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The New CEO

How the Pandemic Changed the Game

By Rene Wisely

Pursuing her purpose led Priscilla Archangel, Ph.D., to entrepreneurship. After retiring in 2013 from General Motors, where she had a 30-year career as a human resources executive, Archangel founded her own firm, Archangel and Associates LLC. She is an executive coach, a leadership and organizational development consultant, an author of two books, a speaker and a teacher.

Her passion is developing leaders. She helps strengthen their leadership and problem-solving skills to help them nurture stronger, profitable businesses and organizations.

Archangel lends her talents to her volunteer groups. She is a member of her alma mater Anderson University’s Board of Trustees in Indiana. She is a new member to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Member Board of Directors and is past president National Association of Women Business Owners–Greater Detroit Chapter.

Her skills have been more in-demand since COVID-19 hit. And the advice she offers is different now. Today’s workplace is more complex, as is the role of a CEO, who is more of a high-level integration manager and social listener. What do CEOs and other C-suite leaders need to know to thrive in this foreign landscape? Archangel sat down with Detroiter to provide insight.

WHAT DOES A CEO NEED TO DO TO GET OVER ANY COVID HUMPS TO MAKE CONNECTIONS AGAIN?

The biggest competency that CEOs need right now from an emotional intelligence standpoint is empathy. That is really caring for and trying to understand where your employees are coming from. … You’ve got to just take time and talk to your team. Spend time with them and be transparent about how you are dealing with the pandemic emotionally.

COVID-19 HAS BEEN STRESSFUL FOR EVERY LEVEL OF WORKER. WHAT’S UNIQUE TO A CEO?

What’s unique to a CEO is the unpredictability of everything. I mean, let’s face it, there was a lot that we thought we could predict in the past. You could forecast consumer trends and production schedules. We had a history that had enough stability to predict the future. … And now I think the future is highly unpredictable because everything is so off kilter. …In the context of CEOs, one of their roles is to mitigate risk. Well, the risks are humongous now in areas where they have little to no control.

HOW DOES THE CEO GET BRAVE ENOUGH TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION FOR THIS UNCERTAINTY?

Often it’s not so much about making the right decision, but about making a reasonable decision for the moment, and moving the team forward until you have greater clarity on a better decision. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Stay flexible and adaptable.

WHY IS PURPOSE SO IMPORTANT FOR A LEADER?

I believe every person is born with a purpose and there’s a saying that there are two important days in your life. The day you’re born and the day you find out why. The time in which you find out why evolves over a period of years for your life. You’re discovering and understanding your sweet spot and where you operate best. …Leaders, CEOs have to focus on it and understand their employees have their own purpose and passion. Leverage it. Let us help you grow in that area while you are working for us.

HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE YOUR EMPLOYEES’ PURPOSE AND PASSION?

It starts at the top with the CEO, showing his or her C-suite leadership team that you care about them, recognizing their strengths, valuing their ideas, valuing their thoughts, letting them work in the areas where they will shine the most. Then you encourage them to use the same behavior at the next level. You bake it into the culture of the organization.

ARE THERE SKILLS THAT A LEADER SHOULD NEVER USE DURING OR POST-PANDEMIC?

It would be confrontational, coercive behaviors. As a leader, you should be more coaching oriented. You should be encouraging and mobilize people toward a vision.

WHAT’S THE GREATEST LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM COVID?

I think in general it was the need to pause and let your team know you appreciate them.

Rene Wisely is a freelance writer in Metro Detroit.