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Crisis Management: How Business Leaders Lead During COVID-19

leaders

Crisis Management: How Business Leaders Lead During COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed, at least temporarily, the world of work for many people as employees hunkered down at home instead of commuting to an office.

As a result, a lot of businesses are finding out just how strong their corporate culture is and how resourceful their employees are when managers aren’t hovering nearby, says Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success, and founder and CEO of PFSbrands, the parent company of Champs Chicken, Cooper’s Express and BluTaco.

“One thing my company has always done that I believe is beneficial in times like these is to help employees develop an ownership mentality,” Burcham says. “Ownership thinking means taking accountability for the quality and success of your work, and it comes from actively encouraging a culture that promotes trust, communication, objectivity, and gives employees a stake in the outcome.”

By necessity, many companies are now communicating by phone or video chats, which means having employees who take responsibility for their actions is more important than ever. Yet at the same time, the business’s leaders still have decisions to make and orders to give to those employees.

That means, Burcham says, that it’s also more important than ever for a company’s leadership – and everyone who reports to them – to band together as one strong team.

“Fortunately, many of the things that make for a good leadership team in the best of times are the same ones that help the company successfully maneuver through more challenging times,” he says.

Some of those include:

Promote transparency. Mistakes happen when people don’t have the information they need to do their jobs. When something affects others in the organization, Burcham says, make sure you put it on the “team table” so that everyone can understand what is happening and provide input.

Don’t undercut others to make yourself look good. Disagreements can happen anytime people gather to discuss problems and solutions, but it’s important to keep things civil. “Attack the issues, not the person,” Burcham says. “Work through appropriate channels and be conscious of what your fellow leaders are trying to accomplish.”

Make sure meetings are well organized. Everyone has endured meetings that took too long and got off track. Burcham certainly has and at one time he would have labeled himself anti-meeting. “I felt that meetings were a waste of time. because most of the meetings I’d been in were a waste of time,” he says. Eventually, Burcham grudgingly accepted that some meetings are necessary, but he says it’s important that they have an agenda, a start and end time, no sidebar conversation, and that next steps and accountabilities are created at the meeting’s close.

Accept that a decision is a decision. It’s all right for people to debate and offer differing opinions during the decision-making process, but once a decision is made everyone needs to support it, Burcham says. “You don’t want situations where people continually reopen discussions about decisions that have already been made,” he says. “And passive disagreement is not an option.”

Know that calm is contagious – relax, look around, make a call. Several years ago Burcham adopted this mentality and worked to make it part of his personal mission statement. When faced with situations or conversations that may not be going his way, he mentally takes his brain to this personal mission statement. Burcham says, “I’m naturally a very impatient person and always will be. My personal mission statement has helped me to better control my emotions and it’s been a critical model as all of our companies work to navigate through these challenging times.”

“In the best of times, successful company growth is dependent on the capabilities of its leaders,” Burcham says. “As times grow difficult, how well the business fares also comes down to how well those leaders are able to rise to the occasion.”

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Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success, is the founder & CEO of PFSbrands, which he and his wife, Julie, started out of their home in 1998. The company has over 1,500 branded foodservice locations across 40 states and is best known for their Champs Chicken franchise brand which was started in 1999. Prior to starting PFSbrands, Burcham spent five years with a Fortune 100 company, Mid-America Dairymen (now Dairy Farmers of America). He also worked for three years as a Regional Sales Manager for a midwest Chester’s Fried chicken distributor.

pandemic

How ‘No-Excuse’ Leadership Can Help Businesses Succeed After the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown created an uncertain future for businesses across the country.

Regardless of this rocky situation, though, the best business leaders will make sure they don’t allow the pandemic to become an excuse for failure, says Troy Nix (www.troynix.com), a motivational speaker, businessman and author of Eternal Impact: Inspire Greatness in Yourself and Others.

“I admire leaders who don’t complain about circumstances or point the finger at someone or something else,” says Nix, founder and CEO of First Resource Inc., an association management company specializing in manufacturing networks.

No, business leaders didn’t create the circumstances that led to the pandemic and its aftermath, but it is their responsibility to get their businesses and their people through the challenges they now face, he says.

“Whenever you’re leading an organization, the ultimate responsibility for any failure is yours,” Nix says. “It may be because you failed to train people properly or because you failed to hire the right person. It may be because you failed to develop a proper strategy or because you failed to develop the right culture. It’s ultimately your failure, and no excuse can ever absolve you of the responsibility of personal ownership.”

