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Handling Uncertainty When Leading

Over the last months we have been faced with arguably the greatest challenge of our professional careers. A challenge that has wreaked havoc on global economies and fundamentally changed the way we work and communicate with one another. We have had to adjust and adapt. The need to work together, as a team, has never been greater despite the physical distance between us.

Uncertainty is also linked to technology, and the ferocious rate of change in recent years has forced us to become more mobile and more agile. We know that what worked yesterday is no longer a guarantee of success tomorrow.

Communication, communication, communication

The current situation, however, has proved to be a timely reminder of the importance of being prepared for the worst. Unforeseen disruptions call for robust, flexible organizations with strong capacities in the areas of people, processes, and technology. Until recently, mobility was considered a competitive advantage – it is now a pre-requisite for survival.

One thing which became quickly evident from the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was the importance of open communication and transparency. We were tasked with difficult decisions throughout, but we were committed to keep our employees informed at every point. It was important that everyone understood why we were taking the decisions we took. We set up the Situation Control Committee, coordinated by our Leadership Team, to lead this effort. It allowed us to listen and understand employees worries and doubts, addressing them directly. I am extremely proud of our employees: their professionalism and resilience was a major positive during such a complicated time.

Moreover, to focus minds, we continued to emphasize the importance of concentrating on longer-term goals. With a short-term mindset it is all too easy to feel overwhelmed; it is important to acknowledge that the situation will pass, and new opportunities will arise. Together we must look optimistically towards the future.

Controlling the controllable

It is clear that the uncertainty will not end post-COVID. In fact, uncertainty in the world is one of the few things we can actually be certain of.

In uncertain times we must continue to focus on controlling the controllable: At Kyocera that means unwavering quality, reliability, customer-focused innovation, and the delivery of real solutions with a human touch. These are the standards we set for ourselves every single day, in every interaction with our partners and customers. Regardless of the market conditions we find ourselves at any moment in time, these standards form the framework for sustainable success.

Those who fear change are destined to fail when changes do come around. We must control uncertainty by being certain of who we are, what we are trying to achieve, and why we are great at what we do.

During turbulent times, it is only natural for people to become distracted with what’s going on in the world around them, especially during a situation as serious a global pandemic. Employee well-being was something we paid particular attention given the complexity of the situation at hand, a time where we were all concerned for the welfare of our families and loved ones.

To create a culture that embraces change, employees must be given the freedom to take risks and accept mistakes. Failing fast and learning fast will be fundamental to growth in the digital age. We must be proactive and flexible, bold, and fearless. Challenging conventional wisdom is important – we cannot keep doing things a certain way simply because that is the way it has always been done.

Key to this is strong leadership. Leading by example. Successful leaders will be those who work alongside their teams, communicate openly, and leading from the front when it comes to new projects. Humble leaders are those who are not afraid to admit mistakes. The days of the all-powerful leader who is always right are long gone.

People-driven success

As was the case prior to the pandemic, human capital is what makes organizations great. The blend of ideas, backgrounds, experiences and the bonds that form great teams are what separate good organizations from the great. The sharing of visions, goals and a common set of values are what will help companies to not only navigate this particularly complicated period of uncertainty, but it will also form the base for sustainable success going forward.

Companies who opt for short-term goals in order to limit the impact of COVID-19 on this year’s balance sheets may help to paper over the cracks, but the cracks still remain. Organizations who take care of their people, those who nurture and reward them, are built to last.

It is apparent that the pandemic will continue to be a part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future. I firmly believe that we need to get out of “COVID-19 mode”; if we wait for “normality” to resume, we will be left behind. The Kyocera I know does not wait; it leads.

Not all companies will bounce back stronger; many will struggle for years to come. Others will not survive. We are at a juncture where we, as a company, must decide who we are going to be. Do we allow the negativity around us to affect how we work, or do we embrace this period of unprecedented change as an opportunity to lay the foundations for tremendous growth and success?

In almost 25 years at Kyocera I have seen first-hand the resilience and will-to-win spirit that gives me the answer to this question. This all goes back to the sentiments of our founder, Dr Inamori: “No matter how painful or strenuous challenges may be, we must burn with a fierce fighting spirit determined to follow through and succeed at all costs.”

It is that fighting spirit that will drive us to work smarter, as one, to prepare for a promising future.

Óscar Sánchez
President & CEO
KYOCERA Document Solutions America, Inc.

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