Clearly, the COVID-19 crisis is the Black Swan event of our business careers and maybe even our lives. At this writing (April 15th) we are still faced with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. For some reason, I found this quote from Stanley McChrystal, US Army General, Retired, comforting.
“If this is your first crisis in life, I welcome you to the game. If you have scar tissue from previous experiences, what you know is, we are going to come out of this. And we are going to come out of this better than we went into it.”
Hopefully, by the time you’re reading this, we are starting to move towards the “New Abnormal”. So, I thought it appropriate to simply share some observations and also best practices of my Vistage members.
Work at Home Productivity Anxiety – Real and Imagined. So far, the feedback from the Vistage members has been universally positive regarding their employees working from home. While it’s unlikely a large percentage of employees will work at home permanently, we’ll definitely have more remote workers going forward. If you have teammates who fit the Patrick Lencioni definition of the “Ideal Team Player”(Hungry, Humble & Smart), you likely see no productivity drop, and in fact, those folks may be even more productive since they aren’tdistracted by the “Loveable Slackers” at the office. Plus,converting 1-2 hours of daily commuting into productive work time is a definite advantage.
But there’s a legitimate concern about the social isolation of our new remote work force. Hereare some best practices from a few of my Vistage members:
- Conductvideo one-to-one meetings. Lisa Reardon, CEO of Owners Edge, an ESOP Holding Company, shared managers should conduct one-to-one’s with their direct reports 2-3 times per week. Ask reports these questions:
- How’s your workload?
- How are you doing emotionally and personally?
- What can I do to help you?
- Communicate, then communicate some more. Bill Goggins, CEO of Harken Manufacturing in Pewaukee,sends video messages to his entire organization 1-2 times per week. Great messaging includes gratitude to those team members who continue to work, reinforcement their work is important, confirmation the organization is strong and will get through the current crisis, and acknowledgement it’s OK to be worried. If you can’t to do the video, make sure you are emailing or texting everyone much more frequently than you have in the past. Make this a enduring part of your leadership actions.
- Face reality with a positive attitude. Crystal Miller, CEO of Frontida Assisted Living,shared “The Stockdale Paradox” with our group and her entire staff. James Stockdale emphasized balancing realism and a positive mental attitude was the key to his surviving over seven years as a POW in Viet Nam. That principle applies now too!
- Thrive, don’t just survive. David Vroom is the CMO of “Chief Outsiders” and a great friend to Vistage. His advice was to get out of the “Survive” mentality and move into the “Thrive” mentality. He also advises us to prepare for the “Pivot”, which many businesses will need to do to thrive. Do a “Start/Stop/Continue” exercise to consider what your organization could do to create new opportunities, products or services. Figuring out what to “Stop” doing can be just as important.
- Make the workplace even safer. Lisa Reardon is also taking this time to reconfigure work spaces to accommodate “Social Distancing” and other workplace safety measures which will likely become a permanent part of our work life. It’s important to consider all aspects of safety—physical, emotional, and psychological.
Strategic Human Resource Management. We need to keep everyone engaged with the organization. Now more than ever, it’s critical to have a true HR leader on your leadership team. If your organization is smaller and cannot afford a strategic HR leader, hire a fractional HR consultant. Strategic HR management should move company culture forward and focus on improving employee engagement. And you need a comprehensive strategy. I like the Predictive Index model of “Talent Optimization.” Their model is “Diagnose, Design, Hire and Inspire.” Just like you need a corporate strategic plan, marketing plan, sales plan, and budget, you need a Talent Optimization plan for your organization.
Embracing Opportunity. Finally,there areopportunities in the current crisis. We can observe and reward the heroes in our organizations. We can evaluate and strengthen our organizational purposes. There will likely be opportunities to add some “Ideal Team Players” to our teams. And if your business is strong, it may be a good time to look at acquisitions.
Things are tough right now, no doubt, almost surreal some days. But in the words of Stanley McChrystal, “Welcome to the Game.”