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Leading Business Through Crisis

Six Insights to Align Your Strategy, Culture, and Organizational Values to Support Business Continuity

Crises can be triggered internally or as a result of external factors. What we are currently experiencing with COVID-19 is definitely the latter. How you respond and lead through this crisis will determine whether you also end up dealing with an internal crisis. Simply put, if the external crisis isn’t responded to well with strong leadership, it will spark an internal crisis as a result.

Leadership is often referred to as doing the right thing, while management is characterized as doing things right. So what is the right thing? Your strategy is your North Star; it’s the right thing to focus on and execute, now more than ever.

Your strategy combined with your culture and organizational values should guide you and your people safely through the crisis.

Living Your Values

This is when people need to see you live those values, not just talk about them. We are seeing multiple examples of organizations protecting their people through remote working and paid sick leave. These are small but powerful examples of living an organization’s culture and values. People are afraid of the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, and as a result, they need reassurance and strong leadership. They are looking for someone to lead—someone they want to follow.

You know how your daily work connects directly to the strategy of your organization, so much so, you don’t even have to think about it. How well do your people know what they do contributes to your organization’s strategic success? Can they articulate it? It’s vital that they can see and articulate that connection. It brings meaning to their work.

This is especially true if they are working remotely for the first time and maybe starting to feel disconnected from the mission and their team members.

You can’t control the external environment, as this crisis is proving; however, you can influence the internal factors at play inside your organization. Your role as a leader is to create an environment where people can be successful.

6 Insights for Creating a Successful Environment

Here are six insights to focus on to create that environment:

  • Clear aims, outcomes, and objectives – People want to do a good job and contribute. Articulating what they need to do and how it drives toward the organization’s strategy is fundamental to that. Staff who know why they are doing something and how it contributes to the organization are known to be more engaged and committed to achieving that outcome.
  • Skills, knowledge, and mindset – Can your employees do the work? Has that been impacted by the current circumstances? What extra support might they need? How can you and your leadership provide that? Skills and knowledge are two elements; the force multiplier is the correct mindset. Helping your people achieve the correct mindset is vital to successfully navigating this crisis.
  • Capacity – Do your employees’ circumstances allow them to execute what needs to be done? Have childcare responsibilities reduced their capacity? Can they work more flexible hours to get the work done, for example, when the kids are in bed? Are they struggling without you being aware?
  • Tools, systems, and resources – Do your people have equipment, laptops, desks, etc. to work effectively? Do they have accessibility to systems and visibility of the information they need to make informed, correct decisions? How are they communicating across and with their teams?
  • Work processes and environment – Do your processes need to change to accommodate the current environment? Are your people empowered to suggest and make changes? Crises are often a catalyst for advancement and change. What changes can your teams make to improve or streamline their processes without undue risk?
  • Motivation, incentives, and consequences – Along with having set clear objectives and outcomes, there also needs to be clear rewards for achieving those outcomes. Those rewards don’t need to be solely financial. Knowing they have contributed to the success of the organization or exceeded a customer’s expectations are powerful motivators; those achievements have their own intrinsic value.

People cannot control many things during a crisis. By aligning the six factors above with your strategy, being able to articulate it, and showing people where their contribution fits in the bigger picture will give them purpose in their work. Providing the purpose will help them feel a sense of control and understand their contribution to the common goal. You will have helped create an environment in which your people can be successful.

Quick Exercise

You are not in this alone—your leadership team needs to live and enact the values of the organization to achieve your strategy.

As a quick exercise, consider the six factors and answer the following questions in order:

  • Which factors are your leadership teams excelling at?
  • Are all teams excelling at the identified factors?
  • Which ones do you need help with?
  • Which ones need your immediate attention or need to be prioritized?

Your team’s strong leadership is as important as yours. Your and their behavior will percolate down through the organization and create the real culture and values that people see. Those behaviors need to be aligned with the organization’s strategy to emerge from this crisis stronger and more competitive.

About the Authors

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Ian Croft

I have always been fascinated by performance excellence. Obviously, we don’t call it that when we watch our favorite sports team/heroine/hero winning at their sport or while we watch an amazing artistic performance—we just enjoy the moment. For me, that moment is frequently followed by these questions: • How did they do that? • How hard have they worked individually or as a team to be that good? • What do they do that others don’t do that makes them successful? Being a Performance Consultant with GP Strategies allows me to explore those questions with clients on a daily basis. I was born and raised in the UK and moved to the US at the start of 2007. My career started with a UK-based bank where I specialized in commercial banking. It was the chance to help clients build successful businesses that attracted me to commercial banking over the other alternatives on offer. I spent several years working with clients on expansion strategies, restructuring their businesses, and working through the day-to-day challenges of running their businesses. I moved into commercial banking training during 1998 after completing an MBA. That’s when I found my true passion: helping people become the best they can be at what they do. I moved to a global bank during 2000 in a training role and became a Learning and Performance Consultant with responsibility for four of the bank’s businesses in 2003. In this role, I traveled internationally, delivering training and working with the four businesses to solve performance issues. My final role with the global bank was as Head of Commercial Banking for North America. After leaving banking, I became a Solution Architect within the Global Learning Solutions division of a major consultancy firm. This gave me the opportunity to work with diverse clients on learning and performance issues and indulge my passion for helping clients improve the performance of their businesses. I have been with GP Strategies since 2016 and truly love what I do here. Each day brings fresh challenges as I partner with clients to solve performance issues at individual, department, divisional, or organizational levels. I live in Delaware with my wife Elaine and our dog Charlie. I am an avid cyclist and can be found out on the roads of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland most weekends.

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