A Time of Crisis Demands A Mindful Approach To Leadership

By: Yael Shafrir, Chief Marketing Officer, Meet in Place

At a time like this, when most organizations – including our own – have had to quickly adapt to a changing reality, it can be challenging (to say the least) to clearly see the path ahead. Like others, we are using this time to focus inward and strengthen our organizational fundamentals. We’re further building our partnerships and deepening our relationships, while doing our best to take care of our human capital and emphasize company values. We have our hands full of tasks and our minds off the horror – but is it helping our business?

Realizing the need to help leaders focus and prioritize, and the importance of the human resource – here are some thoughts on how leadership roles have developed over this challenging period as well as some tools to reinforce your leadership.

Focus On The People

Hubert Joly, executive chairman of Best Buy, asked what’s in my opinion the most important question: How do you want your leadership from this time to be remembered?

As leaders or managers, we all have our “style”. Some are more collaborative, while others may be more laissez-faire. Some are more detail oriented, while others focus on the big picture. This new period presents an opportunity, and potentially a demand, to be people focused regardless of your own personal style. Joly put it beautifully: “Business is about pursuing a noble purpose and putting employees and human relationships at the heart of how a business operates.” 

Flowing from these observations are three key pillars in this approach to effective leadership during a crisis: lead with purpose, preemptively communicate, and regularly reevaluate the situation through the lens of organizational culture. 

I’ll touch on each of these in turn and suggest some relevant facilitation tools for each.

We have our hands full of tasks and our minds off the horror – but is it helping our business?

Be Mindful

A crisis is a time where leadership skills are both honed and put into practice. It’s a time when your leadership is tested, and where critical lessons are learned. 

This is the number one lesson from this period. First – it entails leading mindfully. Leading with sensitivity and awareness. It means cultivating focus, clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others – including all stakeholders but especially our team and their families. 

There is an art to leading through the darkest hours — and, just as important, mastering that art makes executives better everyday leaders as well.”, says Eric McNulty. Couldn’t agree more.”

Put it into practice: This notion should be conveyed in the opening part of every team interaction. A time of crisis tends to send us all back to the bottom of the Maslow Pyramid, making it the leader’s role to make sure everyone is safe, both physically and mentally.

Lead with purpose

Purpose gets to the core of who we are as an organization, why we’re here, and what we want to be. Leading with purpose means aligning our leadership – in words and deeds – to our purpose. Our teams respond to this, our customers respond to this, and it keeps the leader focused on their North Star. 

Put it into practice: Purpose means constantly reminding ourselves and the talent around us of what we are doing and why. This might mean revisiting where we started and adjusting it to new scenarios. Gathering new intel, defining more agendas, exploring new strategies, and discovering novel tools. 

Three key pillars in this approach to effective leadership during a crisis

Preemptively communicate

Author and PhD Alex Irvine said “Over-communicate. It’s better to tell someone something they already know than to not tell them something they needed to hear.” 

There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. 

From all the guidebooks and tip collections published, my favorite is the following which is directly connected to our purpose: Prepare for a changed world.The Covid-19 crisis will change our businesses and society in important ways. Companies – and leaders in particular – should consider what this means for their own plans.

When it comes to a time of uncertainty, a little communication goes a long way. I might not have all the answers – none of us possibly can – but just the act of regularly communicating can reassure, inform, strengthen and inspire.

Put it into practice: I say “preemptively” communicate because I find communication can prevent many issues upstream. Let me quote a second best principle from BCG, that will help you survive this over-communication in an uncertain reality challenge. Constantly reframe your understanding of what’s happening. Instead of an approved “plan”, the authors suggest a living document; with a time-stamped “best current view” to learn and adapt in a rapidly changing situation.

Reinforce Trust

This kind of situation is dynamic. Information is coming from multiple disparate sources, and things can change quickly. Evaluating the situation regularly empowers you to make decisions based on the current circumstances, and where necessary, to pivot quickly. McNulty puts it powerfully: “Decisions made and actions taken in trying times resonate far beyond the present”. 

McNulty’s research has shown that trust is at the foundation of cooperative and collaborative leadership. Again he frames this period as an opportunity to use trust to be a hero to associates, customers and communities. We agree. Trust is one of the fundamentals of joint, brave, creative decision making, and so trust is needed now more than ever.  

Put it into practice: Define tangible terms for what trust means in these circumstances. As McNulty points out, trust is built through dialogue and actions, not proclamations and intentions.

A vicious virus as a forge for leadership

One of the common themes across both the strategic and practical elements of leadership addressed by experts is the opportunity that crisis creates. Both on a personal and an organizational level, this opportunity should not be squandered.

About the Author:

Yael Shafrir is the Chief Marketing Officer of Meet in Place, a global network of innovative meeting spaces designed for an urban boutique hospitality experience. The Meet in Place philosophy is rooted in meeting science, as every design feature and amenity offered serves a unique purpose to make meetings as productive as possible. 

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