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Author's profile photo Paul Clark

How to Lead During a Crisis

We all know it’s not “business as usual” right now. While health and safety priorities are unwavering, many other business priorities continue to shift in response to the global pandemic. As we move through different waves of the crisis, companies must continue to adjust operations and priorities.

According to an article in The New Economy, as we get back to business there are three basic considerations:

  1. the work
  2. the workplace
  3. the workforce

This involves determining what work needs to be done, where and how it will be done, and who will do it. COVID-19 has changed every aspect of this equation. Specific work is being adjusted, the workplace is evolving dramatically, and pressure is mounting for the workforce to keep projects on track despite the shifting dynamics.

Business leaders need to consider how their company will operate in the short term, and how it will recover and ultimately move forward. As organizations navigate this unpredictable situation, leaders must prioritize investments in digital technology and reimagine business models to keep operations going. All of these considerations lead back to a single factor: the people performing the work.

“It’s always about people, process, culture, and organization,” said SAP Global Innovation Evangelist Timo Elliott in The New Economy article, The Importance of Connection.’”Digital transformation is something that you have to do with people, not at people, so that people embrace change, rather than resist it. You need to make sure that staff get the proper training and support to help them adapt to this new situation.”

Julia White, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Azure added, “Digital transformation is a long-term journey. One key area to focus on is the skills of your employees. If you don’t have the skills in your company to become more digital, it will be much harder to change.”

Changing expectations and the way we work

Equipping people with the right digital tools – and more importantly, the right mindset – can help organizations survive this turbulent time. With more employees working from home, many leaders are prioritizing investments in digital technology to enable remote working, but productivity can be difficult when people operate in silos. It’s especially critical for business leaders to recognize the importance of human connection and encourage continued collaboration.

Managers can’t expect or demand the same level of focus and commitment from employees. People are dealing with different work settings and distractions that will disrupt their focus. Add to this, anxiety around job security and the health of their families. This is a challenging time for everyone, and business leaders need to understand that productivity will suffer to some extent.

Providing workers with a sense of stability and control will be paramount. According to a Deloitte HR policies research report done during the COVID-19 outbreak, 82% of managers believe it’s important to offer employees flexible work schedules, and 67% say it’s urgent to provide online working tools. The survey also uncovered that close to half of businesses and government public service entities are focusing on addressing employees’ psychological stress.

More than ever, employees need a work environment where they feel secure and supported by empathetic leaders, reliable technology, and the right tools so they can get the job done. This is only possible if corporate leaders provide strong direction with a willingness to experiment, adjust, and adapt to the new reality. Business leaders need to listen to their workers and embrace innovation to help guide a new path forward.

Lead with Resilience and Empathy

The unpredictability of the pandemic may unnerve some business leaders, which can lead to rushed or inadequate decisions. Now is not the time to panic. Instead, effective leaders must show resilience and demonstrate strong yet empathetic leadership. There are a number of ways to do this:


  • Prioritize people over profits. Showing empathy now will leave a lasting impression.
  • Listen to your employees. Stay calm and take their ideas and their concerns into account.
  • Create revised work schedules. Provide more flexibility while remaining productive.
  • Don’t micro-manage. Trust your employees to control their workload.
  • Provide strong direction with a willingness to adapt to make this new reality work for everyone.

Communicate and collaborate with your employees and all other areas of your business, from the supply chain to the IT department.

Learn from this Situation

Many areas of your business – and most industries worldwide – are dealing with major disruptions. While some companies will absorb the impact of the global crisis easier than others, we will all learn some hard lessons that will ultimately change the way we do business in the future.

Remember, we are all in this together, and it is only by working together that we will overcome this crisis. Whether or not your company survives — and even thrives — will depend on the actions you take now.

Are you ready to take action? Read The New Economy article to learn more about connecting in a crisis.

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