The vast majority of people in organisations today are trying to navigate uncharted territory. There are a number of things we can take from experience that has helped us be successful in dealing with changing circumstances in the past. Here are some thoughts that you may find useful.

CEOs have six key stakeholder groups: Board, employees, customers, suppliers, investors and the media. Stay visible and vocal and engage all of these groups. Ensure that the Board sticks to its strategic mandate and provides CEO feedback and support, always maintaining its long-term view. Reassure employees, customers and investors. The CEO is on duty 24/7, don’t make any mistakes or misstepsthat the media can latch onto, especially around strategic guidance, corporate governance and executive compensation

Make communication to all stakeholders a priority. External promises are internal obligations. It is important that with the CEO front and centre, messaging to customers is about customer commitment and operational resilience. Where employees are concerned, it is about displaying empathy, team spirit, and as always, performance and results

Position all Communications within the organisational cultureyou nurture and aspire towards. The current move towards treating the COVID-19 virus as a “war” feels jingoistic to many. Strive to strike the right tone and don’t neglect “compassion” and “empathy” as a communication value. Remember that communication is a four-dimensional construct (FIRM®) and ensure you have robust and working “feedback loops” in-place.

Be Candid and Transparentand use action language wherever possible. A calm and poised tone using statements like “Here are the actions we have taken,” “This is the rationale for this step,” “This is how it will impact you.” The rumour-mill and grapevine are your enemies and they typically get filled with bad news and attribute the worse possible motives to management. Confidential

Make employees, their health, wealth and safety, a priority. Establish a “present online”status to monitor employees’ safety and mandate management to call all employees on a designated list for which they are responsible regularly.

If the organization can make use of Government (e.g. furloughs) use them strategically and if it is viable, make a promise of “no redundancies in 2020”to give employees added security and a clear mind to concentrate on their work.

Be candid without being too pessimisticand depressing on all communication around Total Compensation. Set expectations, assert the value of employability and the concept of “total compensation” (i.e. not just base pay).

Be creative with “blocks and boundaries”around the workday which seems to be elongated for all levels of staff. Consider mandatory off-line lunchtimes
(e g 60 minutes) or a mandatory shutdown of workflow processes by 6pm (except in exceptional circumstances).

Support middle and line managers in their leadership role. Provide on-line Coaching and Counselling, provide Playbooks, Toolkits, FAQs and How-To guides for the Leadership challenges that they are experiencing at this time.

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