading a sales team, they might consider unusual outlets for their products or services. If they’re in operations, they may consider new avenues for cutting costs. If they’re leading in the customer service space, they might imagine new ways to satisfy customers. A receptive approach opens up the floor for all manner of possibilities.

9 Challenges Leaders Face

Although each leader has his or her own definition of excellence, and how best to achieve it, most can agree it is a never-ending pursuit. Leaders also tend to agree that whatever their challenges and opportunities are today, they’ll change tomorrow.

During COVID-19, leaders often face nine challenges:

1. Communication. Clarity enhances achievement. People respond to leaders who are crystal clear when communicating organizational objectives and the planned methods that will be used to achieve goals. Without this crucial first step, organizations falter. With it, and the steps that follow, organizations have the opportunity to succeed far beyond what they may have considered possible.

2. Accountability. Operational and financial measurements, plus distinct lines of responsibility, are mandatory if the organization is to stay on track with its plans. This extends from the very bottom of the organization to the very top. Everybody must be held accountable in order to achieve first-rate performance.

3. Engagement. People who are actively engaged in their jobs—and receive the help and direction they need—will be convinced their individual contributions are meaningful. They will extend their efforts to contribute to company success.

4. Alignment. Activities connected with the company’s mission and strategy assures that everybody in the organization understands the important yardsticks for company success. Alignment helps employees focus on the most important tasks at hand. Associating each employee’s job with company goals motivates them to reach just a little bit higher.

5. Direction. Along the same lines, direction is what keeps strategy, planning, and execution aligned. Without it, disconnects occur and what at first seemed a clear path becomes muddled.

6. Transition. People feel an inherent desire to “pass the torch” successfully but often have trouble doing it. Highly effective leaders keep all members (old and new) of the organization in touch.

7. Measurement and Control. Without management guidance, events can “feel” out of sync. The elements of control, both operational and financial, assure that the organization has the ability to quickly identify departures from the plan and take lasting corrective actions. A plan without measurement and control is no plan at all.

8. Frustration. Great leaders can sniff out problems before they get out of hand. Part of that comes from measurement and control, but that leaves out the adverse reaction employees experience when they do not have the means to handle their own work. Inadequate instructions are a leading cause, as is the inability of managers to clear roadblocks for the people working for them.

9. Risk Management. There’s a need, often unaddressed, for determining profit variability versus the projected growth rate. In most organizations, 80 percent of the problems (costs and headaches) are associated with 20 percent of the products and services offered. Left unattended, that 20 percent can severely restrict company growth.

An excellence program is an organized approach to expanding the abilities of leaders; to help them deal with an ever-changing and challenging environment. The program needs to grow with the business and enable leaders and their employees to align plans and activities to support the strategies and achieve stated goals. An excellence program will address all nine issues mentioned above.

Executive coach Jeff Wolf has been named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders for his accomplishments in leadership development and managerial effectiveness. He has been featured on NBC, CBS, CNBC, and Fox TV and is the author of the international best-seller, “Seven Disciplines of a Leader.” He may be reached in his San Diego office at 858.638.8260,, or

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