We must take care of our businesses, our communities, and ourselves.
As business leaders, we all must step up to influence what we can control, taking care of our people and our organizations.
Like everyone, I am concerned and unsure about the immediate future. But I remain confident that we will get through this ok. History is our guide: economies and many businesses always emerge from shock events intact—and in many ways, better than they were before.
But how do we, as leaders, handle this challenge? Here are some suggestions for leading during the current crisis. These are steps that I am taking, and they may help you maintain focus and clarity, as well:
1. Take care of yourself first
Everything flows from the top, and if we don’t have our priorities in line, we can’t take care of others. It helps leaders to establish a routine that gives us a sense of structure and control, especially as the majority of us now work from home.
For example, I stick to a routine that works for me. I wake up, meditate, and recount the things I’m thankful for in a gratefulness journal. Then I shower, get dressed, and dive into my day, remaining productive on a consistent schedule.
Choose the steps that are right for you, but apply them consistently. The advantages of establishing and sticking to an A.M. routine are covered well in Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning, which argues that “how you start your day largely determines the quality of your day, your work, and your life.” This philosophy certainly works for me.
A sense of achieving small accomplishments has substantial mental and leadership benefits—and it’s more vital than ever to retain a sense of structure, familiarity, and control in the current environment.
2. Communicate consistently and often with team members
The first weekend this all went down, I felt disconnected from my business and my people. I didn’t know what decisions were being made in specific work silos and, as a result, didn’t have a clear read on my organization. And it dawned on me: If I feel this way, imagine how the rest of the team feels!
I upped my communication game immediately.
When we’re isolated and feel uncertain—and there is certainly a lot of uncertainty—we start assuming things and making up stories in our mind to fill in knowledge gaps. This can have severe repercussions for any organization, as individuals wonder about personal security, the health of the business, and who is taking what steps to deal with the crisis.
Don’t wonder. Take the pulse of your organization with regular meetings and calls. We need to establish constant conversations with our direct reports to assess what’s going on and react accordingly. We also need to clearly communicate relevant information to all team members, many of whom are anxious. Be open, transparent, and supportive. Remember that positive vulnerability is an asset, especially during times like these. And be there for your people.
3. Reflect and improve—spend that newfound time well!
Our lives are newly hectic in a lot of ways. But many of us have a lot of time on our hands as the economy slows down.
I’ve viewed this as an opportunity to do many of the things that I otherwise never had time for. Think about all of those tasks that are shoved to the back of the line as we fulfill core functions or put out fires. Some things are strategic; others are mundane. Whatever their nature, now is a great time to get them done.
Some suggestions include developing or refining processes, improving documentation, cleaning up that stack of folders and the overfull email inbox, and optimizing standard operating procedures (SOPs).
This doesn’t just apply to our organizations, however. It’s also an excellent opportunity to reflect and improve our lives. This emergency has made me not only think about my business, but whether I am a good father, son, and brother, and how I can improve these relationships. Many of us routinely feel like we don’t have time to exercise or spend time with our families. Now, we can. Take advantage of this blessing during an otherwise terrible event—really take advantage of it!
You won’t regret the investment or the memories.
4. Strategize and innovate
There’s no doubt that we’re going through a very tough period. But don’t lose sight of the fact that a lot of amazing events and innovations happen during crises. These are times when the world—especially the business world—often progresses and comes out the other side of the emergency different. And in many ways, stronger.
Numerous businesses innovate faster, develop more-efficient methods, find new products and services, and improve upon proven formulas. One common denominator: nearly all enterprises that survive the crisis and succeed become more adaptive.
Now is a perfect time for creativity—bettering our processes, products, and services. We should pivot in times of crisis, in whatever direction and degree that make sense.
5. Be financially responsible
This is what’s on everyone’s mind, of course. And the immediate survivability of the business is a real concern for many entrepreneurs. Even those who do have substantial resources or reliable revenue have the urge to hoard cash and perhaps defer or avoid bills because none of us know when this crisis will end.
These concerns are prudent, of course, and we need to carefully examine every step that ensures the health and sustainability of our businesses and employees. I’ve worked closely on the numbers, as every entrepreneur should. But since no one knows when the curve of COVID-19 will flatten (and eventually diminish), how quickly economic restrictions will lift, and when life will return to normal, it’s a good idea to focus on the short term.
Thirty to 45-day planning cycles are likely long enough, and some key steps include:
- Evaluating the immediate impact on revenue and projecting different revenue scenarios.
- Understanding exactly what we can pay now or defer.
- Understanding and refining the steps of a planning cycle.
- Modifying accountabilities in light of the crisis. EOS Implementer™ Mark O’Donnell has a great rundown on developing a “Reverse Accountability Chart.” It’s a good way to quickly grasp different financial levers while revising the accountability chart in different scenarios—such as when revenue falls by 50%.
- Remaining in constant communication with vendors, lenders, partners, and other stakeholders.
The last item is crucial so that no one wonders about your financial commitments. Some conversations may be harder than others, depending on your situation. But don’t avoid having the tough ones. We need to be professional, authentic, transparent, and purpose-oriented.
Short-term planning may be the priority, but we should keep an eye on longer-term plans, as well. Specifically, think of how we can become better financial planners and budgeters, both for the growth of our business and the ability to weather the next emergency.
Stay safe. Stay calm. And lead!
I hope that all of my readers, colleagues, team members, and fellow entrepreneurs remain safe, solvent, and successful as we deal with this pandemic. Business is important, and it’s what many of our lives tend to revolve around. But our health and the health of those we care for are the priority. Be sure to check in on and follow the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for staying safe during the spread of COVID-19.
And if you start to feel overwhelmed or get too anxious, remember: we are all in this together, and we will get through it together.
If you have questions or need help, please get in touch with me.
Cesar Quintero is an Entrepreneur, EOS Implementer, Why Activator, and Trainer for entrepreneurs who want to build a business by design so that they can live by design. Contact him here.