Doreen Yarnold offers help and advice to workplace managers and leaders left wondering how to tackle the fallout from the coronavirus
These are crazy unprecedented times that we are living and working through, the like of which the world has never seen before.
In these times, business leaders must keep a steady nerve, a steely determination and a clear head.
The levels of uncertainty are rising at a significant rate amongst employees everywhere in all businesses and across all industries. At the same time, people are feeling the ground shifting beneath their feet. No-one is exempt from this.
The book has not yet been written that can give leaders the definitive answers to these testing times or inform them how to navigate stormy waters that seems as if they are turning into a Tsunami.
The coming months will test the leadership qualities of all business leaders and managers in a way nothing has ever tested them before.
So, what can managers and leaders do to steer their respective ships back to calmer waters?
Let’s deal with the facts first and work back from there.
- Your employees are worried, uncertain, concerned for their own and their family’s security.
- There is or is likely to be a slowdown of orders/demand as people baton down the hatches and prepare to try to survive the hard times ahead. Buying your products and/or services won’t be a priority.
- People will catastrophise about the future as worst-case scenarios play out in their minds.
- The media will fan the flames of hysteria and ‘hype-up’ an already serious situation. A balanced and honest perspective does not sell papers or news.
- The government provide headlines but are short on detail, and so businesses will need to work things out for themselves in the short term.
- Business Leaders may have to make unpalatable decisions to ensure the business survives these turbulent times.
- Some casualties in some businesses will be inevitable unless the Government steps in as they seem to saying they will.
Leading Results has been reacting to the coronavirus situation by conducting research with the some of the most successful businesses over the past week – and this is what we have heard:
- Above all, we are being honest with our employees and although we are not giving any guarantees, we are reassuring them as much as possible that we will do our very best to keep the business alive and their jobs safe for as long as possible.
- We are trying to estimate the level of downfall we are likely to see over the coming weeks and months.
- We are putting contingency plans in place so that all risks are identified, discussed, and planned for.
- There is consideration of headcount requirements to match the levels of business we believe we will be doing.
- We are checking in with our employees to make sure they are ‘on board’ with us and supporting us.
- Different working models could keep all of our team in work but possibly working less days per week when it is deemed necessary. We are avoiding redundancies for now but will be part of our contingency plans should this be necessary further down the line.
- We are looking at ways to take our business to our customers.
Lead by example
Leading by example is critical. Leaders should get much closer to their business, not in a micro-managing sort of way but in a way that sees them communicating more – keeping their people in the loop and up-to-speed with what they need and want to know.
Some decisions may need to be made quickly, as there won’t be much time for deliberating. This does not mean, however, that decisions should be made without due consideration and thought. Two key questions around decisions-making should always be asked:
- What is the impact of the decision we are about to make on all stakeholders (i.e. staff, customers, suppliers, investors etc)? Will any (stakeholder) be damaged, hurt, financially impacted and the like by this decision?
- Could negative impacts (to stakeholders) be avoided by taking a different course of action that will get us the same result?
In extreme trading times as these, clear direction is essential. The best leaders know this and practice it. They ensure that every person under their responsibility has clear and achievable objectives that are reviewed very regularly without fail. In the current climate, a weekly review is probably advisable.
Those leaders understand the relationship between ‘accountability and engagement’ and balance these with precision. They are visible and accessible to everyone in the business.
It is important that they also know and understand that customers need reassurance too. So they will make it their business to interact and meet with them regularly to find out their concerns.
They will ask their customers what the business could do differently or better to meet their needs. Above all, they will ensure that front line staff are consistently forging good, strong, solid customer relationships.
These are not exhaustive measures, and definitely not all the answers you may be looking for. You may be doing some or all of them already. The PM keeps repeating this is temporary. So at some point, we’ll all need to plan for the upturn when it comes, as it surely will. A good and very different problem for us all to look forward to.
Watch: VIDEO – How to rally the troops during difficult times…