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Leadership in a Time of Crisis

Do you feel as if we’ve all been dropped into the Twilight Zone? Nothing is ‘normal’ anymore, but we’re trying our best to chart a path through unfamiliar territory. There is uncertainty and apprehension, for sure … but also hope and compassion, as well as deep gratitude for the heroic frontline workers.

Leaders face a special set of challenges. Not just our political leaders, but also the business execs who are trying to sort out what to do, how to help their employees, how to keep the company healthy, how to control their own fears.

It’s a whole new ball game! (And not the good kind.) But a team looks to its leaders for guidance. Crisis management is a real test of leadership.

Supporting the employees

Employees will have a lot of different concerns: financial, logistical, emotional. They may be worried about being laid off … or dealing with a partner who has lost a job. Those who must go to a workplace have to organize childcare, while others juggle work-from-home and parenting tasks. They could be anxious about friends and relatives who are sick, and might have to help take care of them. Or they may become sick themselves.

Social distancing is the current protocol, so, first, nail down, communicate and fine-tune the work-from-home process. In some cases, it may be useful to develop a schedule with the employees. Hold regular online meetings and invite them to be open about their feelings. Brighten their spirits with virtual lunches, or set up a designated channel to share experiences and anecdotes, sprinkled with some humour.

Flexibility, thoughtfulness and leading by example are key. And, if you have to make some difficult decisions down the road, plan carefully how to handle them.

Protecting the business

Make sure that all of your bases are covered. If you, or one of your management team, fall ill, is there in-house expertise to take over? Compile all the information needed to enable someone to quickly step in, and conduct briefings on how to cover key positions.

You probably have to analyze and implement cost-cutting measures. Consider how to reduce contracted work or re-negotiate rates. Freezing raises and new hires, and deferring expenditures where possible, is part of today’s reality.

Ask your staff to present their ideas for strengthening the company. Maintaining momentum as a team is challenging without day-to-day interactions, so it is more important than ever to engage everyone in contributing their suggestions for sustaining clientele and developing creative marketing ideas.

Navigating the choppy seas of change while trying to keep your business, and those of your clients, afloat is a fine art. Stay in contact with your clients, and encourage them to do the same with their customers.

Take a good look at your sales pipeline, and identify what actions can be taken. Reconnect with past clients to offer assistance. Send tips and valuable information directly to your contacts, and share your insights through social media and virtual events.

Helping the clients

Set your prime focus on your existing clients, and propose constructive solutions to survive the crisis period. How can your business add value to theirs, producing a win-win scenario? What are the areas that they are prioritizing, and how can you support those areas? Review and re-assess the approach for each client regularly, and assign the most suitable staff member to coordinate and schedule the outreach.

Your clients may be experiencing logistical complications in their procedures. Project approvals and invoice payments may be delayed. How can you help facilitate these issues? Show sensitivity to evolving timetables as they balance their capabilities.

Be careful that you don’t promote services that aren’t relevant or necessary at this point. Prepare to delay or adapt works-in-progress that your clients may need to back-burner. Listen intuitively, and help them solve the challenges of today and prepare for those of tomorrow, while alerting them to new opportunities for sustainability and growth.

Think about the next phase of recovery. It will certainly be a changed business landscape. All of us will emerge with lessons learned and protocols transformed after the crisis has passed. What will it look like for each of your clients?

 Caring for yourself

Now, more than ever, look after yourself. Extend the same kindness to yourself as you are to your employees, your clients and your stakeholders. People are depending on you … and so, despite your own anxieties, know when to turn off the phone, shut down the computer and give your head a rest. Eat well, wash your hands, take a walk, stay safe.

COVID-19 has created a massive paradigm shift in business perspectives. Challenging! Frightening! Energizing! It will be a rocky road, but one that presents fresh possibilities that we can only imagine right now.

It’s your time to lead. Lead your team with optimism. Lead your company with strength. Lead your clients with expertise. And lead yourself with courage.