As we work our way through this pandemic, and by all indications so far, it looks like we are about to enter a second wave.
As such, it is important to ensure that as a leader, you can lead your company through this entire crisis.
There are many ideas that are out there, to help you work your way through this crisis. I’m sure you have seen a few of them.
I have done a lot of reading and research about how highly skilled leaders, and what ideas they are using and implementing to help get through this crisis.
Plus, I have lived and worked through many crises in my 45+ years in business. From stagflation in the 70’s, to 22% interest rates in the early 80’s, to a government caused recession in the early 90’s, Y2K, 9-11, the great recession a decade ago, and now this pandemic.
Here are four ideas I have come across that make sense to me, and I wanted to share them with you to hopefully help your situation, if it is needed.
The four areas of leadership most leaders focused on are; Listen, Learn, Communicate, and Lead.
The first thing you must do in a crisis is listen. You must listen to everyone you can, both inside and outside your company, so you can understand how important and unsettling the crisis is to everyone.
You especially need to listen to your front-line people, the ones who interact with your customers. These people include your sales people, marketers, customer service and executives. They may also include any consultants, you may utilize in your business, with customer contact.
It is important to understand the impact the crisis is having on everyone in your company, but also how it is affecting all stakeholders in your company.
These can include; your suppliers so that you know you can get supplies when you need them. A great example of unpreparedness is how hospitals were short of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for their staff, when this pandemic first arose.
Stakeholders also include your employees obviously, and possibly your Board of Directors, if you have one. It can also include investors.
As the leader of your company, or even a division, it is vitally important you get feedback from everyone, so you can understand the full impact of the crisis on your business.
This may sound very much like listen, but has very different implications.
When I say listen to everyone, depending on the size of your company, it obviously doesn’t mean you have to listen directly to everyone in your company. You need to delegate to your direct reports what their people are saying and feeling. And they will then convey those results to you as the leader.
In fact, as a leader you should always be learning, but it is especially important in a crisis, because a good predictor of success is learnability.
Some of the things you want to learn about are, how to:
• Keep people safe,
• Change operating procedures if needed,
• Earn the right to help your clients,
• Look at what you can invest in both in your products and services, and especially your people,
• Get comfortable having an uncomfortable conversation,
• Get the best out of your people,
Especially learn how your people think and feel going through this.
You need to be open and give your people the truth. You want to let them know they are safe. If you have to lay some people off, most governments have been accommodating and paying at least a portion of wages while we get though this pandemic.
It is very important to be authentic, you don’t have to be charismatic. There are many great leaders who have not been charismatic, but led by example. I think of Jack Welch of GE, and Bill Gates of Microsoft.
There should be more talk about culture and less talk about strategy. You want to talk about purpose and not about strategy at this time, so you can operate as a team.
Look at the why questions,
• Why do we work here?
• Why do we care?
• Why are we in business?
• Why do our customers buy from us?
People will also want to know how the company is going to get through this, and ask what ideas they have for moving forward.
Whenever possible, try to personally connect with everyone you can.
As the leader of your company, or division, your people want you to lead, they will want to know how you will do that.
In order to show how you are going to do that, you can follow these ideas;
• Establish out of bounds lines, what can and cannot be done,
• Clearly articulate what is your purpose in the company’s mission,
• Deliver purpose through hope and values,
• Stay centred through the pandemic,
• Focus on the wildly important,
• Try and be optimistic everyday and become a force multiplier.
As a leader, it also important to look after yourself. Try and be as emotionally, physically, and mentally fit as possible. Get lots of rest so you have enough energy to lead.
Try and be as positive as possible, without straying from the reality of the situation your company is in.
Remember that many companies come through a crisis much better off than they were before the crisis started, mostly by observing and acting on the suggestions above.