This is a mindset Nix learned in his days as a West Point cadet, where excuses were not allowed. To be successful in the coming months, he says, business leaders need to:

Set an example. Ultimately, you would like everyone in your organization to take responsibility and refuse to make excuses. “But you can’t expect that if you aren’t willing to set the example and claim responsibility for any failures yourself,” Nix says. “The best leaders take the high road and there’s no throwing anyone under the bus. Setting an example will have a constant impact on your employees, and they will know they can rely on you and depend on you.”

Do a little introspection. Nix says that, if you feel the urge to make an excuse for any failed business performance, look inward instead and ask yourself the following questions: Could I have acted differently to prevent this outcome? What could I have done to better improve the end result? How did my actions or inactions play a part in the failure? “I guarantee that if you do this and are honest with yourself, you will inevitably find a linkage for errors, disappointments, and fiascos directly back to yourself,” he says.

Take ownership. People don’t understand just how much they affect others when they make the decision to take responsibility for any and all actions. “We must own what we do, and we have to own what others under our command or influence do, even though it might be miles away from us and somebody else is executing the plan,” Nix says. “When you get up every morning and look at yourself in the mirror, are you owning what you are doing, or are you making excuses?”

“Making excuses – whether it’s in the crisis we now face or some other situation – will lead to dead ends,” Nix says. “I’ve seen time and time again that when people take control of their lives and eliminate the excuses, a life of excellence and fulfillment is the end result.”

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Troy Nix (www.troynix.com), author of Eternal Impact: Inspire Greatness in Yourself and Others, is the founder, president, and CEO of First Resource, Inc., an innovative association management company for America’s manufacturers. Nix, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, served in the armed forces for a decade before moving into the business world.

history factory

History Factory Launches COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project

Collaborative resource collects, curates and preserves the corporate response to COVID-19 to inform future crisis response

The COVID-19 pandemic has required that corporations respond, adapt, lead, and serve others with greater urgency than any other global event since World War II. As a result, corporations are making history and learning lessons in real-time that can inform a stronger corporate response to the next major global disruption. To make those lessons more readily available, History Factory is launching the COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project, a living archival resource to which business leaders can turn for a greater understanding of the corporate response to the current crisis as well as for insight and guidance for how to prepare for and respond effectively to the next crisis.

The COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project is a free and collaborative resource designed to collect, curate, and preserve the real-time history of the pandemic as it is being made by corporations who are responding to the crisis and influencing its outcome.

At c19corporatememory.org, History Factory is combining crowdsourced content from corporate contributors with publicly available media coverage, press releases, social media posts and statements, documents, photography, video and a range of other digital materials related to the pandemic’s impact on the business world. The material is organized in four categories that reflect the realms in which corporations are responding to the pandemic, listed here with an example from each:

-The Changing Nature of Work: Ford engineers continue to work on the new Mustang in their home garages.

-Fighting the Pandemic: New Balance pivots to produce a general-use face mask.

-Leading in a Crisis:  Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford confident of food production but warns of distribution issues.

-Service and Community: Starbucks fights hunger.

The Project’s primary focus is on collecting content from large corporations and has already curated more than 300 assets from such corporations as Airbnb, Kimberly-Clark, Marriott, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Uber, and The Walt Disney Company. How these enterprises respond and adapt to the global pandemic will be critical to shaping its outcome, politically, technologically, and socially. The goal is to extract learning from their experiences.

Laurie Barnett, Southwest Airlines’ Managing Director, Communications & Outreach, said:

“By contributing to the COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project we can help other corporate executives learn from our experience of the pandemic. And we hope that many other corporations will participate so that we can learn from them. It would be a shame for us as leaders to work so hard to overcome this unprecedented moment without capturing – in a way that can benefit us all – the real-time decisions, innovations and contributions we are making as we rise to meet this challenge.”

Eliot Mizrachi, Vice President, Communications & Content at Page, said:

“Communication leaders on the front lines of their organizations’ pandemic response are hungry for best practices. The COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project is a unique sharing platform that can help corporate leaders find out how others are navigating this historic crisis. I encourage communicators to contribute.”

Jason Dressel, Managing Director at History Factory, said:

“History Factory decided to create the COVID-19 Corporate Memory Project as a pro bono service to provide leaders, corporate communicators, and journalists with easy access to a real-time archive of content focused solely on how corporations are responding to one of the greatest challenges in modern history. With forty years in the business of collecting, curating, and communicating corporate experience, we understand how a resource that showcases lessons learned from this pandemic can help business leaders drive strategy and business planning going forward. We will continue to add to this Project as long as COVID-19 is driving corporate behavior. We hope that it will become an important source of study for years to come.”

