By | Narendra Ambwani | Helping CEO/CXO Excel
You as CEO are facing an unprecedented situation of crisis. In fact the whole world has not faced such a difficult period in over 100 years. It’s a huge challenge for your leadership and if you handle it well and navigate your organization successfully it will be a remarkable achievement and most satisfying event of your life! Here are few suggestions to help you in this period. I assume that you are looking to safeguard long-term success of your enterprise while trying to minimize short term losses.
Manage Morale: you are the head of family for all your employees, they look up to you for support, guidance and direction. In the crisis you have to manage your as well as their morale. You are the role model for them. So you have to be seen as cool, confident and not in panic. If they see any anxiety in you they will be even more in panic. You have the experience of handling many difficult situations in your career and you have the skill to guide your team successfully.
Listen to concerns of your employees, understand their fears and issues. Many issues will be unique but all of them must be attended. Show empathy and sympathy. Give appropriate support to help employees’ concerns relating to the safety and wellbeing of their families. Keep your doors and line of communication open to all employees. Speak to as many as you can directly. A word from the chief can reassure as well as motivate them. Share with them what organization is planning to do for the employees during the lock-down period. Be transparent and honest to build trust. Make promises which will be honored.
Recognize the fears of your employees relating to their salaries, job security and address these. Same must be done for the contract employees or distributors salesmen indirectly supported by your company.
Accept the reality of the disruptions and reassure your team that together you will do all the right things for employees, customers and all other stakeholders.
Speak to your distributors and suppliers and help them on their issues. Some suppliers may be totally dependent on your operations, be considerate in dealing with them. Some distributors may need extension of credits, please consider such requests. You can strengthen the loyalties of your suppliers and distributors in this crisis by being considerate and helpful. This will pay back once the crisis is over.
Managing morale of self and everyone connected to the organization is your primary responsibility as CEO.
· Retain customers: most important stakeholder after the employees are your customers. How are you helping them in the crisis when supplies are limited and deliveries are a problem? Work together with key customers to find new innovative ways to serve them. It’s important that you are keeping in touch with customers who are unable to give new orders today due to location closure or lack of staff etc.
· Manage Cash: in the crisis cash flow is affected in many way, so you need to examine each and every use of cash to ensure that cash is used only for most important matters. Cut capital expenses planned but not started, freeze expenses on projects, delay launch of new products and so on. Be aware that some expenses relating to work from home may not have been budgeted and may go up. For example reimbursements for network connectivity from homes, new servers etc?
· Delegation and teams: you have many fronts to handle in a crisis like Covid-19. a good way, may be, to create multiple teams for each of these fronts. Objectives for each team must be clearly set by you. The team must be composed of appropriate skills and led by someone you have identified as a potential leader. The team must be given full operational freedom and resources to support. Team may work with full delegation by you, but you must decide when a critical recommendation is debated in the team. You are the CEO and you must take the final call on important decision of the team. Team can keep you posted at agreed periodicity. The crisis is an opportunity for talent development, don’t miss on it. You may discover new talents and capabilities.
· Help community: the society look up to its citizens and corporates for support in the crisis. Be generous in extending support to the society by providing infrastructure, finance, goods, manpower or any other as may be required by the society or local authorities. Your business depends on the society, they buy your products and services. It’s a payback time now. You may get love and affection in return. In the long run it will work in your favour. You have to play your role as a good citizen. It will be seen favorably by all your employees. Encourage your employees also to participate in helping the society in this serious situation.
· Communicate, communicate and communicate: all stakeholders of your organization wish for a constant update from you on what is being done and what is happening. Your constant communication will act as reassurance and cool the anxieties. Be factual and transparent in your communication. Talk to all the stakeholders as often as you can. Be open to hear them. Use all possible options to communicate. Don’t worry about over communicating. From your stakeholders point it’s never enough.
· Learn and plan future: managing the crisis will reveal many opportunities. When tide goes down it reveals many hidden stones. You may discover that you were able to operate with much lower inventories in RM or FG. You may find certain distribution points can be eliminated without hurting. You may find that new alternate supplier was quite capable and economical. You may find that many employees need not to use space in the office as their roles can be well managed from home and space can be better utilized in office. You may find using internet conferencing is more efficient for many meeting agendas. While trying to conserve cash, you may have eliminated many non-value added expenses. You may plan to reorganize work roles based on discovery of new leadership skills in your team during the crisis. There are multiple opportunities that emerge is a crisis, keep an eye out for them for future. Finally, crisis is great opportunity for you as a leader to learn and practice your unique skills to emerge as a stronger, a more mature leader. I am sure both you and your team members will come out stronger at the end. You will have many stories to share with future generations as this Covid kind of event happens once in a generation.
Please do share your ideas and suggestions for the benefit of other CEOs by using comments on this article. I am also happy to engage directly to support you if you wish. Meantime wish you success in navigating your organization through this period.