For many CEOs, leading through a crisis is nothing new, whether that be a cyber breach, a natural disaster, or a financial emergency. But now, the entire globe is facing something never before experienced with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, the word “crisis” does not even begin to describe the uncertainty of what the world – let alone your individual company – needs to prepare to face and overcome.
COVID-19 is global with repercussions that are not only far-reaching, but also have the potential to have an impact for months or even years to come. It has already disrupted world markets, closed the borders of countries, brought people and goods to a grinding halt, closed stores, restaurants, theaters, and schools, canceled flights, and disrupted sports. COVID-19 is dominating domestic and foreign policy, personal conversations, and business discussions. As a business leader, it is your responsibility to bring a sense of calm and organization to your firm, even when it feels like everything else around you is in disarray. Here are some ideas to accomplish this.
- Implement your contingency plans. Most likely you have plans for what to do in a natural disaster, for example, when your office may not be habitable. This is a similar situation, so quickly roll out your remote working policy, enable your employees, provide necessary equipment, and provide support for them to get set up and get back to work.
- Be present, visible, and available. As the face of the company, your employees are relying on you to be the 3 Cs: cool, calm, and collected. It is inevitable that there will be much anxiety for your employees both personally and professionally, which will only be exacerbated if you are panicking, too. Of course you may be uneasy yourself, but limit who you share those fears with, and put on a brave public face to help guide your staff through this pandemic.
- Communicate regularly with staff and clients. It is vital that you keep a healthy flow of information not only to your employees, but also to your clients. Seek out and pass along only credible information, like that from CDC, for example. Explain what your organization is doing about the healthy crisis, set a timeline for frequency of communication, and lay out future-looking plans when possible.
- Plan for the repercussions. Everything is changing so quickly that what’s reality right in this moment, may be different in a week, a day, or even an hour from now. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely wreak havoc on our economy, which will trickle down to your firm. There will be legal, regulatory, and financial implications. Form a task force to begin planning for these repercussions and how you can effectively handle them as a firm.
- Dedicate organizational resources for crisis and recovery. As the urgent phase of the crisis passes, you must plan for a long-term remote working situation, as well as what things will look like in the recovery phase when everything begins to get back to normal. It’s also likely that there will be a new “normal” when that happens. Your task force should plan for several scenarios so that your decisions going forward are not rushed, but rather well thought out.
- Be flexible in your rules. You’ve likely already eased your work from home policies. Now is also a good time to consider your PTO policies as some employees may be faced with health concerns – whether physical or psychological – and potentially long absences. Communicate with your employees and advocate for them during this time of high stress. When your employees know you put them first, they will appreciate it and remember it long after the COVID-19 crisis has ended.
As we enter these uncharted waters, it’s important to keep a long-term perspective to help ensure your company’s emergence from this crisis is strong and sustainable. It’s very likely the COVID-19 pandemic will last for months, and the global recovery will last years. Now is the time to create plans for your company to ride this out successfully.