Stay calm and carry on: Why business leaders must keep a steady hand on the till
When a crisis strikes, the first reaction of many people is to panic. We’ve seen that with the recent COVID-19 pandemic: While people can argue about the different approaches of leaders around the world and whether they’ve done a good job (I really wouldn’t trade places with them right now…it’s a tough gig!), what we have seen in many situations is panic, such as buying too much toilet paper and other essentials when there was plainly no need to.
We’ve seen this in some areas of business too. There’s no playbook for handling this, and the last major health crisis of this scale was over 100 years ago, in a very different world to the one we have today. It’s been a real test of character for many.
For my small part, I think the best responses we’ve seen so far have been the exact opposite to panic. It’s been those that remain calm in the face of adversity that are leading their businesses forward.
Respond don’t react
While the current situation might be highly unusual, business leaders often face difficult circumstances. We all have a choice on how we react to these situations, whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or running a small business with a team of 10.
For me, the first piece of the puzzle to remain calm is: Respond, don’t react. By that I mean take time to consider your response, don’t simply react based on your first emotion.
A colleague once gave me the best advice on dealing with a crisis in a reasoned and measured way, and I still use it to this day. Think of it in steps:
- Denial – often your first instinct is general shock and then denial of what’s happening. Don’t react emotionally at this point. Take time to understand the details and the facts of the matter.
- Crisis Management – start looking at ways to mitigate the impact on your business. Do a little ‘what if’ thinking. Look at scenarios and the impact on your business based on the information and facts that you have.
- Planning – once you’ve looked at the different scenarios, start planning your response. For example, during this current crisis, it’s worth looking at the financial impact on your business and its follow-on impact on your team. You can then factor in support, such as the concessions being offered by the government to help you keep your team employed, and plan your way forward.
- Review – once you have your plan in action and working, start looking at ways your business can jettison inefficiencies and other poor processes.
Often, during a crisis situation, what can be seen is an opportunity to change the way we do things, to see things differently.
Sometimes that change is forced upon you. Look at the Australian businesses in the hospitality space during the current COVID-19 crisis. Faced with a complete shutdown of their businesses, they’re changing their offerings and thinking of innovative ways to sell their product. In all the craziness of the past few weeks that has affected our businesses, it’s been a shining light amongst some pretty grim news.
It shows that you have to take a positive mindset and view to remain calm in your decision making, that you can change your thinking and find some diamonds in the rough. It’s happening in our business too, and we’re facing having to make some decisions around our offering. We’re taking the approach of staying calm, positive, and looking for ways to innovatively address our client’s needs.
Transforming business is more than just a tagline for us; it’s core to what we do every day. Keen to discuss how you can manage the COVID-19 crisis? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange a time to discuss what’s happening in your business.