Business leaders everywhere are trying to figure out how to operate in the new normal. From communicating with staff and vendors to determining how and when to pivot or scale down, crisis leadership skills have never been more important.
“We learn as much from the mistakes as the successes.”
The word crisis as we understand it has a negative connotation and usually refers to times of turmoil and hardship: a pandemic, a stock market crash, an economic recession, or depression.
But as Process Makes Perfect guest and Scaling Coach founder, Bill Gallagher, points out, the root of the word crisis actually refers to a decisive moment or turning point. In that context, mindsets can shift from survival mode to embracing a crisis for what it often is – a new opportunity.
The Silver Linings Playbook (no, not the movie…)
Looking for the silver lining or the big picture can be hard to do when you’re faced with difficult choices in the moment.
As many businesses are faced with cutting staff and operations to shutting down completely, the concept of acting decisively and making bold moves is easier said than done.
Here are the 5 steps that Bill recommends to scale your business in the right direction during a crisis (and seize opportunities along the way):
1. Name Your Feelings
The worst thing anyone can do during a crisis is to become fatalistic. But blind and misguided positivity and forced optimism can also do more harm than good. You can’t take care of your team or your company if you’re not taking care of yourself first.
When you create the space to name and acknowledge your feelings and emotions (especially the negative ones), you’re in a better position to provide that same level of support and space for your team.
2. Lead Without A Plan
Planning is priceless, but plans themselves can be worthless, especially during a crisis. If there’s one constant in times of uncertainty, it’s that the plans you made before the crisis will quickly become irrelevant and obsolete.
Instead of forcing a static (and futile) plan, embrace the fluidity of the crisis and implement a collaborative approach among your team, vendors, customers, business partners, and community.
There may not be a clear next move to take. But coming together to identify and implement the next best steps as they become apparent will keep everyone moving forward.
3. Make Radical Requests
During the last global economic crisis in 2008, Bill took a bold leap of faith and made a radical request of his landlord. He asked for a year-long moratorium on his rent payments to buy himself time to figure out what to do in case his business failed. In exchange for a few concessions and a plan for accountability to protect his investment, the landlord agreed. Bill’s business survived, and it turns out he didn’t need an entire year to meet his obligation to the landlord.
The moral of the story is that thinking creatively and stepping outside of your comfort zone is usually necessary not just to get your business through a crisis, but to make it out in a better position to scale up again once the circumstances improve.
Some of the most obvious solutions – like overleveraging yourself with more debt or downsizing your staff – might help you survive a cash crunch in the short term. But they can also weigh you down and make it more difficult to recover in the long term.
4. Be A Trend Spotter
Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old saying goes. And some of the best companies and inventions have developed as a response to a deep economic and societal need during a time of crisis.
Some of the hardest-hit industries – like the restaurant and travel sector – have found ways to keep their doors open and their staff employed to meet the changing needs and market conditions of the moment.
Re-examine your own resources and workflows, and look for ways to adapt your services to the current trends in the market. You can literally scroll through headlines and sit down with your leadership teams to brainstorm actionable steps according to developing trends. The potential for innovation there is huge.
5. Execute Flexibility
All this is not to say that you should completely toss out or rewrite your company’s playbook. Keep doing what’s working and continue to preserve your core values and culture. But adapt your processes accordingly to meet the demands of the moment, whether it’s transitioning to remote work or adjusting your products and services.
So by all means meditate. But then take action, and be bold.