We are in the midst of a “black swan” event that will have drastic economic consequences globally. No company is immune.
5 min read
The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.
As the world strives to make sense of and respond to the coronavirus threat, leadership will be tested in unimaginable ways. Every day brings new discordant information that requires a system-wide response. Sequoia Capital calls this period the “black swan of 2020.” 'Black swans' are rare and unexpected events like 9/11 that impact global activity. After living in recessions for 50 years, Sequoia notes that companies that The ones that survive are the ones that can act decisively and quickly. But how do you act quickly amid so much uncertainty and human risk? At the macro level, successful companies “will reflect biology as Darwin supposed: those who survive are not the strongest or the smartest, if not the most adaptable to change. ”
Managing change is a special leadership skill. When navigating unfamiliar waters, cutting budgets, and making changes, good leaders will stay in tune with people's emotions and continue to invest in their teams.
Here are five things leaders can do to navigate this crisis and get out of it stronger than ever.
Face the brutal facts while maintaining faith that you will prevail
Embrace the mental framework of the Stockdale paradox . With this concept, Admiral Stockdale survived 8 years as a prisoner in the Vietnam War. He managed to stay positive without falling into the trap of blind optimism from his peers who were not able to face the reality of their situation. No time for denial in a crisis: Stay tuned to the harshest realities and rapid changes. Communicate the brutal facts directly to your team while maintaining confidence that they will get through it together. This will happen faster for teams with a lot of confidence. When they think you support them, they value the truth and will work together to find the best ways forward.
Don't assume you know what people fear
It may seem obvious to assume that people are concerned about getting sick or about job security. But there are many other things that may be important to different people. Working from home can cause some to lose visibility and information informally obtained from important people. People need different things to feel safe, and it's important to find out what matters to them. Double your listening efforts and ask what people are worried about losing if this crisis continues. Don't just focus on tactical communication about hygiene or travel protocols; be sure to allow your people to express any emotional concerns they have. Doing this allows you to help them differentiate real from perceived losses. And when an actual loss occurs, deliver that information directly and quickly.
Prepare for chaos
With so many things out of our control, leaders will need to take a crisis management approach. You can expect anxiety to increase and motivation to decrease. Choose some priorities to focus on while you regain your balance. Set smaller goals with frequent checkpoints so people have a positive sense of movement. Redesign the operating rules, even temporarily, to address the needs of the moment. Pay close attention to stress management, including yours.
Do teamwork virtually
As companies encourage more and more employees to work from home, creating virtual teams becomes an imperative. With the loss of personal and informal contact, you will need to find new ways to stay connected. Understanding the work styles, motivations, and stress behavior of others will lead to increased productivity and help everyone stay aligned when working remotely. Give yourself time during to do one-on-one personal reviews. Think creatively about keeping people motivated and the little ways to get groups to continue building relationships through video conferencing and instant messaging channels.
Visualize the new beginning
Incorporate the learning that you have throughout this time. Ask yourself how this will affect the future of your company and make the necessary adjustments. As with any recession, there are opportunities for creativity and change. There will be circumstances that collapse and open the door for new startups. Smart investors will keep looking for good ideas and people who have them. Stay alert when looking for options that can pay off when things return to normal.
The future will bring a new normal that no one can predict today. All we can do is prepare to walk straight into chaos, doing our best to guide troops through these challenges on the new day.