Leadership During a Crisis

Resilient Leadership

leadershipYou started the year with great plans and expectations, but sometime during the month of March, the work seemed to end. It was if your customers went into hiding and your telephone stopped ringing. If you are a retail business or retail store, you had to shut down. You had to layoff much of the staff you had hired and trained over a period of months and years. You found yourself disheartened and in a state of crisis.

Stephen Covey once explained the difference between management and leadership. He said that if a manager is confronted by a jungle he would take out his machete and hack his way through it. As opposed to a leader who would climb to nearest tree, look around and proclaim that they might be in the wrong jungle. That is a somewhat simplistic explanation of the difference between management and leadership, but in a time of crisis what is needed is leadership. One cannot waste time blaming uncontrollable forces such as the Chinese or the government. Survival and prosperity through the crisis requires personal leadership.

Every year starts with a plan for success. It might include a formal business plan which includes a vision, assessment, mission, critical success factors, goals and action plan. It might be an informal plan which might include developing new customers, providing new services, increasing profitability, hiring new employees, or creating a new promotional program. Those plans are based on an assumption about the market and the economy in general. When those assumptions prove to be invalid, such as in the case of a crisis, the natural tendency is to discard the plan and hope for the best.

Revise the Plan

planLet’s consider an alternate to just discarding the planning process. The process was sound, but the circumstances upon which the plan was built have changed. The plan was built upon the observations and assumptions embodied in the internal and external assessment, more commonly referred to as the SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weakness are part of the internal assessment. What are the internal strengths of your business and what are the weaknesses or limitations? Opportunities and threats are part of the external assessment. What opportunities, new or existing, exist in the market? What are the new threats that may upset the market and your ability to compete?

Start by revisiting those four areas: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In each ask yourself the following:

  • What were the assumptions made when the plan was developed at the beginning of the year?
  • What is the current situation? How has it changed from several months ago?
  • What actions are required to adapt to the current situation?

In considering these issues, one is starting to adapt and revise the plan in a systematic manner.

A New Adaptive Plan

Throughout the history of business or strategic planning over the last 50 years, the question of “period of time” has often been considered. Initially the plans were developed with a ten year time frame. It was later realized in today’s ever changing economic and technological environment, ten years was too long a period of time and included too many uncertainties. Plan horizons where reduced to 5 years and eventually 3 years. But in today’s crisis situation, planning needs to be on a short term basis first, such as 60 or 90 days. This is not to suggest that much of the original plan is invalid and worth pursuing. It is also not to suggest that much of this short range planning is only temporary and should not be incorporated into the organization’s vision and mission.

After revising the plan and determining actions required, new short-term goals need to be established. They must be SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realisticly High and Time Based. See our article, Business Goal Setting, The Key to Growth and Success. Once the goals and plans are established, assign responsibilities and follow-up at regular intervals to evaluate any obstacles which develop.

 Examples of Adapting

During this crisis, it is very encouraging to observe how businesses have adapted to the current reality. They are a credit to the free enterprise system.  Consider these few examples.

Automotive dealership, appliance stores, and furniture stores have extended terms of payment and advertised interest free loans. If someone is in need of a new vehicle or refrigerator and are uncertain of their current source of income, pushing off payment to be satisfied by more certain future income helps justify the immediate purchase.

Cleaning businesses are offering additional options such as a greater frequency of services. They are also offering new technology such as UV and electrostatic cleaning. Demands are high in these areas.

Restaurants are one of the most vulnerable businesses during the coronavirus crisis. They are promoting take-out service, and once being allowed to open, will be practicing social distancing. Restaurants work on small margins and the hope is that these practices can help them survive until we return to normal.

Training and meetings which were once done in person have now moved to a virtual platform. Programs such as ZOOM. Go-To-Meeting, and Microsoft Team have become the new reality. This has become commonplace and may have a longer term effect on convention sites, hotels and business travel, but will allow organizations to continue their development programs during a period of isolation.

Can a Coach Help?

Guidance by someone outside your business can be very helpful coachduring these uncertain times. That outside guidance might be a friend or a business coach. A coach brings a wide range of experience working with other businesses and different situations into the decision making process. Don’t expect a coach to have all the answers, but they will help by asking you the questions which make the path forward clear in your mind.  It all begins with a conversation. RLS Focused Solutions offers a no cost complimentary initial meeting. Don’t hesitate to email us at bob@plangoals.com and schedule that meeting today.