The future of work is here. Courtesy of coronavirus, it has arrived rather abruptly. Suddenly, the world is a virtual team. A team in crisis. You are the leader navigating your business through this storm. Under the stress of these perilous times, how do you want to be remembered?
Stephen Covey said ‘start with the end in mind’. For sure, this crisis will end. The virus will wreak its havoc and then blow itself out. In its wake, we will be left with our leadership reputations. How will we have treated our colleagues, staff, suppliers and customers in this time? Will we emerge from the crisis as the trusted ones with the trusted brands? Will this crisis have brought the best out in us and our leadership teams? Or will we be chased to the bottom by a swirling sense of panic and doom?
These are the stark realities and tough questions I debated with a group of CEOs last week. I was booked to deliver a ‘business as usual’ Trusted Executive workshop for a Vistage CEO group. At 9 am, as I stood in front of a sea of distracted and concerned faces, I realised it was time to tear up the standard agenda and focus on their real and immediate question – ‘how can you help us navigate the current coronavirus crisis?’
Those CEOs instinctively knew that virtual, home-working, socially-distanced teams will flatten and reduce the peak of the coronavirus pandemic but they also knew the same measures will fragment and weaken their company cultures. If left unattended, trust in their businesses will evaporate. Trust that arrived on foot will leave on horseback taking with it a team’s sense of belonging, their collective purpose, their productivity and their engagement. These leaders wanted to know how they could quickly inject trust to protect these valuable investments.
Skipping my usual ‘big picture’ introduction, I introduced the group to our unique, scientifically verified Nine Habits of Trust model shown below.
The Nine Habits of Trust
I challenged the CEOs to think about how these habits could come to their aid right now. In pairs, they debated and assessed each one. For some, it was a time to make sure they were open, consistent and honest in their communication. The CEO’s voice needs to be heard not only sharing the facts and figures but also showing some well-placed human empathy and a glimpse of measured vulnerability. For others, the habit of evangelising was key. For them, it was time to re-visit and re-establish their core vision, to show resilience in the face of a significant set-back and to keep the personal mojo intact. There was a lot of discussion about the habit of being kind. Is it a time to show kindness to staff and customers? How is this balanced with the need to protect cash flows and the very survival of the business? One leader had something of an epiphany about the habits of being morally brave and being humble. As a result, he immediately cancelled his upcoming skiing trip, realising that a misplaced photo from the piste could wreck all other efforts to keep the trust. Finally, many of the CEOs recognised their temptation to take all the weight of the crisis only on their own shoulders, as opposed to using the habit of coaching to ensure that middle-managers are empowered and held accountable for playing their own important part.
It was a powerful conversation. Each leader left with one habit to focus upon and a clear action plan. I left the session with a realisation that the Nine Habits model can provide leaders with a valuable checklist for navigating the tough decisions and dilemmas triggered by the current coronavirus crisis. The model helps leaders manage the medical risks and business risks in parallel, balancing shorter-term and longer-term considerations. It makes sure that leaders focus not just on what to do but on how they do it in a way that protects the trust they have worked so hard to build. It can proactively protect employee morale, productivity and engagement, particularly when teams are working in virtual and socially-distanced environments
I also left the session focussing upon my own habit – choosing to be kind. My action was to write this blog, share it on social media and offer a free virtual individual or team coaching session for any leader or leadership team who wishes to use the Nine Habits model to navigate the coronavirus crisis. On behalf of the leadership team at The Trusted Executive Foundation, we believe it is a time to help at a human level, rather than exploit a business opportunity. This is how we want to be remembered! If you and/or your team require this immediate shot in the arm, please book your complimentary ‘Nine Leadership Habits for Navigating the Crisis‘ coaching session by contacting me direct via our contact form. We’re here to help!
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