How the executive teams respond today will define their company’s tomorrow. Here are some insights on how leaders should respond at this time.
He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.
This popular Maori phrase means “What’s the most important thing in this world? It is people, it is people, it is people.” The phrase has guided New Zealand leaders for decades and it is one every leader should put centre and front when responding to a crisis. Put the safety of your staff before business. Connect with them at a human level. Ask about their families. Make working with your organisation flexibly a reality. Provide support to those who cannot work flexibly. Stabilising your workforce is the first thing you must do. It’s people who futureproof your business.
Simple and clear communication
What has won New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accolades around the world? Her regular and clear communication. She stands up every day to front the country and keeping them informed – even admitting when she does not have clarity. This is exactly what your staff, suppliers and guests expect of you. You may not yet know when you will re-open, which facilities will be permanently shut down, your rates, your operational cost … Yet, it is important that you communicate this and the fact that you are collecting information for a continuity plan to your stakeholders.
Prioritise, but decentralise
Centrally set out a clear set of priorities but implement them with a high degree of autonomy for your team leaders. In a dynamic situation, overly centralising decision-making hobbles the organisation’s ability to respond quickly and effectively. Effective leaders empower their team to make the best decisions they can, bearing in mind a clear set of enterprise priorities, such as keeping employees safe and behaving ethically toward guests. Be non-binary in your problem-solving Look beyond teenage-style decision-making – do I/ don’t I. There are other options and you need to push your team (and yourself) to be creative and find those solutions. For example – if you’re faced with losing your trained staff, think of cutting hours across the board rather than fire a few.
Business is hard. Even zero for many of us. However, to ensure continuity you need to re-think your business model. Think beyond your annual plan to how you can seize this opportunity to re-shape your business. What opportunities exist in this new environment? If you have a pandemic plan already in place, great! Activate it. If you don’t, put one in place. Thinking out of the box is critical.
It may seem impossible and you will need to scratch the bottom of the barrel for it, but it is important to keep investing in essentials such as your infrastructure, maintenance and even basic marketing.
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