Expectations of Leaders During Disruption

Why management assessment (and recruiting) should be a priority

by Rebecca Holland New

Every leader that I have spoken with during the “COVID-19” crisis has identified with the following opportunities:

  • Crisis preparedness plans
  • Supply chain communications, alignment, visibility, and risk management
  • IT infrastructure (employee access & know-how)
  • Culture and business execution focus aka “Leadership”
  • Alignment of communications with clarity of decision making
  • Business continuity plans (including M&A; shifting Marketing; R&D)
  • Taking care of people/talent/talent pipeline (Health, Safety, Stabilize)

How did these opportunities present?  Some struggled with cash flow planning as visibility to stock (distributor) was unknown.  Some used other companies’ actions as a “what not to do” when an employee is exposed to COVID-19 and struggled to determine how to operate.  Some leaders were disconnected from their employees and did not realize the impact remote work would have on productivity, nor the stresses of employees (who were in a dual income home and now faced with home schooling).  Some had manufacturing sites shut down completely without pre-communication to “corporate”.

Managing Opportunity via C-Suite Focus and Expectations: 

This is a dynamic time, so you should not expect your leaders to know the answers.  However, are they utilizing their network and data to determine alternatives?  For example:

  • Is HR leveraging benefit provider information for employees to help them manage through the change and identify resource needs/solutions? Are remote learning and development options available?
  • Is Supply Chain thinking about long-term risk (core raw material lead time impact; utilizing shut downs for preventative maintenance and deep cleaning; and changes to buying behaviors)?
  • Is IR aligned with internal communications on messages? Are channels set up for community, thought leadership, and good will communications, along with pro-active Q&A sites to facilitate communication?  Is your company outreaching to customers, suppliers and employees to ensure you are top of mind and seen as meeting their needs?  (Not the canned message that you are “cleaning more”, but messages on how you are leading…innovating.)
  • Are leaders clear with their team on goals, deliverables, and issues? Are they building opportunities to stay aligned as a team (virtual happy hour daily debriefs)?  Are they aware of the unique challenges on their employees and looking at ways to enable their teams? Are they stress testing decisions before taking action?
  • Is M&A still looking at ways to complete diligence (as much as possible)? Cash is cheap now; and M&A can be an effective way to boost earnings.

Leadership ACTIONS matter more than words: 

  • Industry “norm” for c-suite leaders includes the following competencies which are undoubtedly in your job profiles already: Agility, Execution, Strategic Thinking and Vision, Engagement, and Decisiveness/Accountability/Discipline. How are you seeing this in action? Unfortunately, business disruption happens, not usually on this scale, but we can all recall hurricane impact, impact of volcanic ash, impact of trade, and war zones in various countries.  Impact is close to home for all now as COVID-19 is a global issue.  However, the skills leaders need to have are arguably the same as needed in prior disruption.  Are you seeing your teams engaged?  Is your team proactively identifying risks (internal, external, societal) that need to be addressed?  Are they leveraging resources, using data to rapidly make informed decisions, and then adjusting tactics?  Are they focused on stability or growth, short-term vs. long-term?  Are they positively impacting investors, employees, and customers?  And are they managing their home life as well?  Are they effectively prioritizing and influencing others vs. creating stress, missing signals, or waiting to be directed?  Ensure that you have the leaders in place to maintain focus and planful execution.
  • Impact of Poor Leadership:
    • Loss of confidence (investor, government, customer, supplier, and employee)
    • Slow reaction to market (lack of speed and agility impact top and bottom line)
    • Compromised results
    • Erosion of your company culture, values, mission, and reputation

The Opportunity for Market Leadership and Thought Leadership

Your c-suite needs to be at the forefront of data and influence to ensure that you mitigate, plan for, and optimize during disruption.

  • Performance and leadership effectiveness are linked.
  • ACTION: Take a moment to assess your leadership.
  • Assessment does not mean you will replace, it will help you determine gaps in capabilities, trends, and where training/coaching or support may be needed to optimize a team/function.

Below is our Strategic Assessment Matrix, a very simple way to assess skills which we hope will be helpful to you in this unprecedented time.

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