How Businesses Can Navigate Itself Amid Fear and Uncertainty of the Ongoing Pandemic
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
[Work From Home Day 3]
As our nation plunges into a period of uncertainty and distress due to the ongoing pandemic, fear is a natural emotion for many to have. These are testing times for many of us, as we navigate through uncharted territory and it is understandable to feel apprehensive about the future. However, it is imperative that we do not give in to feelings of fear and hopelessness. This is especially true for businesses and organizations as they play a huge role in our collective society as pillars of our nation’s economy. As such, it is important for key leaders of organizations and business owners to take proactive measures to weather this storm and stand as a beacon of hope and optimism in order to inspire their employees and instill confidence in their customers.
Right Action Comes from a Positive Mindset
To first approach any unexpected crisis, the key shift that needs to take place is a change in mindset. As cliché as it may sound, it is of utmost importance to be positive and to look at things in a different light. The reason for this is because fear and anxiety inhibit sound decision-making. Ironically, being positive is most useful when it is most difficult to do, which in this case is during times of crisis. We can begin to foster this positive mindset by altering the way we look at things, which brings me to this old adage: “every problem is an opportunity in disguise.”
This moment of uncertainty and disarray actually presents an opportunity for business owners and key leaders to take a closer look at their organizations and re-evaluate it from various angles. In times where concrete answers may be lacking and decision making is difficult due to ambiguity, the key is in asking ourselves the right questions.
Dale Carnegie’s Technique to Analyze Problems
In Dale Carnegie, one of the techniques that we use to analyze our problems and find a potential solution for them is to ask ourselves these four questions:
1) What is the problem?
2) What are the causes of the problem?
3) What are the possible solutions?
4) What is the best possible solution?
These may seem like simple questions to ask yourself, however, the effectiveness of these questions lies in its simplicity. It directs your train of thought straight to the issue at hand without getting caught up in any distractions. Some may already be contemplating these questions in their minds; however, it is greatly suggested to write these questions and the answers that follow on paper. It is surprising how much more clarity a person will be able to get by writing this down as it better facilitates the flow of ideas.
Increased Awareness Leads to Better Decision-Making
With sales and revenue expected to drop across the board for most businesses, it is crucial for leaders to scrutinize their organization’s value chain and understand the costs involved to generate value at all levels of the organization. Some useful questions to ask in times like this:
1) Which activities provide the most value to the business and what are the costs involved in doing so?
2) In light of the current situation, which areas of the business are imperative to continue on as usual and which areas may not be as important so that there is a possibility to scale it down or even eliminate it if there comes a need to do so?
From this observation, business activities should be prioritized accordingly. Cash flow issues are also likely to abound in this situation; hence an organization’s working capital must be closely monitored. If needed, seeking government-sponsored financial reliefs or negotiating the terms of existing debt arrangements with financial institutions are other viable options that businesses can pursue.
Keeping Employees Engaged and Motivated
It is also important to be mindful and to carefully manage what is arguably the most important component of any organization: it’s employees. Amid the confusion and uncertainty, it is business owners and key leaders of organizations who are responsible to maintain and uplift the morale of their employees. They must display that they genuinely care for their employees and are willing to provide any necessary support to them in this difficult time. In order to do this, clear lines of communication have to be established within the organization so that everyone is kept in the loop and are updated with the current happenings. Swift and firm decision making is also important so that employees are not kept in the dark for too long. By doing this, employees will have more confidence in their key leaders as it shows the ability of top management to take charge during challenging times. In addition, any change in policies or decisions made should be communicated empathetically with the right tone in order for employees to understand that the management has their best interests at heart. Sometimes it’s not so much what we say, but how we say it that often makes all the difference.
Managing Risks is as Important as Ever
Apart from that, organizations must have better risk management and contingency planning in place. There needs to be close monitoring for any vulnerabilities that may exist within the whole spectrum of the business, from possible supply chain disruptions to liquidity issues, and even cybersecurity concerns. Businesses should consider the “what-ifs” in all possible scenarios and come up with a contingency plan for them. Examples of some important questions to consider:
1) What would be the next course of action if one of the key leaders has fallen ill due to the virus? Is there anyone who can step in as an interim?
2) What are possible supplier alternatives if a crucial supply chain has been disrupted?
3) What if the current movement control order is extended?
4) How do we continue to serve and engage with our customers?
One may not have a concrete plan or answer for all possible scenarios, but at least asking the right questions and having awareness of the possibilities would go a long way in being better prepared for them.
The Importance of Innovation and Agility in Times of Crisis
Another interesting opportunity that arises from this turbulent period is the chance to try out new ways of doing things. Some may think that it is a disadvantage to change the way things are being done; after all, if it isn’t broken why fix it. However, this may actually be a blessing in disguise if viewed in a more positive light. For instance, this pandemic has resulted in remote working arrangements being implemented in many companies, some of which have never even considered the possibility of doing so in the past. It is true that there may be downsides to such an arrangement such as the possibility of decreased productivity, however, it at least allows an organization to experiment and see what the outcomes of such an exercise would be. It may change the perception of leaders and business owners who previously did not have an opportunity to implement remote working arrangements and thought that is was not suitable for their organization. Another example would be in terms of re-thinking and changing any marketing strategies that are in place. As more people are likely to be at home, they would probably be browsing Facebook and social media more which might be a good opportunity for companies to increase advertising on these platforms. As most physical stores are closed, businesses may also want to focus on driving more sales online. Besides that, organizations should consider what kind of brand messaging they are sending out to the public at large in this time of distress. They should think about positioning themselves as an organization that is mindful and empathetic to the difficulties faced by their customers and try their best to explore how they can serve and engage their customers in a positive way. Businesses, in general, must be willing to innovate and demonstrate agility in order to stay relevant in this drastically changing business landscape. As the saying goes: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
After the Storm Has Passed
Lastly, when the crisis has abated, organizations and businesses should assess how the situation was handled and identify lessons that can be learned in order to better prepare for similar crises in the future. When implementing any new policy or strategy during the crisis, careful monitoring and analysis are required to evaluate its overall effectiveness. All things considered, we can only do our best when facing an unexpected situation and mistakes are sometimes inevitable. This should not discourage us from trying new things or prevent us from staying positive. As Mr. Dale Carnegie once said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success”.
How has your organization or business been dealing with the current Covid-19 situation? Do share with us in the comments section below so that we can learn from each other on how to get through this difficult time together.
HARI SHIV RAAM
Performance Consultant, Dale Carnegie Malaysia