We have all been facing unusual challenges since March of this year. It is easy to become overwhelmed, panic, and allow emotions to take charge instead of well-thought-out logic or reason. As I sit here writing this article, it is May 2020. A lot has transpired over the last 75 days, and there seems to be a new set of challenges every day. Nevertheless, by the same token, there are unprecedented opportunities if we take the time and energy to look for them. There is a saying, “What you look for, you will find.” It does not mean that we do not have to address the problems that arise. We must face our challenges head-on, boldly, and swiftly.
I believe there are at least two phases in a crisis, and I am sure there will be more as we continue down this road. The first is the Emergency phase—the initial shock, shutdown of the American economy, questions: How will we survive? What immediate steps do we need to take to protect our team’s safety and well-being? The second is the Adaptive phase—How do we thrive in this new reality? And to be quite honest, the question that precedes this one, is how we simply survive through crisis.
A week into the pandemic, there was a leadership conference that was moved to a virtual setting. One of the speakers closed his session by referencing an article entitled “‘Scary Times’ Success Manual,” with ten strategies that can be used to survive this time and thrive. I have included a link to this article and highly recommend reading it. It was an excellent resource for me to frame my thoughts as I joined my leadership team in navigating through this time.
As we transitioned from the emergency phase to the adaptive phase, we began quickly looking at ways to cut expenses. There had already been a discussion by our leadership team in January of this year; however, it was not until the pandemic hit that we accelerated that conversation and moved it quickly from discussion to action. We found that we had been complacent in the execution of cutting these expenses because we had been in the success zone. As I have quoted in previous columns, Craig Groeschel says, “The biggest threat to future success is current success.” It is incredible what we found to cut when we had to find it. Crisis creates clarity. It becomes clear what is fluff and what is necessary. We were careful not to cut in certain areas we believed would be detrimental. For us, that meant we continued with individual advertising efforts that had the best return on investment; however, others that were not producing got let go. We were committed to doing everything to keep our team members employed, so our team was not our focus when looking to reduce costs. However, I realize other organizations had to make that difficult decision to survive this time. As we began looking for these unusual opportunities, we continued to find them. It started with finding unnecessary expenses to cut. One of the next opportunities for us was to accelerate our electronic communication efforts and find creative ways to serve our customers.
We believed we provided an exceptional repair experience for our customers, but, again, we found ways to serve them better. It was now more important than ever to understand our customers’ changing needs and create solutions for their problems. The key to success in this is to adapt and adapt quickly. It is necessary to have strong leadership in a crisis, and it is critical to empower your team to make decisions that align with your values. None is as smart as all. Engaging our entire team in looking for opportunities and ways to add value to our customers, team members, and partners was essential.
Focus on today. I encourage our entire leadership team to start their day by writing the answer to the question, “What makes today successful?” If you do not focus on what you want your day to look like, before you know it, the day will end, and you will not be closer to your goals. Although our goals changed significantly during this time, we still set goals. Without goals, we would aimlessly live each day with no direction. In times of crisis, this focus is essential. We focused first on our team members. It was vital that they felt secure in their health and financial stability. We over-communicated, with empathy and frequency. We know that bad news is better than no news; therefore, over-communication is essential. Transparency and vulnerability were necessary as we navigated each day. This focused activity and communication led us to continue to find opportunities, deepen and strengthen team member relationships, and foster a healthy culture amid a crisis.
Finding opportunities during an economic downturn is possible. The key is urgency, avoiding complacency, and managing the chaos; thus, it does not cause panic within your organization. I want to leave you with a few questions that I hope you will take a few minutes to consider. Knowledge without action is worthless.
- What areas do you see complacency in your business, department, or location? What are a few stretch goals you can set to overcome the complacency?
- How can you engage your team to develop solutions on an ongoing basis? Top-down leadership will only take you so far.
- Are there areas that need more focused communication and transparency to build a healthier and more competitive team?
- What makes today successful for you, your department, your team, your location, or your business? Answer that question, then work backward to make it happen.