Director Doreen Yarnold says that in extreme times like those surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, when the chips are down and backs are to the wall, you will really see what a company’s senior management are made of.
One of the biggest mistakes organisations can make during these tough trading times is continuing ‘as is’ and hoping it will all blow over in time.
A long-term strategy that was conceived one, two, three or more years previously needs to be side-lined for the time being. What is called for is a more expedient and short-term tactical strategy more appropriate for the here and now.
In these extreme times surrounding the issues caused by the coronavirus, less is more. Rallying the senior management teams and their troops to adopt a laser focus to just the key deliverable areas is critical.
Providing your managers and teams with a strategic, motivational and inspiring ‘hook’ to buy into is important. Make it both simple to understand, and one with which they can see the part they need to play within it. This enables you to cut through the myriad of ‘stuff’ they would normally engage in on a day-to-day basis. And allows them to replace it with some very specific areas of focus they can get to grips with.
Crucially, keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate, don’t add too many layers, limit the number of areas of focus to just a few. No more than say, 4 or 5.
Eliminate the every-day stuff and noise people wrap their working lives up in. Instead, give them objective-related activities in the delivery areas identified will render quicker and more meaningful results.
Clear operational guidelines
This strategy in extreme times can become a permanent approach to driving business results once this emergency is over. It starts with having clear operational guidelines that spell out:
- The current extreme trading situation
- Why it’s a problem
- What we’re doing about it
- What’s expected of each and every senior manager, middle manager, team member
- The areas the business has identified as being key to keeping the business alive
- How the other ‘normal’ areas of operation will be managed (e.g. temporary postponement of non-urgent reporting and administration or that these will be done by central support staff etc)
Extreme times call for calm and intelligent leadership. Troubled waters can be calmed. Adversity can be navigated and goals can be achieved if leaders fully commit to what needs to be done and to invest their time and focus in their people. After all, these are the ones who will be called on to deliver the results.
Businesses fail in tough times because they spend time fighting fires. Their senior managers and directors become busy fools, giving poor direction, if at all. They give limited or no guidance and make poorly thought through and reactive, knee-jerk decisions.
They seem to fall into 3 camps: The ‘JFDI-ers’ who seem to think that barking orders like: “just f***ing do it” will stimulate the team to drive results!
The ‘Sideliners’ who become like rabbits in the headlights, frozen by the enormity of impending failure. They do little or nothing until someone further up the chain of command raises it.
Then there are the ‘Tryers’ who busy themselves doing ‘stuff’. At least at the end of each day, they can tell themselves they’ve tried.
Knowing how competent you and your senior and middle managers are is crucial. In healthy trading periods you might not pay too much attention to it. In tough times you have to. Presenting as competent in ‘up’ times isn’t difficult.
So you shouldn’t judge your senior team’s skills, qualities and attributes by what they did when things were going well. When the chips are down and backs are to the wall, like they are now, you will see what they’re really made of.
If they’re not where they need to be, help them, support them and guide them with ‘on-the-job’ fast-track development. People can learn quickly, they just need you to work with them to get there.
Guide and lead your managers and teams with clarity, precision, and above all compassion.
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