Stanton Chase Chairman on how to safeguard businesses’ most important asset: the health and welfare of their people
By Mickey Matthews
In just a matter of weeks, the world as we knew it has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and every industry and company is scrambling to redefine itself amid this new normal. While a lot of the adaptations have been necessarily reactive – reducing travel, working remotely, canceling or postponing meetings – now is also the time to show resilience, lead positively from the front and be proactive. And that means firstly acknowledging the crisis that is at hand and then moving forward swiftly and decisively.
From my long experience in the world of leadership capital, talent advisory and executive search, I can say that we can – and will – weather this storm together – as one. This is a time to take a collective, global breath and think about what’s truly important in our lives. Here at Stanton Chase, we take our values seriously, and so in this current time of crisis we prioritize the safety, health and continued productivity of our extended corporate family around the world and the community of clients and candidates that we have been proud to serve and work closely with over the past three decades.
Firm in our convictions and knowing our priorities, together we can navigate this new reality more successfully. We at Stanton Chase are taking this opportunity to reach out to you, our clients, friends and contacts, to let you know we are here and to listen, learn and share best practices in these trying times. Below are several ways we are managing through this crisis and that I believe companies can turn their focus to care for their most important asset: the health and welfare of their people.
Above all, it is necessary to open lines of communication to allow everyone to be on the same page – something crucial when the situation is changing daily or even by the hour. Making sure that everyone is kept up-to-date – even about unknowns – is key to reducing anxiety and speculation; this can be done by sending out daily emails and holding frequent video calls to keep as many people as possible in the loop about the latest news and how it affects your business.
Another way of keeping these channels of communication open is to set up a coronavirus task force. This decentralized and “bottoms up” approach aids in empowerment, engagement and idea stimulation in these uncertain times. Paul Argenti, a corporate communications professor at Dartmouth, suggests a specialized team of five to seven people who can monitor the situation and provide updates. “Decentralized communication is understandable and even desirable in a large, complex organization. But in an emergency or fast-moving situation, you need a crisis-response team,” he wrote in Harvard Business Review on March 13. This gives people the tools and information they need to remain safe and productive in a pandemic.
In such unpredictable and rapidly changing times, effective leadership is needed more than ever to anchor a company’s response and to reassure employees, customers, partners and all stakeholders about what that response means for them on a daily basis. Good leaders communicate early and effectively and must be decisive, authentic, respond quickly, and have the ability to convey the importance of those decisions to everyone else. And a healthy dose of optimism goes a long way: optimism that that your company will find effective ways to adapt and thrive and faith in people that they can rise to the occasion of meeting these new challenges.
With so many people around the world increasingly affected by coronavirus in one way or another, leaders must also cultivate a high level of empathy toward those they work with, conveying that they understand the physical and mental toll of the current situation and are willing to allow people the space needed to deal with it accordingly.
While the current restrictions do mean that business cannot continue as usual, there are ways that it can continue just as effectively. In this new reality where many employees around the globe are working from home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, we can take full advantage of the technology at our disposal — applications that facilitate communication like messaging and video-conferencing apps, apps that support coordination like project management tools, and platforms that promote remote collaboration and teamwork – to ensure that goals are still made and met. “Social Distancing” is a real thing but it does not mean we can not meet, speak, communicate and bond together.
In a global sense and armed with these tools, social distancing should not be an insurmountable obstacle. And without the time spent traveling for face-to-face meetings around the world, there is an opportunity for more numerous – and more in-depth – meetings to be conducted virtually. At Stanton Chase we have realized this benefit already.
Lastly, companies can take this time as an opportunity to think about their long-term, strategic objectives and gain a fresh perspective on their work systems as they currently know them. Evaluating and assessing what works best and what’s best left out of this new reality could reveal a whole new streamlined process. This is a chance to really be creative, show innovation, act with flexibility, shedding old assumptions and habits and looking to adopt efficient solutions for maximal return longer term.
I am confident that these testing times will bring out the strength in all of us, character is and will be revealed and companies and leaders should use this chance to rally behind their core values and their employees – who are their greatest strength. We here at Stanton Chase can assure you that we are ready to provide support as needed to all our clients, friends and contacts around the world in any way that we can during this era of crisis.
About the author
Mickey Matthews is International Chairman of Stanton Chase.