Unprecedented Times Require Unprecedented Communication
It is a moment of crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted lives and livelihoods but businesses as well. Businesses are struggling to survive by controlling costs and maintaining liquidity but unfortunately, many have and continue to fail.
No real surprise here, since roughly 70% of all business change efforts fail even without an unexpected pandemic. A majority of the successful 30% have their change process taking longer and costing more than anticipated. A few succeed and the secret lies in the ability of management to provide focused leadership during crisis and change.
The following are three key points of focus and over-communication during crisis and change:
· Purpose – Why are we here?
When you started your business, there was that problem that you identified and realized that it was big and valuable enough for people to pay for the solution that your business would provide. Being consistent with your firm’s authentic purpose is the only way that your business will profit, succeed and survive during a crisis. Why does your business exist beyond the selling of products or services?
Beyond the focus of revenue generation and growth goals, it's the same purpose that inspires your employees to deliver and excites them to come to work every day. This is very important because in a time of crisis like a health pandemic or threat like racism, which is now being declared a public health crisis, it will take more than just a good wage for employees to report and work with zeal. When was the last time you reminded your team of your organization’s purpose? Now more than ever, you’ll want to consistently communicate this.
· Strategy - What do we do?
A strategy is simply the steps that you intend to execute in order to achieve your business purpose. Your business exists because you want to serve a specific purpose through the provision of certain products and/or services. Analyze your strengths and capitalize on them, because they define your competitiveness. Know your target market as well as identify the business model that will create, deliver and capture value. A clearly defined business strategy will make it possible to develop and achieve growth as well as meet your business goals as a leader. There are five core Dimensions to strategy, which I cover succinctly in my book Better Results.
- Fields – where you intend to compete
- Networks – who will help you win
- Differentiators – why you’re the team to bet on
- Sequence – the steps to winning
- Impact – the value you create
· Culture - How will we act & persevere?
Your business culture is the true character of your organization, which is defined in terms of values, goals, attitudes and practices. This includes how the employees interact with the leadership, how you carry out your business transactions and the traits of the people that your organization hires among other aspects. Quick question, “Does your organization mirror your market?”
Since human behavior is affected by knowledge and experiences, it will be hard to build a team if there are mistrusts or disparate treatment between the employees and leadership or among the employees themselves.
Sharing just a few facts, most White people (87%) don’t believe that racial discrimination happens at their workplace, but almost half (49%) of Blacks do according to a recent Marketwatch, report published this month. While 35% of Black HR professionals said that racial inequity was happening at their employer, only 7% of their White counterparts agreed and 33% of black workers reported not being respected at work, while 18% of white workers reported the same. These are frankly very wide differences in perception. The absence of mutual respect, coupled with racial inequity at work undermines the business purpose by killing the productivity of employees.
The behavior of your organization, the way you show up as a team and the manner in which you present your products, services and strategy to the market place defines your culture and the ability of your business to remain strong in a time of crisis or change. Unfortunately, there is often two very different perceptions when polling the people of organizations. Could your unconscious bias be painting a rosier picture of your culture? Have you polled your organization for a true take on where you stand? And I don’t mean calling the people you typically ask into your office to gauge their perspective.
It all depends on the leadership
When faced with imminent crisis and change, it is hard for both management and employees to be motivated, especially when the fear of death, income loss and business failure is real. This distraction, if not overcome, has the ability to shift focus, kill teamwork and bring productivity to its knees.
This is a time when true leadership is tested. Leaders who show resistance to change will likely not have their employees leave the firm immediately in this time of uncertainty. However, they may actively checkout. They’ll arrive everyday like usual. But they won’t be fully present and they’ll spend their time and discretionary effort dreaming of the day the labor market gets more stable so they can find a new job. Or even worse, they’ll stay checked out but stay inside your firm.
As I always say, “Leadership is personal.” Leaders have to make the time to connect, engage and talk with the people of the organization. Town Halls and Team Meetings are necessary more than ever to reiterate the organization’s purpose and share how in these crazy times you’ll collectively bring the organization’s strategy to life. Then go about executing, over-communicating and building a strong, equitable and inclusive culture.
Stay safe. Keep the faith.
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