History Factory welcomes submissions from all corners of the media and business world. Visit c19corporatememory.org and click SUBMIT to contribute content to the archive or to contact History Factory regarding bulk submissions or very large files.

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Founded in 1979, History Factory is an agency that helps corporations employ their most underused assets – their history and heritage – to enhance and transform strategy, brand positioning, marketing, and communications that drive measurable results.

executives

What Executives Can Learn From the Globe’s Best Leaders

Military leaders often provide what is called “Top Cover” flying above their followers to ensure their mission is a success. Submarines travel with pilot ships to guide them. This is what executives need to do. The purpose of this article is to answer the question “What executives can learn from 5 famous American leaders?”

There are various issues and considerations existing in the leadership literature as the core of the criticism in the literature is that organizations of all sorts (corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations) tend to be over-managed (and, in some cases, over-administrated) and under-led. Reading all the books on leadership today will cover the gamut of Shakespeare to Geronimo. Not to say that these authors, leaders, and thinkers do not have anything good to say about leadership. It is just that the plethora of leadership literature has sent mixed signals to executives. The only thing we know is the managers may be doing things right but leaders are doing the right things. If you agree, even slightly, with this concept, then this article is designed, developed, and created for you.

What Executives Can Learn from Eisenhower’s Leadership

In American politics in 2016, a crucial year between the democratic and republican parties, this presidential election has shown that there is a direct connection between politics and CEOs, who at least think they are experienced enough to hold the ultimate leadership position. Political leaders are not any different than organizational businessmen. More and more businessmen and women are becoming political candidates and people are responding positively. The reason being—the two do go together. At the heart of leadership are a large number of followers. Without the support of followers, leaders will fail. The same thing goes with the political candidate that has to win the hearts and minds of the followers to get elected.

There are many more followers than there are leaders and this is more so in the political realm. The question is: Can CEOs see political leaders as the perfect examples for leadership? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” For example, Eisenhower, one of the former presidents of the United States in World War II, effectively led both the American government and the Allied Forces in Europe in defeating Adolf Hitler. Eisenhower’s leadership provides lessons for CEOs in today’s organizational challenges. Eisenhower argued that leaders must care for their people as individuals, always remain optimistic, and place themselves with and for the people, and, most importantly, provide the WHY behind what you ask them to do. For the executive’s corner, executives must be aware that Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership can fundamentally affect the way a company performs its functions.

What Executives Can Learn from 4 Famous American Business Leaders

One example of this comes from CEO Rich Teerlink, who dramatically changed Harley-Davidson in the 1980s, and fundamentally built a different organization that still prospers today. The success of leadership at the Harley-Davidson Corporation has stood the test of time. For example, Harley-Davidson’s leadership created a more effective organization built upon three primary principles, focusing on people, challenging norms, and continuing to fundamentally change. At Harley, every employee can participate in leadership decision-making.

Another example of famous American business leaders in a highly competitive environment is Steve Jobs, former leader of Apple, who built a highly effective organization through taking a change-oriented leadership approach, which highly manifested itself in talent, product, organization, and marketing. As a result, leadership, being the core of management, is crucial to the company’s success—-both from a performance and management level.

The evidence from these examples suggests that leadership is highly demanding at the corporate level. For organizations to achieve a sustained change and eventually a higher degree of efficiency and effectiveness, selecting a great business leader is the key to success. In the absence of leadership, organizations lose their required direction to achieve a high degree of hypercompetitiveness, and cannot implement successful change in order to adapt to today’s global business environment.

As executives attempt to manage people they find that intellectual capital is at the forefront of success—Bill Gates, as an exemplary leader, once mentioned that if he lost his top 50 people that he would not have an organization anymore. Executives develop organizational communications aimed at providing valuable resources for all organizational members. They enhance knowledge sharing among intellectual capital and stipulate knowledge to be shared around the organization.

Sharing the best practices and experiences could positively impact some aspects of non-financial performance such as innovation, providing learning and growth opportunities for employees. Empowered employees can enable organizations to actively respond to environmental changes, which can, in turn, enhance performance in terms of return on assets and return on sales.

The outcome is success which narrows the gap between success and failure and this can be achieved by the commitment of organizational members and facilitated by executives. When executives show concern for the employee’s individual needs, individuals begin to contribute more commitment and they become more inspired them to put extra effort into their work. This extra effort improves customer satisfaction, and impacts shareholder value and improves operational risk management.

