How Clients Are Managing Their Business Through A Crisis:

In speaking with our clients on how they are managing their businesses and people through COVID-19, a number of key themes have emerged which we would like to share with you.

Never has the adage “stay in the present” been so relevant as leaders look to manage today while trying to be strategic for a return to normalcy.

There are several themes which we have been privy to:

1. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

It reminds us of the Stockdale Paradox: Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties, and, at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever that might be. You will undoubtedly have executives around you who are in denial and downplay the risks, while others will obsess about the worst. By planning for the worst-case scenario and hoping for the best, everyone will embrace the strategy. Edward De Bono, a renowned expert on creative thinking, referred to this as Black Hat (negative) and Blue Hat (optimistic) Thinking (“The Six Thinking Hats”).

 2. Stay calm. Stay current.  Assess each day’s events and address accordingly

Conduct your analysis of the facts, consider implications before charging down a particular road, and ensure that the team is aligned around and committed to an approach. An aligned Executive Team is essential and helps create stability throughout the organization. People will be highly vigilant observing and listening to what leaders say and do. So consider your actions and messages very carefully. Misinterpretations lead to rumours and the rumour mill must be curtailed. Therefore, do not be fearful of over-communicating. And do so via various media platforms as different people learn in different ways. Use Zoom, e-mail, communiques and encourage your business unit and function leaders to reinforce your message with messages of their own which are aligned with yours. The one thing that can damage trust is that organization leaders do not speak with one voice.

3. Consider the impact…

of each action in the context of what it says about your values and your organization culture. You and your leaders need to walk the talk, be accessible and visible. Above all, your job as a leader is to be open, optimistic and realistic. Optimism is essential; positivism (from positive psychology) may be unrealistic (read “A New Guide to Rational Living” by Dr. Albert Ellis).

4. CEO effectiveness…

…is more crucial now than ever, ensuring that cash is protected, government-sponsored programs for businesses and employees are considered, tax planning is highlighted and that your company is minimally impacted as events change almost daily.

5. Staying connected to your customers and clients is essential

At the same time, try to stay relevant to them with messages which differentiate your company from the myriad of other companies they deal with and who are parroting one another or publish communiques that sound like hollow platitudes or are transparently self-serving. Before sending your message out or making your calls, test your messages with others….starting with where your customer or client may be at.

6. Connecting with your employees and staying connected throughout is vital

In speaking with our clients, they are doing so weekly at the Executive and Managements levels, and daily at the team level. As events evolve, so will temperaments and levels of stress and anxiety. Through weekly and/or daily connection, you are able to get a temperature check on how staff are feeling and managing through this process. Shoppers Drug Mart is offering an excellent stress management program on-line produced by SilverCloud free of charge just by registering… PKA has vetted the program and it is state-of-the-science.

7. The circumstances are compelling staff to work from home

Reassure them that out of sight does not mean out of mind. Have HR or their immediate boss have 1:1 calls with them if feasible, not just group calls. There are things employees will not say on a group call and you miss the opportunity to tailor how you manage your staff based on their unique situations and needs. Here are some productivity tips for people who are new to working from home:

In conclusion, these are sobering times. It requires that we be present while keeping an eye on the future, that we remain flexible, and that we stay connected to our people in a real way.

Your actions will speak louder than your words. There is no blueprint for what we are going through. You get to create as you go along…together with your Management Team and your staff.

As we go through this twilight zone together, let us remain strong, safe, and healthy.

Learn more about our servicespeoplewhite papers and clients we’ve worked with.