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Own Your Mistakes To Bounce Back From Them

Own Your Mistakes To Bounce Back From Them

By Steve Watkins

It’s natural to run into obstacles. But if you can learn from mistakes and make them yours, you can overcome them.

Studying top leaders over the years, shows you how they used mistakes to finally reach success.

Leaders best at overcoming mistakes are the ones who own those missteps in the first place, says Antigoni Ladd, co-founder of Gettysburg, Pa.-based Tigrett Leadership Academy. The firm provides leadership training using historical lessons.

Learn From Mistakes Like Dwight Eisenhower, Walt Disney

Dwight Eisenhower led a World War II invasion of North Africa that included a disastrous clash with German Gen. Rommel at Kasserine Pass. More than 1,000 American troops were killed and hundreds were taken prisoner.

Eisenhower took responsibility. He learned he needed more teamwork and cohesion among his troops and a single strategy. Eisenhower later allowed every general to share his opinion before making his own call. This move prepared forces from 12 countries to team up in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944.

“He restructured the Allied forces from top to bottom, with the goal of working together more effectively,” Ladd said. “That goal would prove so critical for the Normandy invasion.”

Legendary animator and theme park developer Walt Disney suffered multiple failures. His first cartoon business, launched with his brother Roy, went bankrupt. He moved to Los Angeles and failed at acting but launched an animation studio that was a huge success.

“He failed a number of times but he picked himself up,” Ladd said.

Disney figured failing could help him. “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all the troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me,” he once said. “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

Dissect Your Failure First

To learn from mistakes, it’s vital to start by looking at why they occurred, says Rick McDaniel, founder and senior pastor at Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Va. It could be something unexpected, such as the coronavirus outbreak, or it could be a bad decision or failure to plan. Then look at how you can learn from it.

The way you frame failure is a key to learn from those mistakes.

“You need to be failure-friendly,” McDaniel, an inspirational speaker and author of “Turn Your Setbacks Into Comebacks,” told Investor’s Business Daily. “Understand if you’re going to be innovative you’re going to encounter failure. You have to take failure as feedback.”

McDaniel started four campuses and two schools, so he knows about innovation — and failure.

“You need to fail forward,” he said. “Keep adapting and tweaking. That will allow you to learn how to do it in the future.”

The way leaders look at failure is key. Some see it as making them a failure and avoid it at all costs. Psychologists call it “awfulizing” and it’s the wrong view, McDaniel says.

“There’s an enormous difference between failing and being a failure,” he said.

Learn From Mistakes: Make Failure Your Friend

McDaniel strives to create a culture that’s failure-friendly. He describes failures in spoken and written communications with his staff. He stresses admitting what didn’t work and eyeing what the company learned. And he vows the group will do better next time.

“Then people don’t take it as something to be feared, but something to be owned up to,” he said. “View it as part of the creative process.”

Failure is often just a small part of the larger goal, Ladd says. Emphasize that to your people.

“Paint a picture of future success and show them this is only a bump in the road,” she said.

Winston Churchill, who bounced back from mistakes in World War I to lead Great Britain through World War II, took a valuable view to learn from mistakes.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal,” Churchill said. “It is the courage to continue that counts.”

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7 Tactics For Instant Productivity And Positivity

7 Tactics For Instant Productivity And Positivity

By Jodie Cook

Everyone feels unmotivated or lethargic sometimes. If you dig into the minutes or hours prior, you’ll find the cause. Perhaps you just consumed too much sugar or caffeine and now you’re jittery and irritable. Perhaps you just had a fear or worry-based conversation with someone. You might need to do something later that you’re not looking forward to, or something you’ve seen on social media has given you feelings of envy or inadequacy.

Find out the trigger for your low energy and work on filtering it out or eliminating it all together. See it like a ball that someone has thrown at you, that you don’t have to catch if you don’t want to. Resist the reflexive urge to join in and spiral down further.

Master the art of changing your energy as soon as you notice you’re in a low energy slump and it will become automatic. In the meantime, here are seven ways to change your energy from low to high and change your outlook from negative to positive, to put you in the mindset for success.

7 Tactics For Instant Productivity And Positivity

1.   Change your scenery

Humans are creatures of habit and you may have come to associate specific places with specific behaviours. You might have slipped into unconscious thought patterns. Even a simple change of scenery might help here. It doesn’t have to be a flight away or a drastic edit to your life. Simply changing rooms, sitting in a different chair at the table, or walking a different route somewhere will mean you look around more, notice more, and spark new ways of thinking.

When it’s forced out of its comfort zone your mind is working to make sense of a new environment, which brings benefits. Whilst routine can equal freedom, because it creates habits from everyday actions leaving more room for creativity, a stale routine that isn’t questioned or modified might have the opposite effect. Distance provides perspective and a shake-up of your routine and scenery can do wonders.

2.   Listen to a guided meditation

Meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace give easy ways of developing meditation habits with low barriers to entry. Calm’s app provides a daily Calm, a ten-minute guided meditation for beginners and seasoned meditators alike. Tamara Levitt, Calm’s head of mindfulness, talks you through getting relaxed, focusing on your breath and introducing the day’s theme. You leave the meditation feeling peaceful and ready to begin again. Try it for a few days in a row and see what you think. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed and notice how you feel before and after the practice.

Slowing down and breathing can change your default energy and make you less susceptible to energy-sapping external events.

3.   Turn off the tech

From the Minimalists, “Constantly searching for breaking news will break you.” You simply do not need to know what is going on all over the world every hour of every day. Even one check per day might be excessive. Media manipulation is designed to provoke extreme reactions. Extreme reactions of any kind don’t match with the strong, stable middle-ground we’re looking to achieve. Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism, encourages readers to differentiate which technologies are compulsory from those that are optional, and eliminate the latter completely.

Excitable is not the goal. Fearful is not the goal. Avoid the headlines and the consistent stream of opinion and judgment by turning off the tech and limiting media consumption.

7 Tactics For Instant Productivity And Positivity

4.   Talk to people who inspire you

I’m part of an online network called Dynamite Circle (DC), consisting of 1500 location-independent entrepreneurs. The network has a forum in which members help each other find solutions and discuss ideas, and there are monthly meetups in cities around the world as well as virtual meetups for members to get to know each other.

Whenever I have a conversation with another DC member, I feel my energy shift upwards straight away. The conversations focus on lifestyle experiments, finding solutions and being open to the ways others live and run their businesses. Being around people who live interesting lives, are open to learning and happy to share is inspiring. It changes my inner monologue and shifts my natural disposition.

From a Spanish proverb, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Who inspires you? Who do you know that focuses on solutions instead of problems and avoids gossip and drama? Give them a call.

5.   Make a hype playlist

Music has the power to instantly change your mindset, so make use of it. Think of the tracks that make you feel invincible and add them to a playlist. Pick songs that resonate deeply with you, not ones that you think you should like. Who cares if they’re embarrassing or cheesy? If it works for you that’s good enough.

When you find yourself in a place of low energy; feeling negative or pessimistic or overwhelmed, grab your headphones and listen to your hype playlist to feel yourself slide back to normal. Combine this with point 4 and listen to podcasts featuring the people who inspire you. See the world from the perspective of the people who are absolutely smashing it to feel inspired and unshakable.

7 Tactics For Instant Productivity And Positivity

6.   Journal

Making journaling a habit helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings, so when there’s a change in your energy you can rectify it sooner. If blank pages are intimidating right now, start with a guided journal. Write the date and your location at the top of the page and begin freewriting. Try not to edit, just write about how you’re feeling and the day you’re having. The act of turning your thoughts into words on paper helps you make sense of it all, which might lead to the solution becoming obvious.

Stepping back to make sense of a situation brings heightened awareness of who you are and what lifts you up. Arm yourself with a pen and notebook so you’re prepared to identify and solve any obstacle.

7.   Stay in the present

The past does not exist because it’s been and gone. Its only purpose was to lead you to where you are now. The future does not exist because it’s not yet here, and when it arrives it will no longer be the future. Only the present exists. It’s the only place anything can happen and it’s the only thing over which you have control. Focusing on only what you can control means feeling capable instead of helpless.

Notice when your thoughts and words focus on the past or the future and gently guide them back to the present. Oprah Winfrey’s book is called What I know for sure, inspired by film critic Gene Siskel asking her, “What do you know for sure?” Stay in the present by answering this question. It’s a tactic used by Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games book series by Suzanne Collins, where she recites what she knows for sure every time she needs to feel grounded. “My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is district 12” and so on. Think in terms of what you know for sure and what you can control to stay firmly in the present.

Change your mood from low to high, feel productive and positive and condition your mindset for success by preparing a toolbox of interventions to use whenever you need them. Include changing your scenery, even if only subtly, download a guided meditation app, avoid scrolling newsfeeds, make a hype playlist, start a journalising practice and focus on staying in the present and not caught in past or future thinking loops. Deploying one tool at a time might be sufficient to change your energy, and soon it will become automatic and mean you’re far less susceptible to lows.

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The Six Structures Of Successful Emotional Intelligence Training

By Dr. Denise Trudeau-Poskas

Photo: GETTY

Emotional intelligence is vital to success both in leadership and the workplace. There is an abundance of research that directs attention to how emotional intelligence directly relates to better interpersonal relationships, performance and work-related effectiveness. Furthermore, according to Mikolajczak and colleagues, emotional intelligence is associated with significantly lowering our reactivity to stress both at the cognitive and biological levels.

Awareness of the importance of emotional intelligence is not new; it’s just growing. Back in 2011, more than 2,600 hiring managers surveyed on behalf of CareerBuilder revealed that emotional intelligence is critical. A full 71% of those hiring managers said they value emotional intelligence over IQ, and 75% said they base their promotions on higher emotional intelligence.

So how do we help leaders and employees develop this? Through my experience designing and coaching emotional intelligence programs, I have found that there are key components of training programs that will help companies develop emotional intelligence capacities at all levels.

Six Key Structures For Building Emotional Intelligence

Developing emotional intelligence is a strategic, deliberate process. These six key structures can create a frame for emotional intelligence development.

1. Balance The TPN And DMN

Emotional intelligence requires leaders and employees to practice using their TPN (task-positive network) and their DMN (default mode network). Neuroscience has informed us that the TPN, which is most commonly associated with goal setting, analyzing and task completion, needs to work with the DMN, which is mind wandering, reflectivity, visioning and long-term memory. The TPN is off when the DMN is on, so in the training program, make sure that participants are practicing using both.

For example, incorporate outcome-based benchmarks. Goal setting happens in the TPN, and sometimes people fail to achieve their goals because they solely focus on tasks. Encourage team members to focus on what will be the positive outcome of achieving their goals. What do they visualize about the ways the project will help, succeed and become innovative? As the team completes a project, also encourage them to reflect on what they’ve learned: What are their biggest takeaways? What ways could they increase innovation? What would be the impact and effectiveness?

2. Create Accountability Groups

Consider having participants work in small groups that meet twice per month to deepen their learning, share their personal leadership goals or focus wheels and hold each other accountable for making behavior changes. A focus wheel is a tool that coaches use to help create energy around seeing benchmarks accomplished. It is a circle on a piece of paper that has eight to 12 sections, similar to how a pizza is cut. Each section has a mantra or benchmark they want to achieve.

3. Practice To Make Perfect

Practice is power, and knowledge is support. So many programs rely on information dissemination. It is beneficial for employees to learn all they can about the categories and definitions of emotional intelligence. However, that is only the beginning; they also need to practice the different subsets of emotional intelligence. Whether it’s decision-making, interpersonal or intrapersonal relationships, optimism or reality testing, behavior change requires concrete ways to practice these.

