During this unprecedented and uncertain time, we are all in uncharted waters. And, as leaders, it can be challenging to captain a ship without a navigational system. The truth is, we did not get to be leaders by not knowing what to do. It can be uncomfortable. I have spoken with many CEO’s, presidents, business owners over the past couple of weeks and have encountered a continuum of reaction.
Some have used the uncertainty to batten down the hatches and get directive. Some have used it to demonstrate the values and vision they so painstakingly created to direct them through times likes these (but never possibly imagining times like these). I’m not here to stand on the sidelines and judge your responses - that never was and never will be my vision - but I am going to ask you to get very conscious and very intentional with your reactions and plans.
As we navigate these waters it is so vital that we ground ourselves in our values, our vision and our character. Run your spreadsheets, prepare scenarios, develop new strategy that acknowledges the chaotic environment AND most importantly ground yourself in thoughts and actions that demonstrate your values and your vision for the long term, not your response to the short term.
What do I mean?
Are you worried about revenue and profit targets? Me too! But my plan of action is not based on that concern. It is based on my vision of creating environments for people to live their full potential; that’s MY vision. So what are my aligned actions?
1) I have always included pro bono work as part of my business plan. Even though I’m worried about revenue, that hasn’t changed. In fact, I’ve dialled it up. There are a lot of business people struggling who need support but believe they can’t afford it. So I offer it. Because, while revenue is very important to me, supporting and encouraging people, especially during difficult times, is more important.
2) I take notice of my own energy. It was strong last week and then I noticed I was a bit anxious, sensitive and, well, grumpy... That energy doesn’t serve me, my clients or my friends and family. So I am limiting the amount of news I am consuming because I want to be informed but not CONSUMED.
3) I brainstormed new ways to add value and make a contribution.
4) I paid my bills and bought some stuff. Of course, we all pay our bills, but I have to be honest, the doomsday opinions were starting to make me a little edgy. One of my fundamental beliefs is, with our thoughts we create our world. With this foundational premise in mind, I wanted to make sure my vendors saw money coming in. If I want people to support me, I need to support others. And when I look in the mirror at night I feel proud I am making choices grounded in my vision, not my fears.
I am watching how others are responding and I’m getting curious. What is the long term intention of the large hotel chain that has already laid off its staff? What will the long term implications be of profit before people? What will the loyalty and engagement of their staff be when this is over? And it will be over, at some point. Again, I’m not saying they are wrong to lay off staff so quickly, but I am curious if the decision was made based solely on balance sheets or long term strategic vision. The National coffee chain that became reactionary to the government’s new minimum wage standards saw an almost 5% decline in sales in the last quarter of 2019. I’m going to go out on limb and say that was not part of their plan, or rather lack of plan. They were reactionary and didn’t think through the long term implications.
If you want your clients to spend money with you, make sure you spend yours. If you want your employees to dig deep and focus on the business, make sure you focus on them and their concerns, needs and, yes, in some cases, fear. LEAD your people, LEAD your clients, and most importantly LEAD YOURSELF.
Every day I ground myself in the belief that whatever comes my way I can navigate the opportunities and obstacles. This belief has never failed me and I know with certainty this holds true for all of you. Over the coming days I will endeavour to help you stay focused and grounded as well, in your healthy future not your fear.
I have also included an email below from a man I greatly admire for his leadership capabilities. It is a simple note, one of many actions he has taken to ensure his team is focused on the right things. May it also inspire you.
It was a wild week, we are living in uncharted territory, and many people are really spooked by what is going on.
I wanted to thank all of you for your contribution this week, in fact over the previous 2-3 weeks as this event has exploded in front of us. We have stayed calm, focused and worked to find the balance – where that is very hard to do. Many of you are also juggling family situations - whether that be kids now home from school, elderly parents who are no doubt very nervous, and of course the constant media onslaught – some of it very helpful, some of it not so much.
We have a great team, experienced with excellent judgement. We are going to need to draw on all our collective experience and judgement in the weeks ahead as we lead through the challenges. We are a small business, a healthy business, with solid re-occurring revenue. BUT, given the market conditions, things can change in a hurry. So we need to stay focused on what really impacts our families and our business.
We will catch up on Monday @ 1130. In the meantime, like the rest of you I am sure, I continue to consider the steps we should be taking with our team and customers. I am exceptionally confident in our capability to deal with what lies ahead.