COVID-19 has knocked us off our game plan – everything we know about moving forward shattered. Although I have been through some tough times in the past, I don’t fully remember how I responded.
This time I am working with a group of CEOs and senior executives, and we are ALL learning together.
March 25th, the first day we sheltered in place, we all disrupted ourselves from the top of the S Curve to the bottom of the S Curve. My gifted friend Whitney Johnson has been educating executives that to grow, you need to self disrupt, or you will become bored and either jump or pushed off the top.
After the COVID-19 shock, our Vistage members assessed the situation, addressed the damage, and adapted to the times.
Our members learned that communicating with employees on the human level was the most significant 1st step. Sometimes this was new, and being empathetic is like discovering a new behavior. One of the most important lessons is pushing away all our beliefs and mental models and opening ourselves to be curious learners. We are discovering being authentic and transparent is an excellent quality to have as a CEO.
Second, we addressed the financial damage. There are no precedent models, so we need to build Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D. Inevitably, we have to access whether we need to furlough employees to cut our cash burn. This situation is where the hard emotional work comes in – long-service employees, with children and spouses out of work. Do I look after the business, or do I look after my loyal employees?
Third, we continue practicing humility and transparency – balanced with optimism and steadiness. We stay focused and decide based on facts and the best data we have about future operations. Each day is a new day with fresh information and additional challenges. For our essential businesses, employees exposed to COVID present an added layer of complexity.
All along, we are evaluating our talent – some employees are rising to the challenge more than others. In the new normal – life after COVID-19, we may need distinct and different talent.
While we work every day to put out fires, we need to look at our new normal operations. We need to listen to our customers, our employees, and other stakeholders to architect the best plan. Those of us who deliver our products or services cheaper, faster, and with an uptick in quality will emerge strongly in the next business cycle.
Keep your eye on the ball, never compromise your integrity, look after your employees and stakeholders, and design an unknown future, you will be glad you did.
We are climbing up the S Curve yet have a long way to go before Mastery. If we approach the day with curiosity, it will be an excellent day. After all, we can only manage what we can control.