CEO-to-CEO Advice Evolves Quickly During COVID-19 Pandemic
Just one week ago YPO asked its members, chief executives around the globe: Based on your experience, what advice would you give other YPO members and the business community at large on how to navigate the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The response was remarkable. Over 2,750 executives took time away from managing disruptions to both business and personal lives to respond to the survey and collectively support and help each other. The responses kept coming in even after the survey closed.
YPO published the results of the YPO Chief Executive Global Survey on the Business Impact of COVID-19 a few days later.
In less than a week, with the uncertain global situation surrounding public health and economies, YPO members have had to pivot quickly on how they are addressing the crisis and what advice they have for their fellow CEOs. The shift in responses speaks clearly to the environment we are all in.
Our world is changing quickly.
Some of the advice from one week ago is timeless, “protect your employees,” but some may no longer be relevant, like “reduce travel.”
Here is a sample of CEO advice from last week, and a conversation with two prominent members of YPO this week.
EARLY ADVICE FOR DEALING WITH COVID-19 IMPACT ON BUSINESS
- Act now: “This is the Black Swan event on all our risk management matrices. What plans do we make to ensure that our businesses survive it and emerge stronger? Our businesses need to adapt to minimize the impact and we need to be nimble in our responses. We will likely all take a hit from the economic impact of it but ‘this too shall pass’ and preparing for ‘what’s next’ is all we can do as leaders to maximize the odds for success.”
- Stay calm: “Now is not the time for panic, which will only get in the way of what you need to be doing. While it’s completely understandable to be worried, your best bet to getting through this unscathed is to channel that anxious energy into doing what you can to stop this pandemic from spreading. And to do that, you first need to have the most complete, accurate information on the situation as you can.”
- Communicate with stakeholders: “Watch very closely, but don’t overreact. Help employees quantify risks and relentlessly communicate the company plans to address the illness if detected in your company. Address the fears but project confidence in your ability to manage through the pandemic. Bring in outside experts if necessary, to help employees differentiate between media hype and facts. Take the same measures with clients.”
- Protect your community: “Join in what your community is doing. In the Silicon Valley, we are working to stop the spread by having everybody stop traveling and going to the office. It’s a mini self-quarantine in our backyard. If we can stop it, we’ll save our community and the world a lot of pain and deaths. Protect your employees, and they will thank you for it.”
- Protect employees: “Adopt every measure possible to keep employees safe. It is better to err on the side of caution than to put people’s lives at risk. How you respond to a crisis of this type determines how loyal your team members may feel toward the company in the long term. Support team members and their families as much as possible.”
- Ensure financial resiliency: “It’s time to aggressively free up operating expense and de-risk as much as possible. This is a crucial step to creating some level of flexibility, a commodity most organizations will be looking for very soon. The speed and ferocity in which news comes must be addressed immediately with meaningful crisis communications. There will be some short- and long-term adjustments that conflict with the agile, lean, just-in-time world we’ve grown to love. Despite a healthy amount of progress in the last decade, the newest innovation craze will be diversification.”
- Work from facts, not rumors: “Many employees are seemingly gripped by what they hear around the world and are already planning for doomsday scenarios. Work hard to see through the fog of media reporting to understand the true underlying causes of the crisis and how they impact you — or not.”
Explore more responses from chief executives here: COVID-19 Crisis: Advice from the Global Leadership Community of Chief Executives
A MORE RECENT CHAT WITH TWO PROMINENT YPO MEMBERS
In a livestreamed YPO interview this week, Elizabeth Zucker, 2019-2020 YPO Chairman and Scott Mordell, YPO CEO, shared their thoughts on this quickly evolving situation.
“This is our new norm. First and foremost, we’re going to acclimate,” says Zucker. “We’re learning from other countries and adapting based on those trends. We need to be learning from each other, share with each other and learn from experiences.”
When asked about how leaders are prioritizing around the globe, Mordell responds, “This crisis is a great leveler. We are all susceptible to this. A lot of things that used to feel like they were important aren’t as important right now because we’re worried about health and safety.”
Mordell continues, “Across the entire world, there’s nobody who’s unaffected by what’s happening right now. Even if your business seems unaffected, the people in your business are affected. And what you can do as a consumer is affected.”
Zucker adds, “Looking forward, we need to expect the unexpected. Our experiences are going to be unknown for quite some time. We can’t forget the humanitarian side. We have to lead with compassion and caring.”
Returning to the role as business leaders, Mordell says, “We’re going to have different lifestyle habits as we continue to go forward. We’re going to learn to live with it. We’re going to overcome it, and we’re going to be different. I think the role for us as business leaders is to foster optimism and to act out of facts.”
The bottom line, according to Zucker: “We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves as leaders, as parents and as people.”
YPO member-only resources
All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.