For example, to practice reality testing — which is an objective evaluation of your perception — have participants ask themselves, “Is this perception empowering or not? If not, who might I check with to see other ways to view this?” Participants can practice optimism by choosing a mantra or belief about what they want to see, and then when faced with a challenge, they can read the optimistic mantra to re-shape possibilities.

4. Create A Common Language

I’ve found that it is so important to help groups, teams and participants find a new common language that incorporates neurolanguage — language patterns that empower higher brain functions. A great resource for this is Rachel Paling’s Neurolanguage Coaching. Such language works with the brain to create synergy, optimism, curiosity and solution finding. One great way to encourage participants to use more effective language is to provide a list of words and phrases that empower and influence. Some examples are “interesting,” “curious,” “looking forward to” and “interested in learning more.”

Creating a common language also means removing the use of trigger language. Trigger language is the use of words or phrases like “always,” “should,” “have to,” “incompetent,” “never” and other words that are common reactionary words.

5. Measure Growth

Consider an instrument and qualitative ways to measure participants’ growth. One example of an instrument that specifically measures emotional intelligence change is the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i 2.0) assessment tool. I also use pre- and post-training indicators that are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and can be researched readily. It is important that the participants understand not only the ways they are being evaluated but also the research behind it, so they understand the science behind the change.

6. Use An EQ-Savvy Facilitator

Perhaps most important is ensuring that the facilitator or trainer is well-versed in emotional intelligence. A coach will likely know more about asking powerful questions, but not all companies have an internal coach. Therefore, work with your trainers to get professional development in that area. The success of an emotional intelligence training program can depend on this, as well as having a deliberate curriculum they can follow.

Considering the high technology and knowledge age we’re in and will be in the future, the need for emotional intelligence is probably only going to increase. The gap between striving and thriving organizations will likely be based on the extent to which they are helping employees build their emotional intelligence skills. Decision-making, solution finding and navigating interpersonal relationships and self-awareness are now essential skills and will likely continue to be beyond 2020.

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How to Have Proactive Conversations With Employees (and Calm Their Fears)

How to Have Proactive Conversations With Employees (and Calm Their Fears)


By Melina Palmer

Employees may be scared and their work may be impacted as a result — whether they’re working from home or not.

As coronavirus fear spreads around the world, conferences are canceling, universities are converting to online only, and people are being encouraged to work from home. People are anxious and taking control of life in any way they can, which may include buying a lifetime supply of toilet paper or enough hand sanitizer to fill a swimming pool.

Most everyone knows the choice to hoard supplies is not rational, but they still can’t stop themselves from adding one more case of Kleenex to the cart “just in case.” Why? Because human are wired to react this way in an unknown crisis.

Here are a couple of the brain concepts at play and tips for communicating with staff during troubling times.

Proactively communicate as often as possible.

Things always seem more important when we are thinking about them, due to the focusing effect. Everyone is thinking about coronavirus constantly, and as long as they are forced to keep those thoughts within their own minds productivity will be impaccted. When people have an opportunity to discuss their fears in a safe place (and some of those fears are mitigated) it can help them move on for a while and get work done.

The “what ifs” are running rampant right now, so proactively answer as many of those questions as you can to keep employees calm. Use these to create FAQs and the content for the proactive conversations suggested above:

  • What if my family or I get sick and have to be quarantined? Will my job be safe?
  • Where would I go to get tested if I think I have coronavirus?
  • What if my kid’s school is closed and I need to stay home with them?

Consider all the fears your employees may be having, and proactively talk about them to help calm fears. If you don’t have policies in place yet, communicate now to say it is being worked on and send updates as you have them. It may feel like overcommunication, but with all the focus on this, it will feel like ages between updates.

Balance the messages about coronavirus.

Look for opportunities to help employees’ brains be less likely to have fear and overreaction be their instinctual responses. There is a lot going on with new changes daily, but panic will not help the situation improve.

Actively start looking for positive stories — or at least fact-based content that is neutral — and share that with your team to balance out the messages they are hearing.

Give them something productive to focus on.

With reduced travel (more time and money) consider what your employees could be doing to move your company forward. People will jump at an opportunity to feel in control of something, and that distraction could be a huge value to your business. Put together a challenge or encourage time to be spent on creative projects by asking questions like:

  • How could we best spend the $100,000 from the travel budget?
  • What products/services could we offer to be of service during coronavirus?
  • How could being remote for six months actually help our company thrive?

Communicating during coronavirus is important, and hopefully these tips will help your employees feel safe and supported, while also allowing your company to come out stronger on the other side.

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6 things you must do to ace remote meetings

6 things you must do to ace remote meetings

By Andrea Summer

Collaborating from afar has the potential for distraction and miscommunication, but best practices can help teams work in lockstep.

The enormity of what’s transpired in the past few weeks is taxing the focus of remote workers in myriad ways. Immediate and pressing concerns encompass: The health and well-being of ourselves and others; job stability, personal investments, and the larger economic outlook; childcare and homeschooling obligations; and stocking the most basic, day-to-day supplies. In short, workers have never been so distracted, even as organizational leaders need them to concentrate now more than ever in order to help their companies weather the storm.

On top of all this, those new to remote work are learning on the fly that telecommuting comes with a unique set of challenges, which include far greater opportunities for distraction and miscommunication. It’s all too easy for teams to lose track or simply misunderstand who is responsible for what and when in an environment completely lacking the usual visual cues and impromptu reminders about what needs to be done.

Fortunately, there are best practices leaders can institute to help ensure their teams are marching in lockstep. This requires diligence surrounding remote meetings, which serve as the essential vehicles through which employees come together to successfully communicate, plan and collaborate, or–alternately–to go down the slippery and dangerous slope of working at counter purposes.

Here are some steps leaders and their teams should put in place for getting the most from remote meetings and to stay aligned during these challenging times.


Employees dialing into remote meetings are more likely to stay strictly focused on their specific to-do lists. While this might seem like a productivity booster, it isolates workers from each other–sapping morale and reducing crucial collaboration. To promote the connections individuals need–particularly now–to feel fully human and work productively, begin remote meetings with a meaningful question. You should even create an agenda line item for this check-in that allocates a certain amount of time for each participant to respond. This will give employees a chance to clear the air, let go of some stress and anxiety, get grounded, and then switch their focus to the matters at hand. The reduction in meeting time devoted to work won’t be an issue. Research has shown shorter meetings are actually more focused and have more impact.


With working parents struggling to babysit and homeschool children even as they put in extra hours to help their companies navigate this crisis, it’s crucial to allow for the occasional personal interruption during remote meetings. To illustrate, employees who aren’t comfortable asking team members to repeat themselves if their attention was pulled momentarily by a child might pretend to understand their marching orders when in fact they do not. What’s more, the blending of work and home life can duplicate the experience of coming together around the watercooler. It creates a gracious space for the human connections that encourages team members to help and support each other as they look to achieve collective, big-picture goals amidst stressful circumstances.


Following best practices surrounding agendas can go a long way to maximize remote meeting productivity. For example, agendas should always state the clear purpose of the meeting and what needs to be accomplished how and in what time frame. For example, a challenge might require a decision following a Q&A and brainstorm within 60 minutes. Also, there should be total clarity about who in each circumstance is responsible for creating and sending the agenda (along with related background information) and clear expectations about the need to set aside time to review so participants arrive fully prepared to accomplish objectives.


At the end of remote meetings, it’s imperative to determine the next steps and a roadmap for achieving them. This verbal wrap-up can serve as a framework for a formal, more comprehensive written recap based on in-depth notes, ideally captured by someone other than the meeting lead. It’s crucial that prior to the start of the meetings, everyone knows who is taking notes and who is creating and distributing the formal recap, which should include immediate and longer-term next steps, parties responsible for deliverables and sign-offs, and a clear timeline. Being crystal clear about these responsibilities and the process(es) required to move forward is vital in a remote environment. Teams should be encouraged to overcommunicate as a fail-safe.


Understanding conference call and video systems are a bit overloaded and may not be working as before, remote workers must do everything they can to make sure personal tech doesn’t interfere with meeting schedules. That includes workers having passwords at the ready, making sure they have decent quality headsets, etc. Large and/or especially important meetings, or those that involve components like a remote, collaborative PowerPoint review, benefit from having a pre-identified tech lead to handle such tasks as managing call volume and controlling who is featured in videoconferences.


To maintain a bit of workplace normalcy, look to maintain traditions from the physical workspace. For example, if teams previously had weekly walking meetings, look to keep that going via conference calls conducted via walks in teammates’ respective park or backyard. If a CEO always shared a nonsense memo on April Fool’s Day, make sure that continues. Remember, rituals offer tremendous comfort, helping get people through uncertain times when disruption of routines tend to add to anxieties. If nothing existed previously, think about something new, like remote happy hours, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Learning to ace the remote meeting now will not only help companies get through the next few difficult weeks but also adjust to a very likely new normal, in which both organizations and workers look to continue telecommuting, enjoying the well-established benefits and cost-savings.

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4 Signs That a Boss Has High Emotional Intelligence

By Marcel Schwantes


During the current pandemic, a quick exercise in assessing emotional intelligence is in order.

Forrest Gump is known for the famous line, “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

The same is true for bosses. Anytime anyone accepts a position, they never really knows what they’re going to get.

To really find out whether you have a good boss or not, a quick exercise in assessing your boss’s current emotional competencies against bosses with high emotional intelligence (EQ) is in order.

During the stress and anxiety that we are feeling amid the coronavirus outbreak, seeing these EQ competencies in action will put more ease into the minds of workers everywhere. Here’s what to look for:

1. They display optimism

Exhibiting this EQ competency means that your manager is consistently hopeful and proactive about creating possibilities and seeking solutions. Displaying these at a high level means you’re working for a boss with a mindset of positivity that’s switched to “on.” This is especially crucial during the crisis.

2. They motivate their people from the inside-out

Managers who display this skill at a high level will trigger intrinsic motivation in their workers by involving them in work that has purpose, meaning, and lasting impact. They allow their employees to see, feel, and experience that the time they’re putting in is making a difference in the lives of their customers. Moreover, they let employees take ownership of their work by allowing them to give and share input into common goals and values.

3. They have vision

Does your manager have a sense of vision and purpose for directing the team or company toward a shared goal? This is important because it gives a leader direction and aligns her decision-making to long-term choices that carry a vision forward. Stated simply, a leader whose vision guides her decisions puts emotional intelligence into action for positive change.

4. They practice empathy

Does your boss recognize and appropriately respond to others’ emotions? This EQ competence allows to understand others and build strong emotional connections. In essence, empathy is the act of perspective-taking. In a recent episode of the Love in Action podcast, Michael Ventura, the founder and CEO of Sub Rosa, and author of Applied Empathy, describes several subsets of empathy:

  • Affective empathy — you treat others how you would want to be treated.
  • Somatic empathy — physically embodying the feelings of others.
  • Cognitive empathy — applied empathy or perspective-taking. It is doing unto others as they would have you do unto them.

Ventura says, “The only way to build resilient and collaborative teams is by practicing empathy.” While you can’t measure empathy, you can measure its effects: high-functioning teams emerge, they work well together and produce better, faster work. Companies are more resilient and responsive in the market. As a result, decision making becomes more collaborative.

If you already work in an environment where leaders display such competencies, I know I’m preaching to the choir. For new employees assessing long-term culture fit, you should begin to see these EQ skills play out during your onboarding. Give it some time, and engage your new boss by showing interest and curiosity in your new role, your team members, and the mission. The rest will take care of itself.

