Leaders in Action During Crisis (Part 2)

During our 14 week Enterprise Consulting class (ESP 461), I relish the opportunity to listen to and discuss with leaders the priorities that must surface during crisis situations (COVID). Thinking through opportunities and making timely decisions may mean survival and/or a jump start in a post-COVID environment. In general, I hear the same three thoughts from start-ups, small businesses and non-profits:

Customer Experience

My sense is that most companies today are competing based on their customer’s experience. We ordered dinner this evening from a national Asian food brand. The ordering process was complex, the pick-up was disjointed and the food was very mediocre. It was a disappointing three strikes. This poor experience will be shared on average with 15 people. According to Salesforce, 74% of people will stop buying a product if the purchase process is difficult. The customer is your business’s lifeline. Don’t encourage your customer to shop around by promoting a faulty CX. During a crisis, understand how your customers’ preferences have changed and address their feedback.

Be Truthful & Positive so you can Keep your people

According to The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes and Posner), almost 90% of all employees want their leaders to be honest. Your credibility is based on your honesty with the troops. Your company’s future is in your employees’ hands. You are obligated to be honest and straight-forward about the company’s current situation. Do not dance….your top performers will refuse to dance with you. Keeping describes the way another person, often an authority figure, contains and interprets what’s happening in times of uncertainty. Senior leadership’s role, in a severe downturn, is to reassure employees that the company has the resources to weather the storm. In addition, leaders assert that jobs will be protected, assist employees interpret important operating data, and offer clear directions about what must be done to support current customers and develop new business. Senior leadership thinks clearly, offers reassurance, orients people and helps them stick together. This work develops employee commitment and sustains effort through difficult times. It also sets the stage to jumpstart your organization’s recovery.

What Does Winning Look Like?

Your business has experienced major disruption. Ninety days ago “winning” was defined differently for most organizations. You were experiencing winning daily. You were confident about this picture going forward. Today, winning may be a dense fog for you and your organization. Bring your key people together to have a candid conversation about your short-term winning aspiration – 90 days at the most. Understand and agree to your firm’s current REALITY. Second-guessing is not allowed. Remember this principle – Reality is Your Friend. This principle will guide your thinking and define your short-term winning aspiration(s). Then, communicate this aspiration with passion and commitment to your people. Finally, move forward.

Let me encourage you to be LEADERS. Do the following – be honest, be inspiring, be forward-looking and be competent. Your opportunities will be ahead of you.

If you have thoughts about this message, let us hear from you. For more information about surviving this crisis, go to our website: https://www.miamientrepreneurship.net/. Our purpose is to help start-ups, small businesses and non-profits move forward. Also, if you want to hear more about ESP 461 and our student teams’ outstanding consulting work, contact me (Tom Heuer) at heuertm@miamioh.edu. We look forward to sharing information with you.

The Altman Institute and our network of alumni and friends are committed to helping organizations in the midst of this crisis and to helping build the new society and economy that will emerge post COVID-19. We believe innovation and entrepreneurial action are (and will be) more important than ever as the world gets back on its feet. We want to help you and to enlist you in helping others. Reach out, and connect with us today.

We are compiling an ongoing collection of COVID-19 resources for organizations, vetted by Miami entrepreneurship faculty and other experts in the Miami Entrepreneurship Network.

About Tom Heuer

Tom Heuer is the Richard Forsythe Chair and clinical lecturer in entrepreneurship at the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship at Miami University. Tom is an experienced Senior Corporate Strategist with a Big 4 Consulting Firm and Fortune 200 Company, He combines his executive line management background with his core competencies in leadership and strategy to bring a refreshing, innovative approach to strategic planning, organizational change and plan execution.

He is a frequent author and speaker on the topics of strategic and leadership issues, creativity, culture, strategic change, and more.