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.

Ian Croft

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