Lessons learnt from past to flourish your company in crisis

Today business landscape has been dramatically changing.

We moved to virtual reality almost overnight. Shocking how COVID-19 pandemic made us complete the long desired digital transformation within days and weeks. There are budget cuts and/or shifts. There are staffing changes, in certain sectors people has been laid off, in others there are shortage of staff.  Companies have frozen their R&D activities and been carrying out massive and abrupt restructuring.

I personally and am sure true for many of you have only experienced recession and its impact in 2008-2010. Study published by R. Gulati, N. Nohria, F. Wohigezogen in 2010 on 4700 companies, examined 3 years before and after and during the recession showed that 3 years after 80% of the companies had not recovered pre-recession growth rates for sales and profits. Only 9% flourished after the downturn and 17% went bankrupt.

What did the failing companies do wrong according to the research?

They cut employees, then created operational inefficiencies by massive burn out. Became too defensive, they cut cost faster and deeper. And they became too offensive or too pragmatic in their strategies.

What did the flourishing companies do right?

Their strategy was selectively defensive by focusing on operational effectiveness. They became comprehensively aggressive by investing large money in R&D, materials and plants during the recession. And they implemented dynamic and innovative changes.

Learning from the above the dilemma here is how to set the tone right in operational effectiveness, R&D and being dynamic and innovative in the time of COVID-19, especially when pandemic anxiety impacts leadership decision making heavily.

1) How to move from chaos to calmness and focus?

Male energy dominant business environment represents a lot of repression. We don’t talk about feelings e.g. “Don’t worry this shall pass” and “Things soon get back to normal” etc. To regain calmness, it is important to either talk about feelings or actively label our emotions. It is also helpful if you encourage peer support or set up a peer support network.

As for debriefing (talking a lot about what is happening right now) helps only a bit for a very short period of time. It is much better to switch to story-telling about resilience or resilience based story-telling (like “have you noticed that such recessions from history had beginning, middle and end, and that life always got back to normal/booming again” etc.).

Reframing (looking at the positive side of, or the learning opportunities in the crisis) can work but be aware that for some people only work not in the highest stress but a bit later.

2) How to move from surviving to thriving in this adversity?

Antifragility is the capability to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, mistakes, attacks or failures. These are the 9% of companies who flourished after the financial and economic recession from 2008. According to Nassib Taleb resilience resists shocks and stay the same, the antifragile gets even better. How can you get better in volatility? 

It is partly about when you go through the change curve you reach the point of confusion or falling apart (called disintegration) and it is important because just only after that you can emerge stronger with new insights or in new form after the crisis.

Leaders role here is to look for and focus more on the native talent of individuals because there is where their energy, and their motivation at the highest.

Also, it is important to have value discussions in the team because values are our anchor. Leaders need to create re-integration strategy for stronger team. Plus sharing meaning, faith, hope and humour can be a glue in such a hard time.

3) How to create place for possibility thinking?

For every person there is a field of possibilities await, but the voice of possibilities differs for everyone.

  • There are people who have no such of voice they are perceptually grounded, they believe what they see.
  • There are people who are strongly cognitive, they like hypotheses and their basis ‘I think therefore I am’.
  • There are people who more imaginative, let their feeling drive their future, they are very experiential.
  • There are people who are more intuitive, let their gut-feeling lead them into future.
  • And lastly there are people who are more spiritual with strong faith, let something bigger, transcendent influence their future.

How these can help leaders to encourage possibility thinking in their team? First it is important to give equal weight to all voices of possibilities. See how different they are. How they complement each other. What is blocking the possibilities in your team and how to address them?

Design possibility strategy for a 3-year ahead.

Elon Musk said it is possible to choose to be extraordinary. - We may not have a choice in the outcome right now but we definitely have a choice to be committed or not to the future.

How can you help your organisation, your team to remain calm and focused?

How can you help your people not only to become resilient but antifragile?

How can you create space in your organisation for possibility thinking?


Source: New Leadership Frontiers – From Pandemics to Possibilities by Shrini Pillay M. D.

Go back...