We are functioning in a moment of uncertainty. We don’t even know how long this moment will last, or what it will look like on the other side. It is in these challenging times that we need strong, global leadership. Directives from government officials showing that they understand the severity of the crisis and instituting mandates that support businesses and citizens.
We saw incredible leadership this week. It was announced that the IR35 reforms will be delayed until 2021 in light of the COVID-19 crisis. This move is part of the measures the government has put in place to protect the economy against the backdrop of uncertainty due to COVID-19. For many in the interim management industry who have been campaigning against the reforms for so long, this will be a welcome move and relief in such challenging times.
I have been working in the interim management industry for almost 20 years and work with leaders quite often during times of transition, when there appear to be no answers and when things are changing by the minute. We have all seen good and bad leadership but some things are paramount during times of crisis and in such unprecedented change:
Communicate early and often. We are all looking to our leaders for answers. We want to know they are aware of the problem, and we want to know they are thinking of us when the problem arises. Set up a communication system - email, video, conference calls - whatever makes the most sense for you and your audience, and keep your audience up to date on what is going on and what information you are working with. As decisions are being made - explain why, don’t just say what you did without the backstory. Even if you are communicating information that people don’t want to hear, context can take a lot of the load off of you.
Stay calm. Separate emotion from logic. In times of crisis, leaders are undoubtedly faced with stressful, overwhelming decisions. However, it is their job to present a calm demeanor, and to let their employees, clients, boards, etc. know that they are thinking through possible scenarios, weighing options, and doing their best to get everyone through the situation. When leaders panic, everyone else panics. Good leaders are able to exercise self-control, no matter how difficult that may be.
Manage expectations. No one wants to tell their employees that times are tough, but strong leadership is honest leadership. Communication with employees and clients should not sound the alarm, but it should convey the seriousness of the situation and the issues you are facing. A false sense of optimism could result in a bigger let down in the long-run.
Stay strong. Manage fear. Employees and clients are not armed with all of the information a business leader has. They may not understand what a temporary ‘shutdown’ could mean, or how the supply-chain changing could impact the bottom line. It might seem that ignorance is bliss. Business leaders know all of this information - they know they might need to do massive layoffs, shut down offices, reduce salaries, or take a paycut of their own. While leaders might have the most fear, it is their job to stand strong. The best leaders are able to push fear aside and do their best to get everyone over the finish line together, even when they know it’s going to be a challenge when they get there.
I have not only met incredible and inspirational interims but I have also had the privilege to work with businesses going through significant change - both growth and in turnaround situations. As a business or business leader, if you need support, help, advice or experts for a short period of time, call us, email us, message us. We have the expertise within our network to support businesses today going through challenging times.