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Leading By Example: How To Motivate And Inspire Your Team During The Pandemic

Leading By Example: How To Motivate And Inspire Your Team During The Pandemic

By Sally Percy

Spanish Royals Deliver Accreditations On The 8th Promotion Of Honorary Ambassadors For 'Spain' Brand
Santander chairman Ana Botín made a powerful gesture when she gave up half her salary to help fight…WIREIMAGE

Santander chairman Ana Botín made headlines this week after it emerged that she had taken a 50% pay cut. Her earnings will be used to back a €25m medical equipment fund that has been created by the bank to help counter the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Through her powerful gesture, Botín is leading by example. As a business leader, she is getting personally involved with trying to address the huge health challenge facing the world today.

Other leaders will not have Botín’s level of resources. Nevertheless, they can still act as examples – to their teams and colleagues, as well as peers in other organizations. So, how can a leader be a good example in these difficult times? Here five experts share their thoughts.

1.     Be an effective homeworker

“Home working in the virtual world is very different from being in the office every day,” says Dr Alan Watkins, a physician, immunologist, neuroscientist and CEO of coaching and development company Complete. “It requires a significant shift in our energy, how we organize our day and how we communicate with each other.”

Watkins, who is also author of HR (R)Evolution: Change The Workplace, Change The World, adds that leaders can help their teams to respond better to stress. “If we panic, we increase our cortisol levels which makes us more susceptible to infection,” he says. “But if we remain optimistic and positive in the face of the challenge, we will increase our levels of DHEA, which is the body’s antidote to cortisol. DHEA will improve our immunity, increase our resistance and reduce our threat to others.”

2.     Avoid cognitive shortcuts

“Stress is usually a bad platform from which to lead,” says Stephen Frost, founder of global diversity and inclusion consultancy Frost Included and co-author of Building An Inclusive Organisation. “By necessity, it means we take cognitive shortcuts to save time. This often relies on stereotype – what we already know and trust.”

Frost argues that in times of stress, leaders must seek out feedback from people whose opinion they wouldn’t normally solicit. “The cognitive short-cuts in our heads can lead to an empathy deficit, groupthink and other forms of excessive and unhelpful bias,” he said. “It’s in your own interests, as well as those around you, to slow down and be inclusive so that you make better decisions.”

3.     Put social value above profit

U.K. supermarkets are offering priority shopping to elderly and vulnerable customers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – even though they would probably make more profit from prioritizing big spenders such as families and young professionals. This is the correct approach to take, according to Alex Edmans, professor of finance at London Business School and author of “Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit”.

He says: “My research shows that putting purpose first is not only the right thing to do in a crisis, it actually delivers more profit in the long term by building stakeholder trust.”

Edmans also suggests that leaders think creatively about what resources their organization has and how these can be used to serve society.  “covering the cost of hotel accommodation for health workers so that they can avoid long and disrupted commutes due to the reduction in public transport.”

4.     Be authentic

“Leaders must maintain a positive mental attitude, but it is not enough just to cheerlead,” says Raj Tulsiani, co-founder of executive search consultancy Diversity and Inclusion for Leaders: Making a Difference with the Diversity Headhunter. “We must demonstrate authenticity and humility in admitting that we, too, are fearful of what lies ahead.”

Tulsiani also emphasizes the importance of acting with integrity. “It may be that we have to make decisions we didn’t expect to make and, if so, we need to do this in an honest and transparent manner.”

5.     Steady the ship

“A leader’s first job is to steady the ship and ensure that people don’t panic,” says Kevin Green, former CEO of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and previously HR director of Royal Mail. “If fear and panic take hold, poor decisions get made and a difficult position can often be made worse.”

Green, who is also author of Competitive People Strategy: how to attract, develop and retain the staff you need for business success, emphasizes the importance of aligning the top team. “The leadership team should talk every day so they are talking with one voice,” he says. “They should map out what decisions are needed in the days and weeks ahead. At the start of each meeting, it’s good practice to get everyone just to talk about how they are feeling and what’s on their mind. This allows you, as the leader, to calibrate what state the team is in and how you support them during the crisis.”

It is vital to give yourself space and time to think and reflect. “When the pressure rises, human beings have a tendency to become myopic,” notes Green. “As a leader, you need to find time to stand back, reflect and anticipate what comes next. Go for a walk – fresh air and gentle exercise will help the thinking process. Find half an hour each day to just sit with a blank sheet of paper. I use mind maps to help me think though the big decisions.”

Green believes it’s essential to give the top team time to think the issue through before making a decision. “Make sure that both sides of every decision are fully explored. Ensure everyone in the team contributes and reinforce the point that no thought is too small, wild or random to be listened to. If it’s a big strategic call, give yourself and the team a day to reflect.”

Finally, says Green, make sure that you look after yourself. “Eat well, get exercise, try to sleep and try to stay fresh,” he advises. “Energy is an important commodity in a crisis, so you need to be on top form.”

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5 Ways to Get Focused When You’re Working from Home (Even During a Pandemic)

5 Ways to Get Focused When You’re Working from Home (Even During a Pandemic)


By Amanda Pressner Kreuser

Thought it was tough to tune out distractions before? Welcome to the chaos. Here’s how to find sanity (and your flow) from within your four walls.

Seventeen states and nearly 100 million Americans are now under stay at home orders–and as the Coronavirus crisis continues, that number may only continue to grow.

Those of us who are able to work from home are fortunate. We’re able to stay (mostly) out of harm’s way while those with truly essential jobs–medical professionals, grocery clerks, bus drivers, postal workers, etc.–help keep our nation going.

Working from home is a privilege, to be sure, but it’s also never been harder to get your brain focused on your job..and to keep it there.

If you’re not homeschooling your kids, discussing the headlines with roommates, or walking your dog, you’re picking up your phone or refreshing your browser to get the news (don’t even get me started on the insane amount of Whatsapp chats and Zoom calls happening right now).

Finding focus in the wake so much stimulation and anxiety may be tough, but it’s definitely doable. My team at Masthead Media and I frequently work remotely and from home (we’re 100 percent WFH now), and we’ve developed some strategies for staying productive during the most challenging moments.

Stick to a Single Task

There’s a lot going on right now. You may feel like you need to do five things at once to keep up with it all. Resist the urge: it’s not going to help your workload or your sanity.

On a good day (no international crisis to speak of) the average person spends just three minutes on any given task before switching to something else. While we think of this as multitasking, we’re actually moving quickly and repeatedly between tasks. This is known as “task switching” and doing it causes you to lose (or never achieve) true focus. In fact, studies show that you can lose up to 80 percent of productive time due to task switching.

When you sit down to fully focus on work aim to focus on a single project at one time (e.g., don’t attempt to email clients while also teaching your son 2nd-grade math). When it’s time to produce that report, do only that for 45 minutes to an hour. Then switch over to 20 minutes of responding to email. When it’s your turn to watch the kids, aim to be fully present for at least half-hour (and then you can both take a break). You’ll feel a little saner — and get a lot more done.

Trade Time

If you have two adults in the household, and at least one dependent, you try to block out periods when you’re working–and when you’re just not available for work.

Determine what style of time blocking you both prefer (half days, or two hours on/two hours off, etc) and look to see if there are any immediate conflicts on your schedule, before sitting down to map out the time you’ll each need. Check-in with your boss and co-workers as well, to make sure your scheduling doesn’t create any conflicts.

In my house, we start the clock at 8 am and build the schedule until 8pm — and even with that, my husband and I each only get six hours of focused work per weekday. That’s where the weekends come in. I personally try to grab additional hours on Saturday or Sunday, but not both (we all need a break, even if we’re not using it to go anywhere).

If you’re a single parent, you’ll likely need to rely more on screentime, naptime, and bedtime for getting calls and highly focused work done.

Shut Off Alerts

Consider the number of message notifications we’re getting all day long, on every single device (even during the best of times!) it’s incredible any of us get any work done at all.

Because I’m the kind of person who feels compelled to respond to the most urgent new thing that hits my phone or inbox, I try to turn off all notifications while I’m working, on both my phone and my laptop. I find it’s so much easier to respond in batches to texts, IMs and chats…and it reminds me that I’m in control of my time (not the last person who sent me a message).

If you find it tough to avoid picking up your cell to check messages, leave your phone in another room, or at least put it on silent and turn it over. You can use a Chrome extension like Stay Focused to keep you from browsing on certain predetermined sites (Facebook, CNN, etc), for a period of time.

Schedule an Early Morning or Late Night

As a working parent, I’ve always needed more flexibility to cover for sick days, snow days, parent-teacher conference days, and other things that come up. I’ve been fortunate enough to work this out with my co-founder and colleagues, but the work still needs to get done…and it can’t always wait.

To make up for the lost time, once or twice a month I work early from home (at 5 am) or stay late at my office (until 10 or 11 pm). That practice will continue as my family and I self-isolate at our apartment near New York City. Not only is the time completely uninterrupted (see above!) but those few extra hours enable me to dig into and often complete projects that are either very high priority or consistently slip down my to-do list.

Prioritize What’s Important

Considering all of the changes in our world, and our workplaces right now, it’s unlikely any of us are going to get as much done as we had hoped…and that’s okay. It has to be. Give yourself a big break, and lower your expectations, if you can.

If you have a superior, talk candidly with him or her about what’s doable given your current life situation. This isn’t a time to work while pretending you don’t have obligations at home.

One thing you can do to feel more of a sense of control is to reshape your priority list to reflect the time you actually have–and what you need to do in order to keep your department or business moving forward.

A week ago (just after schools were canceled) I archived my old ultra-long to-do list. I started a brand new (much shorter) one that boiled down what was absolutely important for Masthead Media in the coming weeks and months–and I haven’t looked at the rest.

Maybe I’ll get back to it at some point–or maybe I’ll won’t. Time will tell if those tasks were really that important in the first place.

Please take care of yourselves right now, and stay well. 

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A Recipe For High Performance

A Recipe For High Performance

By John Foley

The Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron performing at 2015 San Francisco Fleet Week

What do Fortune 500 companies, world-champion athletes, and pilots with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels have in common? Simple. They all drive for exceptional performance. Unfortunately, not all of them share a culture of preparation and focus, which provides an ability to learn and adapt quickly. As a venture capitalist and former lead pilot with the Blue Angels, I don’t think this needs to be the case. After all, as I note in Fearless Success: Beyond High Performance, there is a unique tool that anyone can use to instill the mindset and culture that exceptional performance demands. It’s called the “Glad to Be Here” debrief.

In the business world, the term “debrief” frequently has had a negative bias associated with it, probably because it is used only when there’s a mistake, a negative outcome, or a fault to find. But such a fear-based approach is the opposite of how Blue Angels pilots structure their training, practice, and subsequent success. On the contrary, their goal is to drive fear out of the organization.

Blue Angels pilots create a safe environment for debriefing, where they open up and share their wisdoms of success and failure, side by side. It’s something elite teams know well. And as a former Blue Angels pilot, I can attest to its results.

When I was a member of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, we used the debrief tool at the end of every single day. It was built into our culture—our DNA. We used these gatherings to cultivate positive interpersonal dynamics within the team. The process went much further than a simple analysis of root causes. It was intended to instill chemistry and camaraderie in the team, and to provide leadership opportunities for every member. It reinforced the positive and raised expectations. It was much more than a team-building process; it was a team-building mindset.

You might wonder why, if you had a great performance, you would need to deconstruct it. However, if an organization can implement a process that’s been proven to work, it can be a game changer. In sports and in business alike, debriefing sessions have led to wins and increased bottom lines. And the benefits can be even greater. In the right setting, debriefs have the power to save lives. The extreme environment within which Blue Angels pilots perform airborne acrobatics demands effective debriefs—both for the safety of the pilots and spectators.

“Suspend any hierarchical thinking in the interest of achieving results. This type of openness requires humility, transparency, and fearlessness, which is only possible in a respectful safe environment.”

Based on the Blue Angels model, a successful debrief consists of two main parts: the general-safe statements and the specific details that each member contributes.

