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Most companies I work with, like yours, are still reeling from the effects of Covid-19, the rise of inflation, and talent shortages. They are rightly thinking about a strategy to be better prepared for future challenges, recognizing that more are coming in this age of accelerating change and global competition. I’m always on the lookout for more practical insights and guidance to get started.
Thus I was pleased to see the specifics offered in a new book, The Flexible Method, by James Burstall. He brings his own many years of experience as the CEO of a struggling, yet successful company, where he addresses his own learning from challenges, as well as the successes and failures of many friends and competitors.
I will summarize here a subset of his many recommendations, with my own insights added:
1. Insist on new collaboration and team connections.
Crises rarely strike a single group or function, so don’t allow yourself or anyone to hunker down to solve the problem alone. Ask them to reach out to team connections and related teams to share intelligence and collaborate on solutions. Now is the time to find friends and allies in your own domain.
In fact, I have found that the challenge is really to make work fun, as opposed to stressful isolation. By demonstrating positivity and mentoring, you can make collaboration and connecting with others a productive and enjoyable experience, rather than a burden.
2. Act fast and lead with a strong calm purpose.
Face the worst and don’t panic. Set achievable targets and pursue them fiercely to conclusion. Make each action part of an evolving narrative towards deadlines that everybody can understand and buy into.
Start by creating and sharing the big picture. Engage your team in the planning process and seek their input at every pass. Constantly communicate to all team members what’s expected of them and how their role fits into the team’s larger purpose and priorities.
3. Put your people first and leave no one behind.
Caring for your staff is not only the right thing to do, it is in your own best interests. It leads to better team member retention and will ultimately give you a competitive advantage, more productivity, and fewer customer crises. Providing real feedback, active listening, and empathy are crucial.
It’s also important to make sure they have the resources and training to do their job. One strategy, often overlooked, is cross-training, In the face of a crisis, you must leverage whatever assets you have to secure a solid foundation for your business. Prepare now.
4. Seek non-financial outside help on new challenges.
In a crisis, it is a positive strength to reach out for help rather than struggle alone. Analyze yourself and your team for core strengths, and don’t be hesitant about contacting government entities and clients for support and new alternatives. Show them that you are fighting to survive, not failing.
I find that industry experts, and even non-direct competitors, are often willing to help to bring a new perspective to any problem. In addition, this pushes you and your team to be the best that you can be and brings credibility and additional resources to your challenge.
5. Promote thinking, innovation, and experiments.
When adapting is no longer enough, you need a wealth of new ideas. You need to instill the confidence in everyone to be bold in creativity, embrace risk, and pursuing new ideas with radical commitment. Don’t try to be perfect – just try something new, put it out there, and adapt as you learn and grow.
Jeff Bezos at Amazon is a strong proponent of this approach, and asserts that if you double the number of experiments you do, you’re going to double your agility in response to business growth challenges. He also rewards every change proposal from his team.
6. Take time to rest, reward, and review progress.
Publicly thank and reward your team often for their tireless work and dedication. Make group celebrations a way of life. Assess what everyone did right and what you and they can do better next time. Commit to applying the lessons learned and emerge stronger and more resilient to future shocks.
I am certain that if you adopt these recommendations, you will come out on the other side of any crisis a better leader and a more resilient organization. Of course, it’s always important to be positive and optimistic about the future and look forward to sharing your journey to business success and personal satisfaction. Life is too short to spend it all under fear of the next challenge.
Team work does make the dream work
But how do you know of your team is reflecting your dream / vision when interacting with your customers? We can help with that and also show you how to grow your customer service culture. It takes more than an experienced mystery shopping company and a well defined mystery shopping report. We can show you how to change your “got ya” program into a “we caught you doing it wright” program. Give us a call, we’re here to help.
BY MARTIN ZWILLING AND CARL PHILLIPS