I am writing this blog during the corona virus pandemic. Governments around the world are struggling to lead the efforts of supporting their citizens in both staying safe and treating those that are infected, while most businesses are ducking their heads in the sand to protect the troves of profits they made since the 2008 crash and CEOs of major organizations are reacting in the most common way that we have seen in every crisis.
Below are some of the behaviors we are seeing:
- not take a salary for the coming period and cut top executives pay by 50%. This is combined with laying off a large number of their workforce. And not any workforce, those that are in direct contact with their clients.
- ask for federal government support. This approach seems easier than thinking of innovative and creative ways to lead the efforts to combat the pandemic and lead their people through this crisis
- address staff and the public in a video posted on social media where 25% of the video length talks about the CEO’s achievement, 60% the impact of the crisis on their performance and the remaining 15% the impact on their staff
Reactions: Manage crisis
The weirdest thing for me is, the amount of praise such behavior is receiving on social media. As if cutting 50% of the already highly salaried executives will feed, pay the mortgage and cover the healthcare costs of those that will be fired. As if not taking a multi million package of a CEO for a year will impact their standard of living.
Digging into the statements those same CEOs had during the good economic conditions, which was less than TWO months ago, shows the numerous times they repeated that “employees are our most important assets”. The reality is that they forget to mention the second most important part of the statement which kicks in the minute bad economic conditions prevail, “until we do not need them and then we get rid of them quickly”.
Most CEOs are picking their actions from the same management textbook. This textbook that has proven crisis after crisis that it is not able to respond in a way that creates sustainable, equitable, fair and impactful outcomes. This textbook boasts and takes credit of the achievements during the good economic conditions and shies away during bad economic conditions. All those behaviors can only suggest that those leaders are managing the crisis by minimizing the cost to weather the storm, while leaving millions of workers to suffer.
I suggest for us to:
- look beyond the numbers and focus on what is right and start doing it
- tap into our humanity and start looking at our employees as if they are somebody else’s son and daughter and therefore we will do whatever we can to protect them, as suggested by Bob Chapman and practiced throughout Barry-Wehmiller
- ensure that all stones are turned to find solutions with the least impact onto our staffs
- raise the bar for finding more humane solutions
I challenge all leaders to prove that they are not managing the crisis, rather they are leading their people through the crisis. Instead of asking the question of “what can I do to preserve the balance sheet?”, they should ask “what can I do to protect my people?”.
The minute we move away from protecting the bottom line in such situations we will become more resourceful. Being resourceful enables us to come up with Innovative and creative solutions that are capable of turning the tide. My colleague Eleni Pallas always says that organizations should learn how to mutate, like viruses do, and become more resilient in face of any crisis and no act like ostriches do.
Solutions: Lead people through crisis
For once, breakout from what MBA courses taught you and go back to being human. Let your measures be worthy of the large packages you are making.
Reach out to the CEO of Southwest Airlines, Patagonia, Barry-Wehmiller, Chobani and ask them how they were simply able to operate through crisis after crisis without resorting to the common method of cutting costs through laying off staffs. Reach out to the small businesses and learn from them. Learn how they are supporting their local community during these difficult times. Our local gym has decided to lend equipments to its customers so that they stay fit at no cost. Their staff are available online to train and provide guidance at no extra cost.
Let us lead our people through this crisis instead of manage the crisis. Let us apply Human-Centric Leading to all of our aspects of decision-making.
Image from Pexel.com