The world is currently fighting against one of its worst health crisis since World War 2 with the Coronavirus outbreak, which started a few months ago.
Recent developments have forced Governments to manage the situation both on medical and economical ways.
As much as political leaders are trying to do their best to get us outside of this troubling time, we cannot forget that we are also part of the solution.
The role of leaders is to find a path for their organisation and their people to prosper during good times but also difficult moments.
This article offers you four pillars to lead during a crisis, stand apart and respond effectively to the situation.
1. Not one leadership team but a network of teams
In an excellent article called « Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges », McKinsey & Company suggest to look closely to our organisation practice and adopt leaderships principles to respond effectively.
In critical times, it is important to recognise that leaders have the paramount role to design a new strategy while keeping things afloat by giving sound directions.
Predefined answers do not work in extraordinary times and a top-down answer only is not sufficient to provide confidence and stability.
Leaders need to define clear priorities and then mobilise their organisations to find solutions and empower individuals to implement them.
The concept of network of teams is one of the best and most appropriate models to create, design and implement solutions for the challenges the organisation is facing.
Individual talents need to be brought together in teams with a common purpose to work together as part of new virtual teams for specific projects, while continuing to perform their current role.
McKinsey recommend that when in a crisis, a core number of teams should be created including workforce protection, supply-chain stabilisation, customer engagement and financial stress testing.
Incorporating key talents in the response team will not only strengthen their core belonging to the business, but also make them more efficient and resilient to serve colleagues and customers during this difficult time.
The illustration below shows a visual representation of the concept. Further information can be found in McKinsey’s article : Responding to coronavirus: The minimum viable nerve center
Indeed, a multidisciplinary approach is needed in order to cope with unprecedented challenges.
Combining a multitude of expertise and disciplines can result in fresh and innovative solutions as well as different perpectives.
The leadership role is vital running the timing and output when delay in resolutions occur.
2. A leadership based on transparency and empathy
Leaders have the mission to make a positive difference in their teams’ lives by empowering their employees to be a better version of themselves.
More than ever, leaders should pay close attention to how people are coping with this difficult and unprecedented situation. Management meetings and 1 to 1s should be reinforced even more when employees are confined at home and have lost their habits and the proximity of their colleagues.
Emotional intelligence and empathy are key to this and leaders need to be conscious of their capacity to change employees’ lives by taking appropriate measures for their well-being.
Leaders must explain clearly how the company will take the necessary measures to protect their activities and their lives during these crucial times. On the verge of the unknown, teams expect and need guidance and direction.
Another point is that leaders should not forget their own well-being so that they are efficient at a time when their resilience is tested to the upmost. Crisis can last weeks or months and are more like a marathon than a sprint.
A healthy diet, coupled with some mild exercise, even at home if confined, are key to keeping fit and focused to tackle challenges. Being closer to our bodies, regularly check our temperatures and our heart beat can also prevent burnouts or spreading the virus, in case of asymptomatic carriers.
Mike Dillard in partnership with a nutritionist Dr Ann Shippy on his excellent podcast has published this week excellent advices and supplements that everybody should consider during this time to boost our immune system.
3. A calm and optimist behaviour to take necessary risks
In emergency times, leaders’ experience is very important. However, during a whole new crisis, team character and unified response is equally key in order to respond appropriately.
For McKinsey, leaders should display « deliberate calm » and bounded optimism » to respond to crisis.
Leaders alone don’t have the answers. Their role is to empower their teams to provide the right insights to mature their analysis and collaborate together to define the appropriate solutions.
At the same time, leaders need to reassure their teams about the situation and provide their ongoing conclusions in the most human way.
In a crisis, taking risks to tackle challenges is decisive. Not doing anything will always bring a loss.
Dimitrios Spyridonidis in his excellent analysis (Warwick Business School blog post) invites leaders not to be afraid of taking risks and making errors as speed trumps right.
Leaders should display strategic leadership by asking though-provoking questions, experimenting solutions and taking conclusions from what they know.
4. A forward thinking attitude to prepare the future
Working from home has not been something most companies have been used to, but it has become a new norm in times of lockdown.
Organisations need to adapt to this and deploy tools to allow a better collaboration among their teams. I have spent the last couple of weeks discussing with leaders all over the world how they were approaching and tackling this crisis.
Mario Gago, CEO and Founder of Pink Room, a Portuguese software development start-up impressed me when sharing his extensive experience in remote working and how processes, rules and tools are important to him to succeed especially the technological part.
Technology offers a fantastic portfolio of tools to work remotely like Trello, a dynamic freemium board to measure progress on key actions and collaborate with teams on different categories of projects.
From smaller projects to those impacting large teams, I have been using it with much success for the past years and can only recommend it to you.
Managing a team in those conditions is completely different as well as motivating people to give their best while loved ones or even themselves could feel sick or demotivated.
Teams need also to continue to live as much as possible by catching-up every morning for an early session of check-ins and brainstorming. 1 to 1s should continue at the scheduled times to offer a personal and more intimate conversation during this time.
Moreover, leaders and companies need to start thinking heavily about what could become a new norm.
With an ever increasing number of people commuting to towns to live and work, putting environmental sustainability at risk, working from home could become the new standard to get better work-life balance in the future.
Governments are doing their best to keep populations alive and business moving during these though times. But, let’s not forget our responsibilities to lead our businesses and our teams forward through the crisis.
While we won’t be able to change everything, we can be actors in our businesses, for our employees and our teams. Our ingenuity, our resilience and our hard work need to complement this effort as much as possible to relieve Governments on the business front, help them focus on the ones that need the most and focus on the health side that is very under pressure right now.
During this difficult time we need more than ever to collaborate together and offer solutions. If you currently have other leadership practices or ideas leaders and companies should implement during this difficult time, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Let us know below and let’s discuss how we can all use those dramatic times to change for the better.
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