Three lessons for leading through change.

Salil Sadanandan, President – KOHLER Brand South Asia, Middle East & Sub-Saharan Africa, Gurugram, India

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As we face the many challenges 2020 has presented, we can be discouraged. Or we can be inspired. The challenges present an opportunity for change and growth on so many levels, but it starts with each one of us.

For me, it has been learning to lead through the changes, the crises, the necessary evolutions. They say good leadership comes from difficult situations, but it’s not that simple—the real secret is having a great team beside you. I’m fortunate to lead a really bold bunch of people who have not only risen to the occasion with creativity and determination but have taught me so much about leading through change with success and grace.

Here are three key lessons they’ve shown me:

Adapt to the changing world. When we set out for 2020, our business strategies looked very different than they do today. Needless to say, a global pandemic presented extraordinary roadblocks to continuing business as usual—so we didn’t. Instead of stubbornly sticking with the original plan, my talented team embraced the post-COVID world. Without missing a beat, they hosted our first-ever virtual Kohler Bold Talks, a series of discussion we host each year to discuss current design trends. This online edition featured international design experts sharing their perspectives on “Design for Wellbeing,” as we began to anticipate the current and future needs of our consumers.

Always have a Plan B (and C, D, E). In business, the consumer comes first, even in dire circumstances. With quarantines and lockdowns in place, our front-line technical associates struggled to physically visit consumer’s homes…and our industry-best turnaround time suffered. But our indefatigable team wasn’t okay with that. On day 1 of lockdown, they set up remote DIY desks and contacted our consumer base to let them know that they were still here to help. Working from their homes and remote areas, our technical team was able to assist consumers via video calls and solve more than a third of the issues without a home visit. Their quick ability to move to Plan B is such an inspiration to me.

Don’t just listen to your people, learn from them. Inspiration trickles from the top down, they say. In my experience, it’s been quite the opposite—especially in times of crisis. My team spans countries, backgrounds, races, political parties and everything else you can think of. I have been able to learn so much in business, and in life, by having tough conversations with them. Listening to their stories, their experiences, their struggles and triumphs. And then learning from them, applying those lessons and taking action to do and be better for my team. Compassion, empathy and understanding can go a long way.

What have you learned as a leader? What would you like your own leader to know?

They say good leadership comes from difficult situations, but it’s not that simple—the real secret is having a great team beside you. —Salil Sadanandan

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