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Corona Crisis: 10 Pieces Of Advice For Leaders On Handling The ‘New Reality’

Below is some advice I’ve sent out to clients and people in my community. It may help and give you an angle you hadn’t yet considered as this unprecedented situation continues to unfold. 

 The reality now is that we seem to be moving rapidly into a different phase of this corona virus crisis. One that needs pro-active action from all leaders.

Years ago, I used to run the Crisis Management function for a large company and I learned a lot about what helps organisations get through different times. And then when the crash happened in 2008, I worked with many leaders as they navigated through very challenging circumstances. And I learned a lot more. You’re probably you’re on it already but here’s some extra food for thought:

1. What matters most is this…

Clear thinking. 

And I’m concerned at the lack of it in people that I thought would know better. I’m a massive believer in the power of state of mind. A state that has the 3Cs – Calm, Centred and Clear. You can achieve that even in the midst of uncertainty like now. Whatever you know about State, now is the time to double down.

Your state matters more than your words right now. If you are calm (in your mind and behaviour), your team and family will be more so too.

The basics to help could be:

  • Take regular Mental Breaks and let your mind settle
  • If you know meditation, do it! (Or learn it)
  • Practice positive self talk
  • Get good sleep!
  • Walk
  • Share your deep concerns with trusted partners (but limit with your staff)

This situation will be a case study in leadership in the future and already we are seeing examples of good and bad leadership. If we focus on managing our state and minds, we will have better thinking and be less likely to under or over-react.

2. Adjust to the new reality, quickly

I’ve observed some people over-react to what’s happening and others under-react. Whether you agree with what’s happening or not is now irrelevant. The mental side of this is becoming the new reality and there will be consequences. Get your contingency plans completed for the ‘What ifs’ today. Issues like sick-pay, staff cover for services, cleaning offices etc.  Ask yourself what are the top questions to be answered for your business and find the answers now. Then do the next point…

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate (And the number 1 mistake)

One of the most important things I learned running the Crisis Management function was that the number one mistake leaders make in a crisis is that they don’t communicate often enough or indeed tell the truth to the people that need to know.

Your team need clarity regularly on the unfolding situation, especially because there is so much mis-information and rumours in circulation – and with technology they are spreading like widl-fire. People’s minds will be reacting and jumping to conclusions in the absence of information from you. If you have adapted to what’s going on and worked through some contingency plans, you will know what they need to hear. And ensure your management team are all consistent on the key messages.

4. Play down talk of a recession

I’ve already heard and seen talk of a recession. My advice is to totally shut this down – what we need to do is adjust our sails to the changing wind and adapt. No-one has a crystal ball here (including well known people) but what is true is that the more people talk of a recession the more likely it is to happen. 

This is likely to be a severe but hopefully short shock to the overall system. The fundamentals of the economy are sound and will bounce back very strongly once this issue dissipates.

5. Limit stimulants

In a stressful situation, we can often go to caffeine and alcohol as comfort agents. May advice is to limit these carefully as they will have an impact on your energy and ultimately your mood and then clarity of mind. 

6. Disconnect from the news (not completely though)

This situation reminds me hugely of the crash in 2008 primarily because of the mental reaction(panic/hysteria). I recall having to advise clients to really limit watching/listening to the news because it was compromising the one thing of real value – your mindset. Today we have even more news because of social media. My advice again is to limit it – check in for reality checks but not too often. It will affect your state and also your ability to do what is the next point…

7. Keep Asking This Key Question

There is one key question great leaders ask after their contingency plans have been created. And it’s this: Where is the opportunity here?

You can work on it yourself and also get your team involved.  I’ve already started making my own list and some clients are already on it. Interesting ideas that have emerged are:

  • Do more staff training
  • Get the website refresh done
  • Use online video more
  • Dust off projects we never get around to and get them done
  • Let’s learn something new!
  • Help your clients in a new way
  • Sell something that’s really needed now (Adapt what you sell to fill the immediate needs)

8. Show Care For Your People

People’s minds will be jumping around in varying degrees now. Your role as a leader is to help ensure calmness prevails. But some of your team will have genuine concerns about people close to them. They may have questions like this in their minds:

  • What about my parents? (or anyone high risk that’s close to them)
  • What happens if I get sick? (Will I be paid? What happens to my mortgage?)
  • What happens if the schools close?
  • What if my family has to self-isolate for 14 days? (What about food etc.?)

A week ago these questions were there but not as real. Today they are real concerns for your team whether you believe the risk or not. And they will be distracting some of your team without doubt. Through you and your managers, you can help them gain clarity on their own plans – which will help them and you.

9. Call trusted friend(s) or mentor.

Everyone I’m sending this to is an experienced leader who is great at what they do. But we’re all human and we all have our moments and our blindspots. Don’t be reluctant to reach out to your colleagues, peers and friends to vent or ask for advice.  I’m available any time if you’d like to talk.

10. Remind yourself and everyone you meet of this massive point.

It’s true that we are in uncharted territory. And because of that most will be feeling stress because of the uncertainty. But another truth is that regardless of what happens we will prevail. We must plan for the worst but also hope for the best. And adapt to what’s in front of us in the present moment. There are real opportunities in this situation – but we need to seek them out.

As a leader, your role is to ensure we keep an eye on reality (the real truth) but also an eye on what’s in front of us. And to hold unwavering optimism that all will be fine.

I hope this helps.

Best,

Shane

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