In times of crisis and panic, our foremost responsibility as company leaders is to protect our businesses and, along with this, to act with honesty towards our team members.
This may require taking difficult and even unpopular decisions. However, if these decisions are based on ethical principles, they will stand us in good stead for the future.
The Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown and the pending recession have brought heightened anxiety to us all. This is not a time to add to our teams’ concerns about the future. Rather, we need to try to bring certainty and calm.
I am aghast to hear of companies in other sectors who, soon after lockdown started, stopped paying salaries or paid vastly reduced salaries, without giving their staff any notice.
Honesty is critical. It is during times of duress that we are tested, and our true characters emerge. These times provide an opportunity to demonstrate compassionate leadership, no matter the financial circumstances of a business. If one can afford to pay salaries, this must be made clear to the team. If not, one needs to let them know.
“If we show compassion towards others and the willingness to do what is best for them, we will have established a humane legacy for our own organisations during this pivotal point in human history.”
I take my hat off to those companies who have acted in workers’ best interests, even if this meant choosing to make them redundant so that they are able to claim UIF. If a business is pushed to this point, it is a hard but honest decision to have taken.
We are fortunate in that government and several organisations are offering a safety net for businesses under duress. It has never been so important to plan ahead, assess the futures of our businesses and, if necessary, seek support.
Leadership is a gift – an opportunity to become all that we can be, for the sake of our organisations, other people and ourselves. In humility, we realise that we cannot control everything about the future. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how control can be swept out from under our feet at any point due to circumstances greater than ourselves.
Our job is to navigate circumstances like a rafter traversing a fast-flowing river, growing in skill as we manage to avoid the rocks and jump the rapids.
The most important job in navigating this river is to enable your fellow travellers – your crew members – to enjoy the journey wherever possible. The most productive businesses are like extended families. As General Electric’s former manager Jack Welch said, leaders have the most powerful effect when seeing their role as that of Chief Happiness Officer, during good times and bad.
“We must navigate circumstances like a rafter traversing a fast-flowing river, growing in skills as we manage to avoid the rocks and shoot the rapids.”
In difficult times, our companies’ mettle is tested, as is ours as human beings. If we show compassion towards others and the willingness to do what is best for them, we will have established a humane legacy for our own organisations during this pivotal point in human history.
When people approach us with concerns, we should listen to them with care and understanding. Their reactions may seem irrational, but we all need to feel that we are heard. In these times, some around us will be facing multiple difficulties, from job losses to concerns about family members’ health and the pressures of keeping a family – especially those with young children – occupied and in good spirits during lockdown.
A caring approach will almost certainly help to ease conflicts as they arise.
When we close our eyes at night, we need to find comfort in having done our best.