, , ,

Navigating through turbulent Seas

“Leadership trust is driven by positive intentions that are translated, communicated and demonstrated to the people that turn them into reality. The resulting enablement and creation of mutual value builds long-lasting trust between leadership, teams and individuals”.


Trust – The Relationship Success Factor

Do you find yourself asking: “I am a leader in this organisation but nothing prepared me for this? How do I ensure I am doing the best / right thing that doesn’t compromise trust”?

The analogy of nautical navigation sprang to mind. The leader can’t do everything, be everywhere, and trim every sail. Your role is to plot the best course to your destination and to deploy your people and resources to get there, adapting to changing conditions as you go.

Every story of a great sea captain is also the story of leadership of a crew that trusts their overseers with their lives.

Here’s an approach that we’ve picked up in speaking with clients in the past few weeks that will help you stay on-course in the short to medium term.

Business Continuity

Coined in the mid-17th Century, the term “shipshape” is utterly relevant to many businesses today, where trading has significantly changed, reduced, or been suspended. This means showing real intent, passion, compassion and commitment to weathering the storm (or the calm!) and to come out fighting fit. Communicate – virtually at the moment – making sure people turn on their webcams as it’s important we see each other and continue to get body language and facial signals.

Use this time to innovate and co-create to get more efficient and agile – some changes will have been forced on you that can be adopted long-term. Implement new routines for the changed circumstances – people need these! If something doesn’t work then consider what lessons can be learned, and adapt accordingly. Survival first, value second – the latter will follow the former.

If you say you are going to do something, then make sure it happens. Now is not the time to build false hope that is built on just “good intentions”. Now is also the time to carve out time as a leader and leadership team to consider the next area.

Business Recovery

What will the new normal look like? As their leader now is the time to start to plan for this with your team. The winners coming out of this crisis will be the ones that can accelerate their ship the fastest!

1) People

  • they will be looking to you for direction and making sense of the next stage. Share your intentions and what it could mean for them. Be open and honest – it builds trust
  • they will have different experiences of the change, positive and negative. Bring people together and share these experiences, celebrate the positive and don’t hide from the challenges
  • some will have gained abilities that they didn’t have before and/or enhanced those they already had. What support do we need to build on the new and prevent slipping back into the old?
  • pay particular attention to ensure that furloughed staff don’t feel like 2nd class citizens and that they are reincorporated well into the new normal
  • identify champions to explore the new ways of working and capabilities and build them into BAU – “developing, deploying, learning and correcting at speed”
  • foster a survival camaraderie – relationships and trust that are cemented in this period will last a lifetime

2) Customers

  • they will be looking to you for some indication and reassurance around supply chain security and your view of the new normal
  • share your views with them, be open and illicit feedback and dialogue. Make the style collaborative and cognisant of the pain they may have experienced
  • gain insights from your customers around their views on the new normal. Use this to inform your business model and how you need to shift it. Train your sales team to sell the new model
  • be data and insight driven – don’t make assumptions that your best customers in the past will continue to be so. Undertake rapid customer value analyses/segmentation pre/post lockdown; re-focus and re-align your sales team and CM efforts accordingly
  • Look for new opportunities for collaborative, trust-based relationships that have long-term value. Grab them before somebody else does! Put cross functional sprint teams in place to develop and create new go-to-market solutions

3) The ways you work together

  • as a leadership team you had to make some rapid decisions around the way you all worked. Some things that you may have been trying to achieve for years happened almost overnight!
  • use the crisis as a spur to accelerate your digital transformation of the customer and employee experience
  • instigate a ways of working (WoW) leaders Q&A virtual meet once a week
  • review expensive infrastructure and fixed costs – can they be optimised?
  • if we can make things happen in days that normally took months, then let’s learn from this and make it the new reality and way we now do things

Business Reengineering

It might just be that the approach above leads you to the conclusion that the ship you’ve got just isn’t fit for purpose in the new normal – time to switch from sail to steam!

In the next few weeks, we will come back with more collective views around business transformation and reengineering.