COVID-19 help for business leaders Sally Bibb Liz Luya blog

A colleague (Liz Luya) and I worked together during the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003. We learned from what worked and what didn’t work. Liz is still based in HK and is currently immersed in the challenge of leading through COVID-19, and we’ve been talking a lot about the similarities and differences of these two viruses. Between us we’ve heaps of experience around navigating challenges in business. We’re now offering pragmatic support to businesses to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.

We are sharing some advice and practical tips in three blog posts: this one for business leaders, one for managers and one for anyone who is working from home.

In this post, for people who are leading organisations, we share our experience of what to think about, give some context and offer some ‘to do’ tips.

What you need to be thinking about

  • Communications to the board, shareholders and other stakeholders
  • Setting and communicating direction for your business, reshaping priorities and expectations
  • Your personal impact, how you show up and engage as a leader (under considerable pressure), and its impact on the steadiness of your people and business
  • Pacing yourself and your team to avoid boredom and burnout
  • Mitigating and managing ongoing risk
  • Protecting revenue and exploring opportunities
  • Balancing the here and now with recovery planning
  • Reputation management
  • Getting the narrative right about your future focus
  • Understand the recovery will be swift

In times of economic dislocation, leaders need to call on a wide range of leadership styles, strengths and behaviours to help their organisation and teams move forward. When organisations are stressed it’s easy for trust to erode as you become consumed with the detailed day to day imperatives, become distracted and inaccessible, and find yourself in crisis management mode. There is increased tension in teams, and we find people turning to high self-orientation behaviour as they try to survive and protect themselves. Our self-management can also be compromised as we struggle to deal with the onslaught.

As a leader, stay close to your teams, increase your visibility and communications. Invite people to contribute to the solutions. Actively listen more. Capable leaders are already: thinking post crisis and identifying new opportunities; building new relationships; resetting existing relationships; setting the new context for the future; and articulating the vision for recovery. Manage your own energy, taking short and frequent breaks… you can only lead others well if you are taking care of yourself.

During these times you must:

  • Reassess your talent
  • Look ahead to the next big decision and explain the factors in making it. Be open about the dilemmas to build trust.
  • Limit the spokespeople at the top to one or two so as not to cause confusion. Build up trust with a couple of key communicators.
  • Know the numbers well
  • Set short term milestones and goals
  • Agree expectations and boundaries, particularly with staff working remotely
  • Reduce your cash break-even point
  • Be bold and decisive, and unafraid of changing direction
  • Demonstrate commitment and time sensitivity
  • Protect the core – people, customers, expertise and technology
  • Celebrate quick and small wins
  • Regularly map and manage the expectations of your key stakeholders
  • Breathe

We’re running Leading Your Business through the COVID-19 Crisis online sessions with CEOs and senior teams to share our experience and to coach you through any specific challenges. As well as this support, we’ve put together some options (see below) to help organisations through the COVID-19 crisis. If you’d like to know more about any of them email or call us. We’d love to support you if we can.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds
Sally Bibb is the author of Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results and The Strengths Book: Discover How to Be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life, and is a leading strengths expert.