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As Your Organization Reacts to the Coronavirus, Ask These 5 Questions

By Matt Whiat, Founding Partner

As COVID-19 continues to spread, companies are pressured to respond. Travel and work from home policies for employees, annual meetings, and customer and official communications are currently top of mind. How an individual responds during a time of stress is who they are. How a company responds during difficult times defines who they are. So go corporate decisions in tough times, so goes the culture.

Ask these five questions to respond in a more intentional manner:

1. How can your organization’s values be used in making and communicating the decision?

Reference that organizational values poster hanging in the office or click on the “Who We Are” section of your website. Now is the time to use those carefully crafted words as a filter for decisions and communications to stakeholders. Values serve as a judgement of what is important. Before jumping into the tactics of how to mitigate risks, ask, “if we, as an organization, are going to respond in support of our values, how should we act?” Secondly, as you communicate with stakeholders, start with your values. If you want your values to live in behaviors throughout your organization, now is the time to use and reference them.

2. Where do your employees come in?

Your people come first. Yes, you read that correctly. Your role, as a leader in the organization, is to serve the people in your span of care. Your people then take care of your customers, and your customers take care of the company. When this happens, all stakeholders benefit. Thank you, Herb Kelleher. But it starts with your people. Make the decision that shows your people that in a time of need you have their back. Remaining loyal to your people now results in their loyalty to your organization in the future.

3. How can the organization play the relationship game? 

It might be easy, and perhaps profitable, to hold your customers to specific cancellation policies or raise the price on certain products or services that are in high demand. Before doing so, ask how the organization can play the relationship game. If you were the customer in a time of need or under constraints, how would you want to be treated? Caring for your customers now results in loyalty tomorrow.

4. How can you increase transparency in your communication?

When was the last time you read an official communication from an organization and thought, “that was very open and honest”? A key component of trust is transparency yet by the time communications go through official organization channels they miss the mark of being honest and to the point. In times like these, your people are searching for facts. Even if the answer is unknown, be transparent and willing to state what you know and what you don’t. The willingness to not “spin” a message or convolute it with more words will earn you trust at a time when it is needed and appreciated.

5. What can the organization control and influence?

In times of uncertainty, your leadership team can use structure to focus their thinking. Use the Control – Influence – Can’t Control model to help. Rather than focusing on what you cannot control, list what is in control of the organization and what the organization can influence. This helps a leadership team stay in tune with possibilities and allows for creative thinking to be applied in a more productive sense. See example below:

sphere of influence example

At some unknown date in the future, your organization will look back on the decisions made today and how you reacted during these trying times. You will be either proud or disappointed. But you won’t be neutral. Legacies are built during hard times. Legacies are built in the decisions you make today.

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