The general-safe statements serve as points of entry for the debrief. Each participant takes a turn making several brief statements, providing a general overview and a safety note that may vary from standard operating procedures. This first part of the debrief sets a collective mood for input and exchange from all team members using five key components.

Feelings statement:

The first component allows each individual to offer a quick overview of the event, focusing on personal feelings. The participant opens up to the team with insight into an open, honest, and transparent frame of mind.

“I’ll fix it” statement:

Every team needs standards to define the team’s performance. In the debrief, you determine where you have strayed from those standards and acknowledge that you stepped outside those parameters. Be the first to recount your mistakes—without fear. You address them with an “I’ll fix it” statement that demonstrates your awareness and commitment to the team. This doesn’t mean you’ll never make a mistake again, but it shows you’re aware and are taking corrective action. It builds trust and inspires personal responsibility.


Next, you talk about what went well. You give credit and praise to deserving individuals in a public setting. A simple thank you can be very powerful.

“Glad to be here” statement:

You complete this first part with four words: “Glad to be here.” The daily repetition of “Glad to be here” reaffirms your commitment to the team and reminds you of a purpose that is larger than each team member. You acknowledge that you are thankful for the opportunities and challenges that life offers you. Emotions vary from one day to the next, but the simple affirmation of these words helps you stay aligned on a positive mindset.

“Oh, by the way” statement:

After every team member has had the opportunity to provide the four general-safe statements, the floor is open to any comments that were triggered as a result of a participant’s comments. A relatively insignificant, but worthwhile, note can be expressed with an “Oh, by the way” statement.

The second part of the debrief presents specific details. The opening general-safe statements, which can be adapted based on the scope of the debrief, provide an appropriate setting for the specific details offered in this second part to grow and elaborate.

Each individual comes to the debrief with prepared notes that the team can debate, respond to, or contribute to as necessary. Specific comments should address what went well, what didn’t go well, and what could be improved. In his critical part of the debrief, the crucial aspect is perspective, regardless of the team’s purpose or the organization’s focus.

Years after I left the Blue Angels, I began to analyze the keys to our success, and I realized that each day’s debrief was defined by ensuring five specific interpersonal dynamics:

Provide a safe environment:

In a safe and respectful environment, individual perspectives are openly communicated and provide a clear picture of what went well and what didn’t. Without this dynamic, individuals withhold essential information out of fear, creating blind spots that inhibit improvement. Each team member should be equally valued, regardless of experience or position. Ideas should flow freely in the discussion so that what might seem merely a simple or insignificant comment can trigger a conversation that solves a major issue.

Check your ego at the door:

Individual talent fuels team performance. However, egos can have a negative effect on the complete debrief process. High performer Blue Angels pilots have high egos, but they also recognize the importance of being together. You must acknowledge the role of each team member and the importance of a level playing field. Check your ego at the door and commit to be a part of the team.

Lay everything on the table:

Suspend any hierarchical thinking in the interest of achieving results. This type of openness requires humility, transparency, and fearlessness, which is only possible in a respectful safe environment. Allow all members to shine, step up, and speak their minds without fear of being bullied or steamrolled.

Own it and fix it:

When you own something, you’re more likely to look after it and fix any problems as soon as you spot them. You don’t wait for someone else to do it because you own it. It’s your responsibility. High-performance teams are made up of individuals who accept and seize ownership of their role. When you have a personal responsibility, accountability is a given.

Be glad to be here:

Always bring a “glad to be here” mindset to the table. It sets the tone for buy-in and ownership of outcomes. Gratitude is the secret sauce for continuous improvement. It’s the energy that allows you to sustain greatness.

Various studies have confirmed a correlation between gratitude and positive results. One particular case, conducted by the University of Kentucky, showed that gratitude increased pro-social behaviors and lowered aggression.

That’s exactly the kind of effect that teams need, especially in an open, honest environment where everything is openly discussed. Gratitude is a social emotion; it binds us together and strengthens our bonds, regardless of the nature of our relationships. With this mindset, teams can more easily process negative feedback and turn it into positive results.

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The Best Way to Beat a Bad Mood, According to Psychology: The 3Ms

The Best Way to Beat a Bad Mood, According to Psychology: The 3Ms


By Jessica Stillman

A timely reminder from psychology: you are in control of your mood, not the other way around.

Happiness makes your brain work better, Harvard researcher Shawn Achor once told Everyone, especially hard-pressed business owners, could definitely use our brains to be at their sharpest in the midst of the current crisis. But let’s be honest, now isn’t the easiest time to stay positive.

For some folks with mental health issues, the challenges go way beyond cabin fever and everyday anxiety. But for those of us lucky enough to be dealing with garden-variety grumpiness, science has good news. Simple interventions that are doable for nearly everyone can have a profound effect on your mood. Psychology writer Nick Wignall brilliantly summed them up on Medium as “the 3Ms.”

Don’t underestimate the power of these simple steps to help you regain control of your mood, so you can weather the current craziness with a little more good cheer and a little clearer mind.

1. Move

It’s not just woo-woo yoga teachers and masochistic marathon runners who insist humans are hard-wired to move. Science agrees. “Exercise does the same kind of thing that many of our medicines do. A bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin,” Harvard researcher John Ratey has explained. Who couldn’t use a little more happiness and concentration at the moment?

Exercise is admittedly harder when you’re stuck at home. But not impossible. Jogging is the perfect social distancing activity, Apple has a whole list of apps that can help you keep active indoors, or just go old school with push-ups and jumping jacks.

2. Make

In uncertain times, it’s good to remind yourself of all the things you can control and accomplish. One of the best ways to do that is to make something with your own two hands. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be good.

“Look for small opportunities to make something, fix something, or simply clean something up. Why not bake some cookies, or declutter your desk, or trim the roses? Working with your hands can be profoundly pleasurable, and there’s satisfaction in seeing the results of your labor in such a tangible way,” Wignall writes.

3. Meet

In a time of social distancing you can’t physically meet your friends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected. There are virtual book clubs, Netflix and chill nights, and happy hours going on all over the world right now. Join them. Science shows friends are just about the most powerful stress buster we have.

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Leading Through COVID-19

Leading Through COVID-19

By Eric J. McNulty

The coronavirus that causes the disease known as COVID-19 is rocking the world. People are hoarding supplies. Markets are gyrating. Governments are restricting travel. Amid abundant turbulence, the relative certainty around which people and organizations plan their activities seems to be the resource in shortest supply.

The technical aspects of the response are the most straightforward: The experts are known, resources are being allocated, and increasing amounts of data are being gathered to guide decisions. While there is no instant fix to an infectious disease outbreak, and there are many potential missteps, the path to a solution is well illuminated.

More challenging — and affecting far more individuals, organizations, and communities — are the human dimensions of the response. The ill must receive care, the families of those who perish deserve comfort, and those who are well need to keep functioning despite their fear, or the consequences will be a global, social, and economic catastrophe. This need for continuity in spite of unnerving disruption falls on the shoulders of organizational and community leaders. As Linda Ginzel of the Booth School of Business always reminds me, leading is about guiding people into the future despite its risks and uncertainties.

Over more than 15 years of field research on crisis leadership in a range of incidents, such as hurricanes, terror attacks, and public health events, including this one, my colleagues and I have found that there is an art to leading through the darkest hours — and, just as important, that mastering that art makes executives better everyday leaders as well.

There are two overarching takeaways from our work. The first is that while an initial crisis may not have been preventable, the secondary crisis of a bungled response is avoidable. The second is that every incident has narratives with victims, villains, and heroes. We are still early enough in the story of COVID-19 that executives and organizations can shape the role they will play. Rising to the part of hero requires intentional choices to put some measure of self-interest aside in order to contribute to a greater good. This is a situation where the stakeholder-centric intentions of the Business Roundtable’s famous 2019 letter redefining corporate purpose are put to the test.

The art of effective crisis leadership focuses on three interdependent areas of activity that help foster sustained high — even heroic — performance by your teams and the larger enterprise:

Adaptive capacity.

Crises evolve over time, especially long-duration events such as an infectious disease outbreak. Organizations and their leaders must execute a series of pivots as the facts on the ground and their operational context shift. Often, they require parts of the organization that do not normally work together to come together seamlessly. They may also flatten the hierarchy, with subject matter experts suddenly engaging directly with senior executives, perhaps even leading them. There is great potential for fear, friction, and conflict.

A successful pivot requires planting one foot on something solid and moving the other to change direction. In the disruption of crisis, an unshakable commitment to core values and principles creates an island of certainty that facilitates more fluid action relating to strategy and tactics. If, for example, your organization proclaims that people come first, ensure that all of your decisions in this time reflect that. Support people throughout the company who make decisions using those tenets, even if there are short-term financial consequences. Value contributions no matter who offers them — this is no time for politics.


While many play defense during a crisis, there is an opportunity to be aspirational as well. Imagine that the adversity of the situation coalesces your team to rise to its absolute best. Think about how you may all emerge from this incident stronger, more engaged, and more capable than you were before. Creating such conditions calls leaders to reassure and encourage everyone throughout the enterprise that “we can do it” and then supporting them both at work and at home.

Lucy English, PhD, vice president of research and science at meQuilibrium, a company specializing in workforce resilience, shared with me that research shows approximately 50% of people are “worst-case thinkers.” In a crisis, they will be operating from fear — contributing negative energy and sharing doomsday scenarios. English said that the antidote to this is for leaders to operate from a realistic assessment of what is most likely to happen. This, she said, “reframes the situation to one that is inherently less scary.” With that most-likely-outcome assessment, leaders can then challenge the team to move the needle into more positive territory.


Our research has shown that trust is at the foundation of cooperative and collaborative leadership. The COVID-19 outbreak offers numerous tests of trust as well as the opportunity to be a hero to associates, customers, and communities. The question for leaders to ask is, “How can we be fully trustworthy to each of our stakeholders during this difficult period?” Trust is built through dialogue and actions, not proclamations and intentions; involve those affected in defining in tangible terms what trust means in these circumstances.

As this is a global situation, short-term share price is most likely to be driven by general market conditions unless your products or services are directly related to the response. This lack of control can be liberating. When better to demonstrate your loyalty, compassion, and commitment to workers and customers? When better to be a good neighbor? There will be conditions that affect us all and that are beyond the control of any individual company. For example, a city (or, in the case of Japan, an entire nation) may close its schools. That choice will create consequences for families, including logistical, emotional, and economic hardship. Helping mitigate those risks internally with your employees and perhaps even externally with customers and partners creates enduring bonds that pay long-term dividends. Your efforts may include direct corporate support or creating ways for people to help one another.

Decisions made and actions taken in trying times resonate far beyond the present. I have worked with executives whose leadership during the Great Recession, the Arab Spring, and other significant events helped define their organization’s culture for years afterward. Forecasts about climate change, global urbanization, and aging populations indicate that pandemics and other disruptive events will increase in frequency. Eventually, there may be one with a high, 1918-level morbidity rate that pushes our social and economic systems to their limit. The lessons we can learn and the practices that can be put in place now make our organizations healthier today and better prepared for future turbulence.

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Helping Teams Focus When They’re Suddenly Working Remotely

Helping Teams Focus When They’re Suddenly Working Remotely


By Russ Hill – Partners In Leadership

Effectively managing remote teams during a time of uncertainty.

The nature of work is changing – fast! The mandated precautions being put into place due to COVID-19 has left most workforces attempting to adapt to working completely remote. As uncertainty swirls around us, leaders are faced with the challenge of helping employees focus on what they can control.

Culture is leader-led. That’s perhaps truer than ever in a moment like this. So much of the engagement level and focus a team demonstrates is a result of the experiences their immediate leaders are creating.