Corporate strategy can be also employed by incredibly successful leaders, such as Jeff Bezos, to enhance goal achievement. Prominent scholars that are well known in the Academy of Management, one of the largest leadership and management organizations in the world also say that successful organizations enhance their competitiveness by focusing on corporate strategy. Leaders find that corporate strategy is in the forefront of success. Corporate strategy could be the most important component of success in this ever-changing business environment of today. This, by far, is why some organizations are successful and some are not. The key take-away for executives is that corporate strategy is a resource that enables organizations to solve problems and create value through improved performance and it is this point that will narrow the gaps of success and failure leading to more successful decision-making.

Evidently, executives that implement corporate strategy as an important driving force for business success find their organization to be more competitive and on the cutting edge. Thus, the effectiveness of corporate strategy implementation is determined by a set of critical success factors, one of which is the strategic dimension of leadership. And the burden of success when the implementation of corporate strategy is concerned is heavily dependent on the capabilities of the organization’s leaders. Therefore, the outcome is success which narrows the gap between success and failure and this can be achieved by corporate strategy implementation and facilitated by an executive following Jeff Bezos and acting as a leader.

In Conclusion

Many executives are familiar with leadership surveys developed by scholars and this article is not about measuring aptitude or defining leadership styles. It is about getting the information needed to be successful in the right hands of executives. This article raises a vital question as to how executives can lead by example. I attempt to blend scholarly concepts with real-world application through thoroughly looking at the perfect examples for leadership. Based on this article, executives can now see that famous American leaders can, in fact, make a fundamental change in the processes by which organizations serve their clients. And success can be more effective when leadership is applied to change attitudes and assumptions. Without a grasp on this one tenet executives are bound to fail.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.  

leadership

Assess Your Leadership Qualities By Answering These 7 Questions

A leader is supposed to be out in front, pointing the way toward whatever is ahead.

But, as we begin a new decade, too many business leaders are facing backward rather than forward,  says Oleg Konovalov (www.olegkonovalov.com), a global thought leader and consultant who has worked with Fortune 500 companies and is author of the new book Leaderology.

“The future can’t be met with backward-thinking and old leadership methods that are no longer effective,” Konovalov says. “The leader’s duty is to open a door into the future for people and explain how things should be considered and managed in that new reality.”

“Leaders face more responsibilities and much higher expectations in terms of the execution of their roles,” he says. “The leader’s responsibilities are expanding enormously, demanding much stronger competencies and skills than before. Everyday learning and continuous improvement need to be the norm.”

As a result, Konovalov says the modern leader needs to combine meticulous planning with flexibility.

“Combining these attributes is necessary in an ever-changing and hyper-competitive market,” he says. “The wrong decisions and actions can lead to the whole organization losing sight of customer needs as well as quality, harming the long-term sustainability of the organization.

“Making the right decisions means thinking of more than the company. It means considering the values and needs of customers and employees as well.”

He suggests leaders assess where they are in their abilities so they can define areas where they need to improve.

To begin that assessment, Konovalov says leaders should ponder how they would answer the following seven questions. He offers a more detailed 38-question self-assessment on his website:

-What are the most typical mistakes from the past that hold you back from becoming an extraordinary leader?

-How clearly can you define your customers’ needs? Can you envision them as clearly as your personal needs?

-How do you care for your people as a leader?

-A strong culture is not about me, but about what I do for others. What do you and your colleagues do in terms of investing in others on a regular basis?

-What is your leadership style? Are you a leader who takes care of people or a boss taking care of yourself?

-What were the aims and results of the most recent changes implemented in your company, and what were the employees’ reactions to those changes?

-What lessons have you learned in the course of your leadership journey?

By answering these questions, Konovalov says, leaders can begin to gain insight into whether their leadership style is one that is pointed confidently toward the future, or one that’s stuck perilously in the past.

“Bad leaders build barriers for people,” Konovalov says. “Strong leaders build barriers to problems, accidents, and stagnation. We have more than enough mediocre or bad leaders. We need strong leaders for real progress and to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”

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Oleg Konovalov (www.olegkonovalov.com) is a thought leader, author, business educator and consultant with over 25 years of experience operating businesses and consulting Fortune 500 companies internationally. His latest book is Leaderology. His other books are Corporate SuperpowerOrganisational Anatomy and Hidden Russia. Konovalov received his doctoral degree from the Durham University Business School. He is a visiting lecturer at a number of business schools, a Forbes contributor and high in demand speaker at major conferences around the world.