Dealing with a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions (II)

THE Covid-19 crisis provides a litmus test on leadership quality and what it means to be a true, authentic, inspirational and strategic leader.Many leaders will be shaken to the core and some will not recover from this catastrophe.

Robert Mandeya

In this crisis, it is tempting to choose self-preservation and abandon your teams at a time they need you most to give them direction, inspiration and hope.
This 21-day lockdown presents an opportunity for strategic leadership. Strategic leaders are busy regrouping the teams, inspiring confidence and leveraging on the creative potential of the team.

Self-preservation vs common good

There are many so-called leaders, whose only concern is their self-preservation, at the expense of their team during these very challenging times. It is at a time like this that the character of a leader must filter into the entire organisation and its employees.

Great character will create the potential for a great organisation as they seek ways of recovering from the disaster. It takes an inspirational leader to inspire his or her team to believe in the impossible and to look at the bigger picture beyond Covid-19.

The great possibilities ahead will only be figured out when the entire team is made to believe first in themselves and then the entire organisation.

Preparing a response to the crisis

The 21-day lockdown period presents opportunities to gather as much valuable information as possible. As long as you have enough facts to make informed decisions, then a plan can be worked out as an intervention mechanism.

It is not an illusion that many of our strategic plans that we were running with before the disaster struck have been terribly distorted and need revisiting.
It is time to review our strategic goals and reset or fine-tune them in line with the obtaining situation. Some of the goals we set before the crisis have been overtaken by events and need to be dropped and bring new ones on board.

Needless to say, deciding how to react can be just as difficult, especially when you have to deal with such an unfamiliar situation as the Covid-19 crisis.
In such a case, meta cognition — thinking about how you think — can supply a solution. Even if you lack a crisis management or contingency plan for a particular conundrum, you can train yourself to think in such a way as to quickly decode the issue and craft appropriate responses to the crisis.

Stop, look, listen, respond

These strictures gain particular importance when the lines of communication, command, and responsibility have broken down such as happened with Covid-19 which has forced people to operate from their respective homes.

This crisis took everyone by storm, hence the need to stop a while and study the impact. Instead of reacting instinctively (or worse, panicking), take a moment to cool down and think.

Assess the situation, absorbing as much information as possible; look at the obvious factors, and listen to your teams as much as you can so you can learn more. After you have all the facts in hand (or at least as many as you can effectively gather), respond. Move forward decisively and untangle the snarl caused by the disaster.

Involving others

By the time you respond to a crisis, you should know whether or not you can deal with it alone. Never hesitate to seek assistance whenever you need it; one aspect of true wisdom is knowing when to ask for help.

Pull together a team, if necessary, before implementing your response; then split the issue into more easily handled sub-issues, and parcel them out. Make sure everyone knows precisely what they must do to solve their piece of the problem.

If nothing else, try to get buy-in from the key players in the crisis, assuming you have the time to do so. And as you implement your response, do what you can to keep everyone in the loop — including your clients or end users.

In most cases, clients will respond positively to a request for a little extra time; and if they do not, have a contingency plan in place whereby you can hand over their work to a contractor during the interim.

Cautious optimism

It is human nature to be hopeful and, thankful — that gives us the drive we need to succeed through thick and thin. But truly successful people refuse to let their guard down, no matter how positive their attitudes.

They understand the need for both advance preparation and superb flexibility. So have contingency plans in place for everything you can think of, and roll with the punches as they occur — even when they come from unforeseen directions and take unanticipated dimensions.

Most disruptions soon yield to the application of a healthy dose of discipline and creative thinking; and once the crisis passes, you can analyse what happened and put plans into place to head off similar occurrences.

When faced with the unexpected, do not just throw up your hands in despair. Step forward, take charge and, no matter how hard a crisis hits you, learn something from the situation.

Better yet, find a way to profit from that knowledge. When life hands you lemons in the workplace, do not just make lemonade — find a way to sell that lemonade for a tidy profit!

In a crisis, you have to be stress-proof, results-orientated and effective. You need to exhibit administrative sensitivity, be flexible and — this is increasingly important — be creative!

Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of LiRD. —robert@lird.co.zw/www.lird.co.zw.