Increase Visibility as Certainty Decreases

Leaders should increase visibility in moments of disruption and uncertainty. This leads to greater alignment and focus. Most of us are now attending virtual meetings. Those should be happening frequently – with web cams on. A team needs to see their leader right now. Your body language speaks volumes. It can be calming.

In the absence of virtual meetings, the next best way to increase visibility is through conference calls, short video clips, or emails. None of this communication has to be lengthy, but it should be frequent.

If your team normally has meetings once a week, you might consider doing them two or three times a week. One of them could be the normal length. The others could be briefer and feature a “huddle-like” atmosphere. The longer the period without seeing and hearing from a leader and peers right now, the higher likelihood of distraction, confusion, and a lack of focus.

Doug McMillion, the President and CEO of Walmart, is one leader who is effectively demonstrating this principle. Almost daily he is posting to LinkedIn pictures of him in different Walmart locations around the United States. Along with the pictures of him interacting with Walmart associates on the floor of the store are typically a few lines of text of what he heard and felt while in the store.

He recently posted this message to his associates on social media as well, “Dear associates, words can’t express how proud I am of each of you for the incredible effort you have put in over the past few weeks. In the face of uncertainty, you have delivered for our customers, members and each other. To you and your families: Thank you. I’m grateful.”

McMillion’s visibility is intentional and designed to demonstrate empathy as well as focus. His employees can see what their leader is doing in the midst of the chaos around him.

Help People Feel Heard, Virtually

As we increase visibility, aim to both communicate adjustments the business is making in light of fast-changing market conditions as well as give people the opportunity to feel heard. Our visibility shouldn’t be just one direction. Facilitating discussion during this moment leads to greater focus and alignment.

An effective question to ask a team during a virtual meeting would be: “What reality do we most need to acknowledge right now?” This question allows them to share all the disruption they’re feeling. A follow up question might be, “What part of the problem or solution do we need to own?” That begins to refocus the team’s energy around what they control rather than the chaos. The next two questions a leader might ask are, “What else can we do right now?” and, “Who will do what, by when?”

We call this process See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It. They are the Steps To Accountability. Accountability and ownership don’t happen by accident. Creating a Culture of Accountability is never easy but current world conditions make it incredibly challenging without intentional and continual effort by leaders.

Focus on Results

Virtual teams need constant reminders of what results matter most. What results do they need to be focused on? Without clear direction on the two to three results the leader needs effort focused on right now, dispersed teams might get distracted or spend time on things the leader doesn’t view as most important.

Consider an example: A large health insurance organization had thousands of employees, from nurses to behavioral health professionals, working mostly from homes located across the U.S. As the customer needs changed quickly, leaders of this part of the business huddled to define three Key Results that they needed this remote workforce aligned around.

One was around growth. Another was customer experience. The third had to do with compliance. In virtual sessions of no more than 100 employees at a time, leaders presented the Key Results and facilitated discussion around them.

No organization has the luxury of time or calm right now. That increases the need for clarity around the most critical results a team or teams need to deliver in the short-term. When leaders clarify to remote employees the results that matter most in the next few weeks or months, it allows the workforce to make decisions around what to prioritize and what to stop working on.

Recognize and Reward Desired Behavior

In this moment of disruption, virtual meetings and online collaboration tools provide a great opportunity to recognize and reward desired behavior. Innovation and adaptation are more important than ever. As you see members of your team demonstrating the urgency, agility, or problem-solving mindset needed right now, call it out. That’s easily done digitally. It sends messages to others of what you, as the leader, are looking for. Water what you want to grow right now.

As unsettling as these times are, they provide an opportunity: Disruption destroys the status quo and accelerates innovation. Those who intentionally lead their team in the appropriate ways will find their remote workforce maneuvering the rapids, even avoiding the boulders while using the white water to accelerate movement. They’ll come out of this stronger and better positioned than before to meet the demands of their customer.

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The dangers of “workism”

By Josh Levs

Photograph by PeopleImages

Businesses thrive when employees separate their work from their identity.

After basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January, ABC’s Good Morning America played a clip from an interview in which he had discussed his life after retiring from the sport. In it, he said how important it is to recognize the “difference between doing what you do versus understanding that that is not who you are.”

That’s a crucial lesson for people in all professions. Separating our sense of identity from our job helps us not just to better ourselves, but also to build stronger businesses and be better managers and colleagues.

Unfortunately, in the United States and many advanced economies around much of the world, work is perceived “as not only providing an income, but giving social legitimacy to our lives,” Tom Fryers, professor of public mental health at the University of Leicester, wrote in a paper published by the journal Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health. “For many, it may be the principal source of personal identity, mediating the sense of being a valued person necessary for self-esteem.”

There’s now a term for this, thanks to Derek Thompson at the Atlanticworkism, which he described as “a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community.”

The dangers of workism to individuals are clear. When we allow our professions to become the leading factor in determining our self-perception, we can easily fall into numerous traps of this always-connected age: checking messages around the clock; missing time with our families and friends; giving up on other activities we may be passionate about; and skipping opportunities to engage with and give back to our communities, just to name a few.

There’s another pernicious psychological downside to workism: When things go wrong at work, the results can feel emotionally devastating. Having a project fail, missing a promotion, or being laid off can quickly trigger depression in those who see themselves as being defined by their professional achievements. In the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Janna Koretz shared the story of a partner at a big law firm who was crying on his bathroom floor when he realized he felt unfulfilled at work. “For someone who had built his entire idea of himself around his career, this thought sent Dan into an existential crisis,” she wrote. “Who was he, if not a high-powered lawyer?”

But it isn’t just individuals who pay a price for workism. Businesses do as well. The more people view their work as central to their identities, the more likely they are to overwork. And research shows the damage that can stem from putting in too many hours at the office. “Employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours,” a CNBC article noted in 2015, citing a study by John Pencavel of Stanford and IZA (the Institute of Labor Economics).

Separating our sense of identity from our job helps us not just to better ourselves, but also to build stronger businesses and be better managers and colleagues.

One of the most powerful arguments I’ve seen about the dangers of conflating work with self came from a co-founder of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz. Long mythologized for his around-the-clock work that helped get the social media platform off the ground, Moskovitz now says his excessive focus on work actually hurt his efforts at the time. In a blog post, he wrote that he wishes he had taken better care of himself in Facebook’s early days. “I wish I had made more time for other experiences that helped me grow incredibly quickly once I gave them a chance. You might think: but if you had prioritized those things, wouldn’t your contributions have been reduced? Would Facebook have been less successful? Actually, I believe I would have been more effective: a better leader and a more focused employee.” Moskovitz says he would have been more centered and self-reflective, as well as less frustrated and resentful. “In short, I would have had more energy and spent it in smarter ways.” Now a co-founder of a project management software firm, Moskovitz wrote that he and others at the company have worked to build a culture in which “people don’t work too hard…. We get to encourage a healthy work–life balance in the cold, hard pursuit of profit. We are maximizing our velocity and our happiness at the same time.”

Separating our self-conceptions from our identities is also a necessity for entrepreneurship and innovation to flourish. Entrepreneurs take risks. They often give up their jobs to do so — and if people feel they won’t have an identity without their job, they’re less likely to take such a risk.

In my own way, I experienced this. After kicking off a career on NPR at age 24, I found my sense of identity nearly 10 years later was intertwined with my work. I began to think of myself as “Joshua Levs, NPR News.” Many colleagues were surprised when I decided to take a break from being on air for a year. But I needed to make sure I knew who I was outside of work. That break then led me to pursue and build a career at CNN. And that same mentality allowed me to ultimately leave CNN for the unique work I do now, helping businesses, organizations, and governments achieve gender equality and other best practices in new ways.

It’s up to all of us to fight against the work-as-identity conundrum. It begins with how we raise our children. For generations, adults have asked kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The implication is that the work you do as an adult is tantamount to who you are. This is why I instead ask my kids: “What are some things you imagine doing when you grow up?”

Once in the work world, we should get proactive about maintaining lives and activities outside of work. Spending time on hobbies can make a big difference.

Businesses should create cultures that push against overworking and that encourage employees to have full, satisfying lives outside of the office. Hold family events, talent shows, and more, showing awareness that workers are whole people. Executives can set examples by avoiding around-the-clock work themselves, and openly enjoying time doing other things.

Ending workism means unlearning ideas that are deeply embedded in our psyches. But it’s worth it. When we build a broader, healthier sense of our own identities, we discover a world of possibilities for what to do, both as workers and as people.

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10 Steps to Effective Coronavirus Crisis Leadership

10 Steps to Effective Coronavirus Crisis Leadership

By Winnie Hart – Entrepreneurs’ Organization


The world needs courageous leaders with a plan to navigate this and future crises. Do you have what it takes?

We are experiencing a global crisis that needs leaders like you to lead. A crisis is defined as a time when difficult or important decisions must be made. We often don’t see a crisis coming and aren’t prepared. The coronavirus crisis is happening now, but it will certainly not be the last challenge we face. We must be ready. We must be prepared. We must lead.

When faced with a crisis, will you rise to the challenge, or will you fall?

At 6:10 a.m. on Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. The levees broke, flooding more than 80 percent of the city with 224 billion gallons of water. In a weekend, I lost 75 percent of my business. Before that day, I thought failure was the worst possible outcome.

Though it sounds cliché, I learned what would become my mantra: From crisis comes opportunity. Through failure, I gained resilience and learned that a strong vision sees no barriers.

When my business collapsed, it forced me to align my ambitions with my purpose. By aligning your purpose with what you stand for, you connect to who you’re meant to be. It shapes your impact on the world and empowers you to build a company that is extraordinary rather than ordinary. Should disaster strike again, I know that I have the power to evolve into a stronger, transformational leader.

During a crisis, leaders lead. In every crisis, there is opportunity for leaders to make something good when it seems impossible. Like firefighters rushing into a burning building, we have to make quick decisions because lives–and businesses–depend on it.

10 Ways leaders can rise to the challenge

1. Align expectations

In a crisis, you will not have all the answers but will need to address the unknown and speak confidently. People will expect actions from you. Aligning expectations and realities takes skill, insight and patience, as well as the ability to admit you don’t have all the answers. Leaders conquer communications barriers and communicate early and often.

2. All eyes are on you

Leaders often forget that all eyes are on them. This is especially true as the intensity of a situation grows. In such moments, people look to leaders, searching their words, actions and body language for guidance. It’s like when you experience turbulence on a flight–you look to the flight crew and their non-verbal cues.

Leaders know themselves. You need to be more of what makes you who you are: Those values, qualities, talents and experiences that people already appreciate about you. Your challenge is to see yourself outside of yourself to gain an understanding of how others see and perceive you as a leader. Self-awareness is a critical capability that leaders must develop.

3. Stay positive

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” — John Maxwell

Remain as optimistic as possible. How you show up in a crisis has a significant impact. Positive thoughts and actions focus on strengths, successes, opportunities and collaboration. Leaders radiate trust, hope and optimism that leads to positive energy, confidence and purpose.

4. Tell the truth

Communication is your kryptonite. Crisis often includes misinformation that leads to confusion. Explain the problem honestly in a straightforward way, focusing on positive steps to overcome it. Choose words wisely,” be consistent and clear. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. If you are confusing, you are losing.

5. Know what you stand for

When someone asks what you as a leader stand for–what do you say? What is your purpose, mission and values? Every action should reflect this. It’s not just about standing for something; it’s about the difference you make in the world and stepping up to share what you stand for to encourage others to do the same. Leaders work from a place of purpose. A higher mission that motivates and inspires teams for action. You, as a leader, are a brand. Don’t miss an opportunity to lead and build your brand equity in a crisis.

6. Demonstrate empathy

Listen to understand. Show people that you genuinely care by relating to their perspective. Recognize behaviors and respond to emotions. Remember: Empathy isn’t about what you want–it’s about what the other person needs. Your actions should benefit them.

