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What Will the Future Hold? The Chess Game We Have to Play Right Now

By Joane Ramsey

Right now, your guess is as good as mine! The answer is, it is unclear! As leaders look at revamping their businesses, one thing I know for sure, now is the time to tap into the talent in your organization.

Since none of us truly know what the “new” normal will look like in a few months, the one thing we do know is that the plans we made at the end of last year are no longer the plans we will move forward with.

For some companies, this is an issue of managing their supply chain, while for others it's about revamping their entire business. If anyone is familiar with the rules of chess, they understand that in this current situation, leaders and their employees have to take small actions daily in order to win the battle. Like chess, making a move is required, even when the move may turn out to be detrimental. Freezing and not moving means the end of the game, and for most that is not an option! Unlike chess, this situation is not a game, therefore paying attention to the largest asset companies have is a critical success factor. This asset is their human capital. How leaders address their employees and tap into their talents can be the difference between moving forward or crumbling.

Many years ago, Warren Buffett was asked how to manage and prevent crisis. His advice was both pragmatic and brilliant. “First,” he said, “state clearly that you do not know all the facts. Then promptly state the facts you do know. One’s objective should be to get it right, get it quick, get it out, and get it over. You see, your problem won’t improve with age.”

Those who are waiting to determine how to move forward may already be behind. Those trying to move forward have to pay attention to the human side of this crisis. According to Harvard Business School, when communicating during a crisis leaders have to pay attention to four canonical questions people in crisis either implicitly or explicitly will ask:

1. Who are we? And, am I a part of the “we”?

This question has to do with the identity of an organization and the vision that has been set. Is this vision still valid given the current situation? Leaders may need to re-evaluate the vision of their organization given that this may have to be adjusted depending upon how the business will move forward. For some, this vision may change, for others the vision will be the springboard into the new direction.

2. What things that we care about are at risk?

Leaders have to be able to address the question of values. Is what we valued before this pandemic still valued now, or will that change? And, how will that affect “me”? Right now, with all the uncertainty that is going on, leaders have to be transparent and communicate with their employees the way they understand what is still holding true.

3. What happened/is happening?

This question relates to Situational Awareness. In order to help understand why this question is relevant, it is important to define what Situational Awareness is, and how it applies to leaders when communicating in a time of crisis. By definition Situational Awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.

Employees need to understand clearly what is happening to the organization. Transparency is critical at times like this because whether we like it or not, there are perceptions being formed, and then, there is reality. Leaders need to make sure people understand clearly the reality of what is taking place in the context of their business.

4. What do people like us, with values like ours, do in a situation like this?

This is an unprecedented situation and employees want to understand what the actions are that will be taken to move the company forward. Employees are paying attention to what other companies are doing, how they are handling the situation.

Inevitably, some leaders will stand out, be the example for others and come up with innovative ideas. All eyes are on today’s organization’s leadership teams. These are the people that have been put in charge of making decisions that will ensure the success of their companies, and the stakes are high. Perhaps, this is the time for leaders with similar values to come together and create an environment for all to thrive. One thing is for sure, people are asking these questions and are closely paying attention to what is to come next.

As a leader, remember:

  • Be true to yourself and your values
  • Have compassion and empathy, even when you have to furlough or let go of your employees
  • Be transparent
  • Take action everyday – one bite at a time
  • Ask questions and tap into your employee’s talents to help solve your issues, you may find answers in places you had not expected
  • Keep it real!
  • LEAD

Strategic Enhancement Group has helped many leaders overcome difficult situations, feel free to tap into our resources to help you.

Published: May 14, 2020

MEET THE AUTHOR

Joane Ramsey

Senior Performance Improvement Consultant

A native of Brazil, Joane first came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student with AFS. She returned to Brazil where she successfully ran and sold two different businesses. Returning to the US in 1992, Joane put her business ownership experience to work with a small manufacturing company running the day-to-day operations and facilitating sales with South American companies. She joined SEG in 1999, where her experience has helped her clients get the results they desired. Joane has a B.S. degree in business management from North Central College, where she majored in international business and Spanish.

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