I saw it with my team at BuildDirect in 2000 during the dot-com crisis and again in 2008 during the housing and credit crisis. In both cases, we were not as well prepared as we should have been either because of our technology or balance sheet. It wasn’t that hard decisions didn’t have to be made. Ultimately, it was the communication of those decisions in a way that gave hope to people that was key to leading the team through challenging times because it allowed them to remain at their best.
I needed to step back in a calm way and understand what the world would look like in the future, to be able to get out of the day-to-day insanity of a crisis. I also realized that I had to overcommunicate in a genuine, hopeful and loving way. I realized that leadership matters a lot in times like this. It was not that I had all the answers – it was about communicating, often, in a way that gave people hope. Doing that in an honest, calm way ensured they could operate at their best. The ideas that came from allowing them to release their tension, in many cases, created the best opportunities.
“Times like this are made for high integrity, compassionate leaders who truly care about the world in which we all live.” – Jeff Booth, Visionary Tech Leader & Author
Even though times like these are tough, they also create some of the most amazing opportunities. Under the cover of a crisis, it is easier to do the things needed to ensure that a company can thrive in the future and do it fast. In business, sometimes that means extending cash by doing a down round quickly; sometimes it means delaying expenses or making cuts and preserving the core or changing the “core” altogether. Remember, it’s not that you might not have to make hard decisions along the way — it is the way in which you make and communicate those decisions.
Times like this also create unbelievable buying opportunities. If we can imagine what it looks like for us and our teams with fear in the market, we can also imagine what it looks like for others. Because of that fear, companies tend to make bad decisions either because they project the existing business in its worst case into the future instead of changing it and make irrational decisions or because of balance sheet impairments and that becomes opportunities for others to pick up businesses at fire-sale prices.
Practice compassionate leadership
Times like this are made for high integrity, compassionate leaders who truly care about the world in which we all live. In a world that seems to be breaking down – quality leadership matters more than ever. It’s what people crave and what they will remember when this is over.
Take YPO member Glenn Wong, CEO of Catalyst Solutions. His leadership has created untold value in these times by bringing together top speakers from all over the world so that our YPO members in Canada can all learn from each other. He’s probably saved countless businesses in this effort. He didn’t have to do this, but it’s the impact he chose to make during this time.
This same thread can be applied to any business if you chose to connect the dots and see the pain that others are experiencing right now. Find a way to help people out of it. That is where the real value lies because, remember that in the end, it is the impact you have on others that will matter most in your life.
For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. 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.