7. See the big picture

Leaders can see the big picture and visualize the potential impact long before others do. It’s crucial to step back, observe and make sense of the situation. My dad always said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Leaders must be comfortable with what they can’t see. One of the hardest things to do in a crisis is to step back from managing the urgent problems while maintaining focus on the bigger picture.

8. Slow down and stay calm

Keep calm and carry on! People need to feel safe and secure. The composure of leaders must embody agility and patience to minimize the impact of uncertainty. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically, so that you can be fully present. People feed off of emotions and erratic behaviors. Crisis is fueled when composure is missing.

9. Have a plan

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” –Theodore M. Hesburgh

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Focus and discipline are essential. Envision success and build a plan that is easy to understand and flexible in responding to the unknown.

10. Simply lead

Leaders simply lead. They work from within themselves, with the courage, emotional intelligence and integrity to navigate the crisis around them. They are prepared; they don’t panic. They care and communicate in service of others. Leaders are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They see the opportunity in a crisis to transform themselves and the world around them.

Don’t miss an opportunity to lead–to rise above the chaos and crisis when everything seems impossible. The world needs you.

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How Covid-19 is impacting on SA’s agriculture

How Covid-19 is impacting on SA’s agriculture

By Thulasizwe Mkhabela, BUSINESS REPORT

The coronavirus has precipitated an unprecedented economic crisis. Farmer. (File Photo: IANS).

>The coronavirus has precipitated an unprecedented economic crisis. Farmer. (File Photo: IANS).

The coronavirus has precipitated an unprecedented economic crisis.The position of China as the second largest economy in the world and a major exporter has led to supply and demand shocks for the majority of economies around the globe.

China is a large importer of agricultural products and if the outbreak persists, this could have a negative impact on countries exporting their products. Indications are that the government has not imposed any additional sanitary or phytosanitary requirements on market access for primary sector products, exports and imports. Standing regulatory conditions are not yet affected.

However, due to measures to control the outbreak, some areas are in lockdown and it might become challenging to export to China. Exporters have to wait for the return of containers from China, some of which are currently stuck at depots.

South Africa exports a number of agricultural products to China. I will look at the impact of coronavirus on mohair exports to China.

Worldwide, South Africa is ranked as the top mohair producer with a market share of more than 50% followed by Lesotho, US and Argentina.

In South Africa mohair is produced mainly in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces, with about 2.23 million kilos of mohair estimated to be produced annually by 1000 farmers, whereof 800 are regarded as commercial producers based mainly in Eastern Cape. The industry, which employs around 30000 people, is estimated at R1.5billion annually.

The coronavirus has precipitated an unprecedented economic crisis. File picture

Approximately 5% of mohair is sold locally, while 95% is exported.

It is projected that in the short term demand for non-food products such as cotton could be negatively affected. One could also expect that demand for mohair could be affected as it is linked to textiles and manufacturing.

The Absa Agri Trend report of February 19 pointed at two aspects concerning the outbreak of coronavirus and fibre market trends in China:

First, the Chinese market is heavily dependent on the textiles and fibre industry. If the travel restrictions, lockdown and curfews were to persist, impacting sales of wool and cotton, the Chinese economy could be severely impacted. That is why for now Chinese wool buying has still remained strong.

Second, manufacturing companies in China have closed their doors to prevent the spread of the virus, causing a build-up of cotton inventories.

Similar trends could also be expected for mohair, and there is already a build-up of mohair inventories at South African ports.

Given these trends, the question becomes what are the implications of the outbreak on South African mohair exports?

Two scenarios are projected:

Despite the outbreak, China’s demand for South African mohair remains consistent and is not abated, therefore no impact is expected. If the outbreak persists, China’s demand for South African mohair is likely to decline due to continued closure of manufacturing industries. In that case South Africa would have to look for new markets or look at possibilities of expanding supply to the existing markets.

Failure to secure alternative markets could result in loss of income by all players along the value chain.

In addition, an exposé of perceived animal cruelty practices at some of the South African mohair farms resulted in about 300 high-end fashion houses, about 60% banning mohair products.

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6 Ways You Can Show True Leadership in How You Communicate During a Crisis

6 Ways You Can Show True Leadership in How You Communicate During a Crisis

By Amy George


For starters, you can’t overcommunicate.

A crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic is a time when you can show up as a leader and exhibit your company’s values. It’s all in how you communicate.

Companies that handle crisis communications well aren’t afraid to communicate regularly with their internal and external audiences. They might not like what they have to say, but they have the confidence to say and do the right things. Here are six ways to be a leader in crisis communications.

1. Be transparent.

If call center wait times are long, acknowledge it. I watched an American Airlines video this morning that did this very thing. If your product is late or you bungled delivery, own it, apologize, say you will do better, and move on. If you don’t know all the answers, admit it but vow to find out as much as you can and come back with updates.

2. Communicate frequently.

During a crisis, you want to be constantly communicating with your audiences — internally with employees, partners, and board members, and externally with customers, investors, and reporters. Treat the crisis like the breaking news story that it is and ask yourself each day what your audiences need to know that day and the next day and the one after that. You can’t overcommunicate in a crisis.

3. Get ahead of the issue.

If you know you have to pay a fine, close operations, lay off staff, recall a product, or do anything you don’t want to do, make a plan to communicate it on your timeline. Don’t wait until you have to respond to a media inquiry. Don’t wait until a government agency or regulator requires you to do something in the public’s best interest. Act swiftly and boldly and let your audiences know why such action is required.

4. Bring perspective.

Put the crisis in perspective. If you operate a fitness facility and you have to temporarily close for public health reasons, acknowledge to your members that their health is your top priority — because it should be — and promise to get them back in shape as soon as your doors reopen.

5. Communicate solutions, not just issues.

If you are that fitness facility, use all of your communication channels to reach your members during the crisis. And bring solutions. For example, you might not be able to offer your yoga classes in person but maybe your instructors can stream their on-the-mat flow via YouTube.

Or maybe you’re in a different industry and you can’t hold your big conference or in-person training. Take it online; there’s all kind of technology to help you turn in-person business into virtual business.

6. Let people know how you are caring for your own people.

As a customer, I want to know how companies care for their own people in times of crisis. Are they shortening workdays or bringing in grief counselors? Are they being more generous with paid time off or sick days? Ask yourself how you are showing up for your own people and make sure those outside your company know about it.

Here’s a final idea. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers, vendors, partners, and employees, and ask yourself: What would I want to know right now? What would I want to hear from this company right now?

A crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic is a time when you can show up as a leader and exhibit your company’s values. It’s allin how you communicate. Companies that handle crisis communications well aren’t afraid to communicate regularly with their internal and external audiences.

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How to succeed in uncertain times

How to succeed in uncertain times

By Will Jackson-Moore, Heather Swanston and Mohamed Kande

Photograph by Rosley Majid / EyeEm

In a difficult environment, leaders need to resist the impulse to adopt a defensive pose. They must instead take actions that will position their organization for success.

Uncertainty is like the weather. It’s always there, part of the atmosphere, and a condition over which individuals and organizations have very little control. The severity of uncertainty, like the severity of the weather, can rise and fall. At the moment, around the world, CEOs are operating under a series of severe uncertainty alerts.

There is great uncertainty surrounding the geopolitical context in which companies operate: the continuing saga of Brexit; trade tensions between the U.S. and China; tensions in the Middle East and Eastern Europe; and large-scale demonstrations against the status quo in Chile, Lebanon, and Iran. There is structural uncertainty — namely, the disruption to many business models brought about by technological change, the rapidly changing nature of work, climate change, and tectonic shifts in consumer needs and tastes. Consider, for example, how auto companies are beginning to retool their operations and supply chains to focus more on electric drivetrains and less on the internal combustion engine. Regulatory uncertainty, another omnipresent factor, is also at a high, as businesses grapple with shifting patterns of regulations such as tariffs, evolving data privacy regimes, structural shifts in tax policy and the regulation of technology transfers, and international investment.

More than 10 years into the current global expansion, there are widespread worries over growth itself. Over the past 12 months, the International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for 2019 global growth from 3.7 percent to 3.0 percent. Few forecasters predict a global recession — there have been only two years in the last 75 (1944 and 2009) in which the global economy didn’t grow. But in PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, some 53 percent of CEOs said they thought the economic growth rate would be lower in the following 12 months than in the past 12 months — up from only 5 percent saying that just two years ago. What’s more, there are no signs that the clouds of uncertainty will dissipate if a few outstanding issues are resolved. Few people are under the illusion that a decisive move on Brexit, or the repeal of some of the tariffs that China and the U.S. have levied on each other, will lead to smooth sailing.

Leaders — being humans — are wired such that they have difficulty coping with uncertainty. When these different sources of uncertainty occur at once, exacerbating one another, the level of general emotional uncertainty rises. People tend to forecast by extrapolating recent experience endlessly into the future. Once it becomes uncertain whether expected growth will materialize, people can easily become unmoored. When they receive information that muddles the view, they tend to react in predictable ways that are not always constructive. Economist Herbert Simon won the Nobel Prize for his work on what he called “bounded rationality,” pushing back against the conventional wisdom that leaders are rational decision makers. Instead, he argued, they use judgment shortcuts, called heuristics — rules of thumb that simplify things — to make decisions.

Consider the heuristics that appear during periods of heightened uncertainty. Leaders reflexively reduce investment, freeze hiring, slash marketing and brand investments, avoid entering new markets, and sometimes stop making decisions altogether. Such defensive moves are entirely understandable. And in previous periods of uncertainty, they may have been necessary for survival. But they can be counterproductive in the short term, and even more so in the long term. Acting in a procyclical manner — pulling in the reins when things are already slowing down — has the effect of aggravating the situation (as John Maynard Keynes’s paradox of thrift holds, when households and companies cut spending amid a recession or in its aftermath, it reduces demand and makes everybody poorer). Worse, it leaves companies poorly positioned to benefit from the next stage of the cycle, when things start to improve.

How should leaders manage in the face of uncertainty? The good news is that we know, from theory and practice, the right approach and mind-set to adapt. Sailors navigating tricky winds, shifting tides, and mercurial weather systems prepare their vessels so they can sail on safely and purposefully, and companies can do the same. Rather than simply reacting instinctively and responding to the informational noise detected by their instruments, leaders can move swiftly and proactively to alter their course and chart a new one — and capitalize on dislocations in the market.

The interlinked and mutually reinforcing attributes required to succeed in uncertainty are clear. Whether the topic is strategy or workforce, operations or deals, tax and regulation or finance, the same message applies. Organizations must have a bias toward action. As a baseline, companies must strive to be Fit for Growth*, by aligning costs with priorities and strategy, investing in differentiated capabilities, and using traditional and digital levers to execute. Rather than setting on a single fixed course, they must continually engage in scenario planning, constructing and evaluating an array of options that offer a broader view of the landscape and possibilities for success. They must build the capacity to be agile — possessing the balance and capability that enable them to shift focus, priorities, and resources to meet changing circumstances. And they must evolve to become more resilient — able to withstand strong external forces, quickly recover from setbacks, and stay in a position to benefit from new opportunities.

Dynamic strategy

It all starts with moving to craft strategy in a new way. Strategy has historically been a linear enterprise: define a future vision, a way to play, and differentiating capabilities, and then put investments behind them. But when the environment is highly uncertain, it is difficult to have clarity on the path forward. The great challenge of managing amid uncertainty is that the potential outcomes are much more numerous than is typically expected — for the economy at large, and for the behavior of competitors and consumers. That means that leaders need to be as clear about what they will not do as they are about the initiatives they will pursue. In order to be more resilient to change, as our colleagues Sundar Subramanian and Anand Rao have written, strategic decision making has to become more dynamic and probabilistic. Defining strategy, then testing and tweaking it to adjust to internal and external changes, is critical to building a competitive advantage.

