Over the past three or four weeks I have been guiding about 25 businesses through this terrible time. I have seen some extraordinary displays of leadership and some heart rending compassion.
The compassion has been shown when people have been ‘let go’. I am ever aware of the common view of CEOs being heartless and selfish, but I have only rarely seen it. During these past three weeks I have only seen angst. CEOs and employees have been put in the untenable position where no one is wrong, but everyone loses.
The leadership has been a sight to see. The real leaders are standing up and showing leadership with clarity of purpose and communication.
Usually, I would say that the leader should be the Asking Leader that builds engagement that creates accountability by asking a series of questions. These past weeks have not been that time.
However, it is not the time of the dictator. It is the time for the real business leader to be that Churchillian or Martin Luther King style of leader. Those leaders took the challenges of the day and made them relevant with a statement of clear purpose. Everyone knew why they were proposing change and action. The business leaders I am working with are clearly declaring the ‘why’ of what they are compelled to announce.
For Churchill, a statement of success was implicit, but for Martin Luther King was a longer path. For the business leaders navigating into COVID-19, success can vary from a managed death of their business, to survival and some may even prosper. The business leaders that can explain success can then declare a plan or a pathway to achieve the outcome the current challenge presents. The plans have been broken down into steps or stages that each require a different way of thinking. These mindsets are like the coloured hats of DeBono. Each needs to be approached with a mindset that is driven by a clear statement of purpose.
The CEOs have declared three clear and sequential mindsets.
Now. This instant response that has been needed over the past three weeks. Business Leaders have been calling this phase names like ‘the bunker’, ‘prepare’, ‘defend’ and ‘WTF’. Using names has helped people establish the correct mindset to properly meet the challenge. This is the mindset of risk management
- Keep your head. Keep calm despite the enormous pressure. Take slow and deep breaths.
- Think about your people
- Systems – remote reporting, communication interface, accountability.
- Cash is always king. Now cashflow has been turned on its head so what is the new reality we are facing? Many have no hope of forecasting incomes in such turmoil.
- Cut costs. To identify the essential costs, non-essential costs and decision points about the next cost to go.
- How are they affected?
- How can you be relevant?
- Supply Chain
- They need you as much as you need them.
- Everything is renegotiable but the Real Business Leaders are considering that through an ethical prism.
Intermediate. This period has mostly been described to me as the next 6 to 8 months. The names used have been ‘Survive’, ‘Sustain’, ‘Defend’ and ‘OMG’. The societal circumstances are such that there is no normal to rely upon. Business is blindly feeling its way to where it can survive. This is the mindset of core management. The issues they are thinking about now are;
- Decisions points
- Which trigger points will require the next action?
- If the market is this, then that.
- If the government does this, then that
- Government interventions & support
- The government’s announcements are coming daily and are often superseded by State Government announcements.
- Interpretation is happening on the run.
- Cut costs, reduce waste
- Where are we able to make changes in our cost base?
- how to keep a remote workforce productive, engaged and accountable.
- continue with training and development if they can
- How to provide remote systems and support
- Communication – be clear and be real. Don’t sugar coat or catastrophise.
- Videos to explain
- our purpose in this challenge. Our role in this time, our usefulness to society, our need to protect each other, create value for our customers despite the challenges.
- the safety standards we have set and everyone’s role – even duty – to maintain those standards.
- the next steps we are going to need to take to sustain our business and their employment.
Recover and Prosper. The longer-term analysis of how the world is changing and what you can see coming that is relevant to your business. What you do now will predetermine success in the future. This is the mindset of the futurist.
- Set up a think tank
- Get a futuristic approach to what you see now and what you see will be changed as we recover.
- Are we ever going to be as dependent on restaurants?
- Will we ever take our social proximity for granted again?
- Will working remotely be the accepted way?
- What will we ever be as dependent on imports of our food, medical and fuel?
- What else can you see changing that will have long term impacts.
- How do those changes apply to our business?
- What flow on impacts can we see in supply, demand, business behaviours?
- What can we do about that now?
- Do we need to invest in people, systems, equipment?
- What do we walk away from?
- Which conversations do we need to have to prepare our stakeholders?
- Will we be doing something completely different and be in another business?
Please contact me if you want to talk more about this.
Stay safe and lead with purpose.