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Leading In The New Normal

In the history of the automotive aftermarket, there has never been a greater demand for optimism and empathy.

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John Passante is a broad-based senior executive with over 30 years of extensive organizational development and senior human resource experience with progressive corporations involved in multiple locations, both domestic and international.

As each of us enter the door marked “New Normal” in today’s automotive aftermarket, the call goes out to leaders to be our guardians. A good first step is to in fact acknowledge that things are different. Each of us, to one degree or another, have dealt with stress and there is the desire to rejoin the comfort of working in a supportive and understanding organization. We will look to leaders to be there for us.

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The company culture guard rails are:

• A keen awareness of the needs of others given the experience of the past 18 months;

• Self-reflection;

• Awareness to lead differently;

• Practice of servant leadership;

• Transparency;

• Openness; and

• Consistency in decision making and communication.

The true calling to leaders is to decrease the number of employees who have limiting self-beliefs and low self-confidence. Leaders today are walking into a “New Normal” and will have to navigate differently. I think it is fair to say that employees will expect more from their leaders. Perhaps more understanding likewise, leaders will expect more understanding from employees as well.

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As the saying goes, we are in the new normal together. Given the current situation, there is no way to over-communicate. Open the door wide to discuss challenges, concerns and feelings. The right words from leadership can allay employees fears like nothing else, so it is worth the time to truly connect. This is the power of the human touch!

In the history of the automotive aftermarket, there has never been a greater demand for optimism and empathy. It is the time for leaders to embrace their inner empath. Employee stress is high, contacting employees each day goes a long way to reducing stress, sincere care will always make a positive difference, and as always, kindness goes a long way. Leaders should engage in self-reflection. Self-awareness helps us understand others better and aids in the leader’s own self-growth. The pandemic experience has challenged each of us to be resilient adaptable and patient to change with indeed little notice.

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Leaders in the new normal need to acknowledge and embrace these so-called soft skills (people skills). Employees want to work for authentic leaders with a high level of equal emotional intelligence. The actions of the leader should align with the company’s values and mission statement. Honesty carries the day. Leaders are human, and as humans should share how they feel. The months have been an emotional journey, a rollercoaster if you will, for all of us.

More than ever leaders need to create an environment of belonging and care. Moreover, a company’s mission matters, and customer care should also be a priority alongside care for your employees, make them care about the mission as well. Leadership entails faith: faith in yourself and faith in others.

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It is critical that leaders remain optimistic about the future; without sugar coating the present, and always be brutal about issues and problems. Transparency with the truth enhances trust. Leadership and life are most certainly not spectator sports. The experiences of the past year or so have undoubtedly given us all a lesson in need and the benefits of collaboration.

We are working toward a common goal – getting back to normal! The road to the new normal has no shortcuts and calls for a unified collective effort to drive the organization forward. A true shared experience. The way forward requires a strategic, thoughtful, human and compassionate approach to leadership. Now is the time to re-think the role of leadership and engage in effective ways to inspire employees in these times of uncertainty and change.

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The new normal gives all of us in the automotive aftermarket a rallying point! We are in this together; the best is yet to come. The experience of the past 18 months has taught us all that we are responsible to each other.

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