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Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

How to be a great leader during the current crisis






Andrew Reid, strategy director at global event management company Shelton Fleming Group shares his advice on how to keep staff motivated when the world around you is imploding.


The most surprising people emerge as leaders when there's a profound upheaval. So how should you respond? Here are the eight leadership qualities that stand out:


1. People first


The safety of our people, and adhering to the social-distancing directives, has been our mantra from the start. Staying home is for the greater good. Group-wide communication has been designed to ensure everyone is up to speed about the business. However, there's also been one to one video calls to ensure there's an opportunity to talk through any developments that might present challenges or create anxiety. 


2. Be honest


Be transparent. Avoid shocks. This enables your team to acclimatise to and anticipate change. Explain every significant decision and build trust.


To this end, our MD produces a heartfelt daily email to all staff that's honest about our finances; our view on the good, the bad and the misguided aspects of government policy; and how client conversations are developing.


3. Talk often


Regular - preferably daily - communication is a must. Provide context. Share knowledge on how competitors, other sectors and organisations are responding. Context alleviates uncertainty and what could be sudden developments, like furloughing. 


4. Engage everyone in the future


One of the first tasks I was given was to "think about how the business can evolve in a post-COVID-19 world." Quickly it was clear the emphasis should be on being positive and future-focused, as a team. So, we're testing new online ideation tech that enables everyone to contribute ideas around how our business and the events sector can adapt.


5. Stay sane


We all need to focus on personal health and mental wellbeing. It's a health-related crisis after all.  Talking is a good place to start. It's easy to feel helpless in this situation, especially as some colleagues and family will confront this virus head-on. Regular virtual meetings, both one-to-one and via video conference calls, make a huge difference.


6. Act fast


Time's your enemy. Be prepared to make swift decisions. Don't overthink. Quick decision-making applies to everything: changing your offer, taking on a new marketing strategy, to re-organising the logistics of the company, and HR.


7. Remain positive


Times are tough, but humour helps. There's enough grim news coming from the media, you don't need to add to it. With everyone self-isolating at home, our teams have been organising after-work activities, such as online games and quizzes.


In the hospitality and travel sector one of the most uplifting developments, with roots in strong leadership, has been the stories of hotel groups, restauranteurs and venues becoming temporary hospitals, or sources of food for key workers and the less well-off, worried about feeding their families. These initiatives that look beyond the commercial bottom-line, resonate with staff and boost morale. 


8. Keep in touch with furloughed staff


You may have to furlough some of your team. While you can't ask them to work, there's nothing stopping you from keeping them in the loop on what's happening. They can be part of on-going training. This keeps them engaged, valued and armed with new skills and services, when they return.


Summing up: the current pandemic has blindsided almost everyone. Interdependent economies and the speed at which information is in the palm of our hands has meant this disruption has whipped through the economy. This twists the optics and fuels anxiety. On the flip side, the speed at which information flows can eventually accelerate recovery. 


One thing is for certain: it's the strength of your people that will bring you out the other side. The travel, hospitality and events sector are resilient. People in these sectors are used to working under pressure; being resourceful. If you and your team rethink and marshal the future together, you can be sure that when the situation gets to that 'new' normal, you'll be fighting-fit.


 

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