Technology and data play a crucial role in building a strategy that is agile, resilient, and dynamic. Big data and machine learning allow for a greater ability to model economic, corporate, and human behavior. Defining a set of plausible futures and constructing a digital twin of the operating environment can create a picture of how different drivers of uncertainty interact with one another. Teams can thus consider a wide range of scenarios — not just what will happen if the economy grows at 2 percent or 3 percent, but what will happen if a market in one country crashes while another booms, or if a leading competitor introduces new products at a lower price point or goes into bankruptcy.

After implementing pilots to test selected moves in the real world and identifying the reinforcing factors and dynamics that drive differentiation, companies can focus their efforts on building out and scaling the capabilities that enable them to grow or reinforce competitive advantage. Continually monitoring performance provides real-time feedback. As the environment changes — as is typical in times of heightened uncertainty — the process of market sensing and testing begins again. Pursuing such a path creates a much greater sense of optionality, prescribing the sets of capabilities and investments worth pursuing under different contingencies. Running multiple scenarios on how a company can succeed under different sets of conditions increases confidence. It also leads to the generation of an array of actions and capabilities (so-called no-regret options) that are good candidates to invest in immediately, regardless of the cycle and level of uncertainty.

Investing in the workforce

In times of uncertainty, it is common for companies to reduce head count, put hiring freezes in place, and leave positions open. Although this may make sense, and it is always vital that the workforce be sized for the purpose of an organization, simply freezing activity means companies can miss out on filling critical needs and areas. As companies contemplate a wider range of options and scenarios, they must ensure that their workforce has the new skills required by the new digital world. Investing in efforts to make the existing workforce more agile and resilient to changes in the environment can boost an organization’s capacity to thrive in uncertain times.

Companies should recognize the potential of longtime employees. In many instances, the work and tasks they do can be taken over by machines. But their experience and capacity to learn are valuable assets. When budgets don’t allow for adding new head count, it is even more vital to develop people so they can adjust to and fill the organization’s evolving needs. It is more efficient and often more cost-effective to move people across the organization than it is to cut in one place and recruit elsewhere. As part of its Upskilling 2025 program, for example, Amazon is investing US$700 million over six years to help current employees gain the skills that will enable them to move into technical roles in areas such as machine learning, software engineering, and IT support.

Organizations need to be proactive in other ways to construct options for their human capital strategy. They can take advantage of dislocation in labor markets to attract people with needed skills. And whether they rely on new or existing hires, companies can build resilience by making their workforce more flexible. Given advances in technology, changing expectations, and the growth of the infrastructure supporting independent work, some chunk of the workforce prefers to work on a contingent basis. That means companies are able both to access needed talent and skills and to position themselves as a partner/employer of choice. More significantly, when the outlook is less clear, rather than cut back or release people, organizations can flex down and re-balance their use of contingent workers.

Leaders must also recognize that periods of heightened uncertainty can take a toll on workplace culture. When team members are concerned about the future of the organization, some may choose to leave for other opportunities, and others may become fearful and less engaged. Leaders, as they seek to build their workers’ skills for the future, must double down on consistent and positive communications that emphasize steps the organization is taking to be more agile and resilient.

Supporting the workforce with agile operations

It’s not enough just to identify different scenarios and invest in building a workforce that can weather uncertainty. Companies can act on the options they generate only if their operations can support the execution. In times of uncertainty, it is imperative for organizations to focus on operational agility. Doing so prepares people to make the quick pivots that can be the key to surviving and thriving.

In some ways it is harder to rethink an operational strategy than it is to rethink a commercial strategy. In the pre-digital era, the operational reconfiguration following a strategic reshaping — e.g., shifting production and supply chains feeding the U.S. market from China to Mexico — sometimes took years. The challenge, and opportunity, for operations now is to use new technologies such as digitization, AI, or robotic process automation to reshape operations rapidly so that they can mirror the constantly shifting commercial landscape.

At root this approach means understanding which operations and capabilities give an organization a competitive advantage, and making sure the company owns them and invests in them. It is important not to lose control while cutting costs. Manufacturers and service providers should identify good costs — the technologies that provide solutions, differentiate the business, and are difficult to copy — and invest in those. Outsourcing is a key component of building an agile operation. But in times of uncertainty, companies that outsource should take special care to both capture value and prevent value from leaking. Companies should not outsource functions they have yet to optimize themselves.

Create value with deals

Uncertainty tends to paralyze deal making or to push companies into transactions that are defensive and reactive. Companies naturally pull back on inorganic growth, and the risk tolerance of boards, management, and investment committees — as well as shareholders — declines. But companies that are sufficiently agile to execute transactions when they can, rather than when they have to, will find that deals present occasions to boost growth and pull ahead of rivals. Because more motivated sellers appear in uncertain times, companies can potentially take advantage of deal flow from organizations that are divesting assets. It is no surprise that private equity firms tend to do their best deals and create the most value by buying at the trough of a cycle, when both multiples and profits are depressed.

In evaluating deal opportunities, organizations should draw from the Fit for Growth mentality, focusing on acquiring technologies, operations, and units that bolster desired capabilities and enhance the core business. The corollary, of course, is that divestment strategies should center on selling noncore assets that free up resources for investment. Even if they lack clarity on the short-term prospects surrounding any one business or unit, companies can shape their future by focusing on the long-term structural trends about which they have some level of certainty — for example, the continuing evolution of e-commerce, or a move to a lower-carbon energy system. Companies that invest now, regardless of economic conditions, may be best suited to ride the next technological wave.

Agile deal makers develop plans that permit them to move quickly to create value. In times of uncertainty, traditional 100-day windows for rolling out a value creation plan narrow. In this era of dynamic strategy, successful acquirers and investors can use analytics and modeling to work on integration and other core value creation levers while they are conducting due diligence. That way, those levers can be implemented instantly.

Moving quickly is essential in times of uncertainty not just because of shifting market dynamics, but because delays can have a negative impact on two crucial components that underlie the success of deals: culture and talent. Culture takes a long time to develop and a great deal of effort to maintain, yet it can fall apart in a relatively short time. Failing to plan for cultural change will undermine the value created in a merged organization. Meanwhile, talent is increasingly at the forefront of deals, which are often motivated by the desire to gain access to intellectual property and specific skills. Acquirers can reduce uncertainty by identifying crucial employees before an acquisition and incentivizing them to remain. After the deal, aggressively and clearly communicating value creation plans will help retain key personnel and build buy-in from them.

Adjusting to tax and regulation reform

One of the biggest drivers of the current uncertainty is the truly complex landscape of tax and regulation reform. In a range of large industries — technology, energy, resources, financial services, transportation, trade — the regulatory situation is volatile and prone to significant change. Many organizations have found that these shifts impact their industry, the specific markets in which they operate, and the general environment for business. Unfortunately, hiding under a rock is not a suitable option. In order to be resilient to shifts in the tax and regulatory environment, companies must get ahead of the changes and, where appropriate, work with industry peers and government to improve outcomes.

No one action, by itself, can dispel a heavy cloud of uncertainty. But if organizations can get out of their defensive crouch and assume a more aggressive stance, they have a better chance of maintaining their balance and shaping their future.

In some instances, changes in the regulatory environment can fundamentally alter the business model. Automotive manufacturers, for example, are having to evolve their operations ahead of continually changing standards for emissions, pollution levels, and safety. Those that have been most forward-thinking in doing so will find they are most resilient to the changing environment. In other instances, regulatory and tax shifts may lead to a rethinking of existing practices and an opportunity to further align operating models with regulatory, legal, and fiscal policy.

Embracing technological solutions can help companies manage compliance issues while they assess the longer-term impact of other changes. Understanding how to find and assemble the data required for new regulatory disclosures — on elements as varied as supply chains, the source of ingredients, and energy use — will allow companies to meet requirements while enhancing their reputation. Above all, being in a position to respond effectively will enable a business to continue focusing on its trading environment and not be further disrupted by legal or regulatory challenges at an already difficult time.

Capital strength

Companies can implement capabilities-driven strategies, invest in human capital, and execute deals effectively only if they rest on a strong financial foundation. But finance has its own heuristics in a time of uncertainty. Commercial organizations are often slow to react to changes to their forecasts. Working capital often increases, consuming more cash and effectively restricting liquidity. And companies often become motivated sellers at a time when asset prices are low. To ensure effective action, it is vital not just for finance to act as an operationally involved partner and conscience of the business, but for all key operational functions, including commercial, procurement, and supply chain, to be actively engaged.

By harnessing data and information technologies to run scenarios involving their business, companies can review and challenge economic, business, and sales projections — and continually feed the results into updated forecasts.

Companies should review and challenge the normal models that operational process owners use to run the everyday business. This means reviewing lead time assumptions and seeking ways to shorten them. Finance professionals should ensure that safety stock calculations still reflect the current situation, and identify the parts of the portfolio or large customers for which it is worth investing in inventory. Finance needs to keep a close eye on customer payment performance to monitor early warning signs. To build flexibility in periods of heightened uncertainty, companies should proactively fine-tune working capital and reduce the level of receivables before customers run into their own liquidity challenges.

Act now

No one action, by itself, can dispel a heavy cloud of uncertainty or significantly mitigate its impact. But if organizations can get out of their defensive crouch and assume a more aggressive stance, they have a better chance of maintaining their balance and shaping their future. Building and harnessing the mutually reinforcing attributes of optionality, agility, and resilience will enable leaders to adopt the strategies and mind-sets that allow them to succeed in the full spectrum of uncertain outcomes. Pursuing this path takes a lot of courage. Companies must consciously lean into changes and counter-intuitive activities in the precise moments when it is most uncomfortable to do so, or when the forces of inertia and gravity are pushing them toward a predictable outcome.

Seeking out sources of assurance, relying on data, and building trust among stakeholders can serve as important sources of ballast and support. In times of uncertainty, all stakeholders — employees, investors, customers, and suppliers — make more intense demands for information. They constantly seek data and perspectives that can help them build their own resilient and dynamic personal and professional strategies. In such moments, the heuristic may be to reduce the flow of information — precisely because leaders feel less uncertainty about what they should say, or have less confidence in the accuracy of a projection or forecast. Here, too, thinking counter-intuitively is beneficial. Opening up channels of communication will strengthen the bonds linking stakeholders and expand the view of what is possible. Rather than being an excuse to detach or check out, uncertainty should be a spur to engage and build sustainable advantage.

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Social Distancing In the Workplace — Here’s What You Can Do Right Now To Make a Difference

Social Distancing In the Workplace — Here’s What You Can Do Right Now To Make a Difference

By David Finkel


It’s time to get everyone on the same page.

For many business owners, having a remote workforce has been a very personal decision until now. Some owners prefer their team to collaborate face-to-face, while others prefer to use technology and give their team the opportunity to work from home or while on the road. Unfortunately, with the recent coronavirus pandemic many business owners have been faced with some tough decisions regarding their businesses and their teams in terms of social distancing. Which has led to some very important discussions between you and your staff.

So where do we go from here? Maybe you want to start building up your systems and controls to give your team members the ability to work from home or adjust their work schedules during an emergency? Maybe the majority of your staff is already working remotely, and you want to get a better grasp on what they are doing and how best to serve them during this transition period.

Time Is of the Essence

The worst time to have a discussion about contingency planning is when the building is on fire. Ideally, you want to think and plan ahead to decide how your team will handle various emergencies. Now, the specifics will of course vary from case to case, but having a system in place to allow employees to work from home is always a good starting point. If your employees must come into the office, consider creating an alternative scheduling option that can be put into place should the need for social distancing arise.

