I’m in the throes of difficult planning sessions with clients as they seek to communicate with and ready themselves to care for their team members and customers in a time of heightened uncertainty associated with the coronavirus. For some clients, these conversations revolve around possible disruptions in a supply chain; for others, it takes the form of remote sales strategies or enabling team members to work from home.
Maybe I am unusually lucky, but in contrast to political leaders who can get bogged down in blaming their opposition for problems, the people with whom I work are spending all of their time looking for solutions on behalf of their team members and customers. I thought I would share some of these strengths in the hope that they will be of benefit to you.
Listen before you Solve. Most of the leadership teams with whom I am working are listening carefully to updates from reliable sources on the evolving transmission footprint and changing impact of the virus. They are asking managers across their organizations to identify current and emerging issues that need to be addressed on behalf of team members and customers. They are updating action plans in the context of situations across the globe that are affecting travel, meetings, service delivery, etc.
Communicate in Context. These leaders are providing a context for the information they are sharing with their people. They are setting the tone of an “honest lullaby” – one that recognizes the known challenges while maintaining hopefulness and expressing a commitment to take reasonable steps that maximize the safety and well-being of all parties involved.
Act with Courage. I have watched leaders act out of an abundance of caution, even when some of those actions have an adverse short-term financial impact. In essence, these leaders are already making hard choices in the interest of those they serve, and they are ready to do more as conditions require.
Be Ready to Course Correct Quickly. In many cases, leaders are “war gaming” business scenarios and crafting response options. They are building multiple levels of contingencies with the hope that none of their less than optimal scenarios will materialize.
When my children were young, I remember tucking them into bed and allaying their fears of imaginary monsters lurking in the corners of their room. I was certain I could vanquish the monsters that they feared. Unfortunately, I also knew I couldn’t always protect them from every monstrous person or event that existed outside of their windows, but that I would do everything (and I mean everything) in my power to make their lives as safe as possible.
From my vantage point, people in the companies with whom I work are acting with the same level of care, concern, leadership, and passion as I do and did with my children. These great leaders seem to have heeded the wisdom of professor and mathematician John Allen Paulos when he said, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”
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