You might also take the opportunity to think about things like stock levels and supply chain interruptions when working on your contingency planning. Can you say “toilet paper shortage”?

If the crisis has already arrived and you haven’t properly planned, there are still things you can do to help during a transition. These include:

  1. Communicate With Your Team

Hiding your head in the sand and thinking that the current situation won’t affect your business isn’t the way to go. Instead, sit down with your management team or other key employees and discuss ways to handle the task at hand. Be prepared to listen and ask questions.

The clearer you can paint this picture the more likely you are to be satisfied with the way your team handles a particular obstacle. The biggest mistake I see from business owners is that they have a fuzzy or incomplete understanding of what their team members (remote or otherwise) are responsible for in times of crisis. By focusing on clear success criteria, you empower your remote team to understand what they are working to accomplish.

Once you have these key points worked out, sit down with your workers and make sure that you all understand what is expected of one another. Only then will you have the freedom to really do your best work.

  1. Have Solid Reports

One of the big stressors to having a remote workforce (or in times of crisis) is not knowing the status of projects and deliverables. Thankfully, with a little planning you and your employees can relax and focus on getting your most valuable tasks completed during uncertain times.

Ask yourself:

  • What “key performance indicators” (KPIs) should they report on? How often?
  • What updates should they submit? How frequently?

In my company, our remote workers check in once a week through our “Big Rock” app. There, we document our big tasks completed for the week, key victories, and tasks for the following week. You can also use a spreadsheet, task manager, or even email to document your victories and to-do lists.

If your team is new to remote work, you want to encourage weekly check-ins until they become part of the company culture.

  1. Check In Face-to-Face (Virtually)

There is a lot to be said for remote work and social distancing during times of crisis, but when it comes to brainstorming and creative projects there is nothing that competes with face time. So explore using conference lines, video meetings, and other tools to keep your team connected when working remotely.

We get together once a week as a team virtually to stave off feelings of isolation. It is usually a 15-minute quick huddle via conference line. Once a month, we upgrade this huddle to a videoconference for 30 minutes. One of the best parts of the video huddle is the chance to see our team in their home offices and make a connection.

Changing the way you do business is stressful, but with a little communication and teamwork the transition doesn’t have to be a painful one. How does your business handle social distancing in times of crisis?

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Seven key actions business can take to mitigate the effects of COVID-19

Seven key actions business can take to mitigate the effects of COVID-19

By Melanie Butler and Kristin Rivera

Photograph by BlackJack3D

In the face of a global crisis, well-prepared businesses can help protect their workers and their bottom lines.

At PwC’s Global Crisis Centre, we deal with crises every day. But as the COVID-19 outbreak has worsened, the volume of calls fielded by our teams has noticeably increased. By the end of February, the phones were ringing off the hook. Business leaders are concerned, and rightly so, for the welfare of their people and their organizations.

No crisis is an isolated, neatly contained incident, and the COVID-19 outbreak is exceptional by any standards. It comes with extreme scope and levels of uncertainty. It’s a situation that is well beyond the experience of most business leaders — the median tenure of a CEO is five years, and the last epidemic that approached anything near this scale was the SARS outbreak in 2003. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and lasted nine months. In much less time than that, COVID-19 has already infected more than ten times as many people, and is spreading fast.

No crisis is an isolated, neatly contained incident, and the COVID-19 outbreak is exceptional by any standards. It comes with extreme scope and levels of uncertainty.

Estimating the virus’s effect on the global economy is hard. The SARS outbreak is believed to have cost about US$40 billion; the economist who made that calculation says COVID-19 could cost three or four times as much. The International Monetary Fund had downgraded its global growth estimates, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has suggested global growth could be cut in half as a result of the virus. We’ve already seen massive disruption to supply chains, and if the virus continues to spread, we could soon see widespread closures of schools and workplaces, whether voluntary or enforced.

Business leaders see managing a crisis as an inevitable part of their role. According to PwC’s most recent Global Crisis Survey, nearly seven in 10 leaders (69 percent) have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last five years in their companies, and the average number of crises experienced in these firms is greater than three. COVID-19 will test many business leaders to the limit.

The key to managing any crisis is preparation. Here are seven actions that you as a leader can take to ensure your organization is in the best shape possible to withstand what’s ahead.

Review workforce locations and travel.

The first priority is to establish exactly where staff are and how many workers are in affected or vulnerable territories. Do any need to be repatriated? Or have they asked to work from home? Upcoming travel plans will need to be reviewed, rescheduled, or canceled.

Clear policies should be in place to address absence due to sickness or caring for relatives, the protocol for visitors to company sites, the procedure for reporting illness, and travel restrictions. You also should plan for policies in the event of lengthy school closures — what will the policy be for working parents? There’s also the issue of tax: If workers are forced to stay in foreign countries longer than expected and then become subject to taxation, what policies do you have in place to address this? Lastly, be prepared to continuously refresh and update these policies as circumstances evolve.

Revisit your crisis and continuity plans.

Every well-run business has a crisis or continuity plan, and many will have a specific pandemic plan. But nothing tests theory quite like reality. One Asia-based organization’s pandemic plan, for example, designated a European city as the evacuation site for employees and their families — but flights from China to the city were suspended soon after the outbreak.

Generic plans need to be adapted and tailored to cope with the specific challenges of an epidemic. If large numbers of your employees have to work remotely for a time, for example, is there enough technology bandwidth to cope? Will your operations be impacted if outsourced, offshore workforces are unable to come to work? What is the procedure for updating travel advice and policy? How will communication with employees be managed? During any crisis, the biggest worry for CEOs is gathering accurate information quickly. How will data flow during this crisis?

Evaluate the supply chain.

A clear understanding of your supply chain will help to expose any potential vulnerabilities. This means beginning with the most critical products and looking well beyond first- and second-tier suppliers, right down to the raw materials, if possible. For example, if your products contain a component from a country that becomes isolated, is there a secondary supply? Contingency plans can run into difficulty quickly if the virus spreads; we’ve already seen suppliers in China that turned to South Korea as a Plan B, only to see that country quickly become infected.

Identify potential points of failure.

Who are the teams and individuals on whom critical processes or services depend? Are there workers with the right skills who could step into critical roles if needed? Call centers and shared service centers are potentially vulnerable if the virus continues to spread — can steps be taken to reduce the level of human interaction, such as staggered shifts or remote working?

Get communication right.

Although we’ve seen employers work hard to keep their workforce informed, disinformation and confusion have spread along with the virus. Your employees (and wider stakeholders) will be looking for reassurance from you that they are being protected and that the business is prepared. Leadership should be seen as a source of truth — and according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, business is more trusted than both government and the media. Consistency and accuracy of messaging is the key, as is reassurance from the top of the organization; your workforce will need to know that their welfare is paramount.

Use scenario analysis.

With uncertainty rife, and COVID-19 holding the potential to impact every part of a business for months, scenario planning is a critical tool to test preparedness. What are the best- and worst-case scenarios, and is the business equipped to cope? What could be the impact in the longer term, for example, on working capital or bank covenants, or even rents for shops and restaurants if public places are closed? Ask searching questions of your finance team to highlight critical sensitivities. Organizations in some sectors could see a significant rise in demand if more of the population is spending more time at home rather than at work — are they prepared for this? Supermarkets are reducing the variety of products, stocking up on staples, and developing contingency plans.

Don’t lose sight of other risks.

COVID-19 isn’t the only threat on the horizon — and often organizations are at their most vulnerable when dealing with a crisis that dominates their attention. The many other risks that your business faces aren’t diminished by an epidemic. Cybersecurity, for example, should always be top of mind.

We don’t know what the next few weeks and months could bring. If the World Health Organization upgrades the current COVID-19 epidemic to a pandemic, the tone of the conversation will shift from containment and prevention to protection of key workers in order to keep businesses running. National restrictions on movement and the gathering of people could come into force, and organizations will need to be agile to respond.

At the Crisis Centre, we like to say that the response window for a crisis is measured in months, while recovery is measured in years. Those companies that are well-prepared will always recover more quickly.

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How Real Leaders Step Up to the Plate During a Crisis

How Real Leaders Step Up to the Plate During a Crisis


By Thomas Koulopoulos

The greatest leaders are forged in times of crisis and uncertainty. Here are five ways to be that kind of leader.

You’re reading this because you’re a leader, but are you a fair-weather leader or one who can navigate the storm?

While some people may set out to be leaders early in life, most of us stumble into it. For many entrepreneurs, leadership is the last thing they have in mind when starting a business. Usually the focus is on a great idea or product. Having to run a business is just what you need to do to bring that idea to the market. Then you wake up to realization you  are surrounded by people who are looking to you to lead.

It’s a humbling and daunting position to be in. You didn’t ask for it, you didn’t prepare for it, and yet here you are.

Most of us learn how to be leaders on the job. However, in times of crisis many leaders find themselves unprepared to carry the mantle. Their first instinct is usually to be a cheerleader and reassure people that everything is going to be fine, or ignore the crisis in the hope that if they say nothing others will ignore it as well. But that’s not honest. The truth is that in situations of high uncertainty nobody knows if everything will be all right.

In a time of crisis, you need to be deliberate and disciplined. Here are five things I’ve found to be the foundation of effective leadership in times of crisis.

1. Demonstrate calm.

A leader is constantly scrutinized for his or her behavior, but especially so in times of volatility and uncertainty. Your demeanor, vocabulary, even your posture are billboards that people will look to in order to decide how they should respond. Accept that your every behavior signals a message. If you need to give yourself a pep talk in private before facing people and breakdown when you’re alone, then do it–whatever it takes to project the calm confidence that sets the standard for others to follow.

2. Listen to your team’s concerns.

You don’t need to solve everyone’s problems. You can’t. But what you can do is listen without judgment to people’s concerns. Resist the temptation to come up with solutions. People need to be heard and validated. That doesn’t mean you are endorsing their fears, but you do want to listen and acknowledge what they are feeling, whether it’s scared or anxious. It’s normal.

3. Repeat the concerns.

This one is tough for many leaders. A big part of the reason you are where you are is because you do not subscribe to conventional wisdom. You go were the risk is. It’s in your nature. So, when you hear someone express concerns, you want to tell them why that’s ridiculous. But before you can reassure them, you need to understand what brought them there to begin with. Something as simple as, “So, if I understand what you said, your concern is that ____________, right?” may be enough to do that.

4. Communicate honestly and authentically.

Once you’ve checked your emotional state of mind, signaled the right messages, listened and understood, it’s time to communicate. Most people want to hear the truth delivered with confidence. Don’t sugarcoat it, or attempt to be obtuse or overly verbose to soften or avoid the hard truth.

For example, you may start with this: “I get that you’re scared. We don’t know precisely what the next few months have in store for us. To say we did would be arrogant and incorrect. What I do know is that we are in a good position to weather the storm, if we get creative and stay focused. We will do our best. And I will personally be available to listen to your concerns and consider them in how we navigate this.”

That’s it. As things change, continue to communicate because in the vacuum of silence people form narratives of the worst possible outcomes.

5. Don’t avoid hard decisions, but make them with compassion.

Lastly, every effective leader at some point has to make gut-wrenching decisions, the sort that wake you up from a sound sleep drenched in sweat. Accept that there are many occasions when you have no good options–your choices are between bad, awful, and horrible. In those cases, you have an obligation to your people and your business to be decisive but compassionate. I can tell you from experience that I have people who I’ve had to let go in hard times who have since become dear friends, not because they were let go, but because it was done with integrity, dignity, and compassion.

You may not have set out to be a leader during times of turmoil, but this is where circumstances have taken you. As the saying goes, anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. it’s how you navigate treacherous waters that determines what kind of leader you’ve become.

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Covid-19 – Johns Hopkins University

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