#ManagerChats: Stay22’s CEO Andrew Lockhead and other leaders share their insights on crisis management
How many times have you come across the picture above in your life? Did you agree with what it reflected?
The debate about what distinguishes a leader from a boss has been around for as long as people have asked the question: what is good leadership? However, there’s no better time than a crisis to put this to the test. A reality that countless leaders, CEOs, managers, and execs from around the globe have had to discover during the past couple of months.
This is the topic that Fellow chose for their latest #ManagerChats on Twitter, where our CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Lockhead participated in. He, along with several other leaders from around the world, discussed the different challenges they faced when managing a team during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stay22 CEO Andrew Lockhead took part in the #ManagerChats along with 25 other leaders from around the world, who represented companies like World Economic Forum, Microsoft, Gainsight, Gravity Payments, Google, Buffer, GitLab, Willful, Top Hat, Procurify, PwC, MeetEdgar, Rewind, Rumii and more.
The 1 hour long Twitter LIVE became #4 trending in Canada with nearly 4M impressions on +500 tweets.
Several topics were covered throughout the hour, but the predominant topics included: leading with empathy, preparing crisis contingency plans, and above all the importance of mental health.
“Some crises can be predicted or anticipated more than others, COVID-19 was not one of them”
Andrew Lockhead, Co-Founder & CEO of Stay22
1. Preparing for a crisis
Is it possible to be prepared for a crisis? This was one of the opening questions to the #ManagingChats discussion. Unsurprisingly many of the participants agreed that even though the current crisis was a hard one to predict, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
‘Some crises can be predicted or anticipated more than others, COVID-19 was not one of them,’ Andrew Lockhead commented on the issue, ‘Regardless, I think a good contingency plan for a crisis can be summarized into three points: 1.) Pay attention to what’s happening in your environment. Whether that’s looking at the news, the stock market, or even your own results; these factors can show you symptoms of an approaching crisis. 2.) Analyze the situation & prepare to act. Gather your team members with important insights and forecast all possible solutions. 3.) Allocate Resources. Make sure you have cash flow. This will determine how you will be able to react, the earlier you do this the better.’
Paul Teshima, CEO of Nudge, claimed that there are four things to focus on in order to react well to a crisis. Since startups tend to be ‘1 step away from a crisis’ he states it’s important to focus as CEO on: ‘1. Hiring and retaining the best people 2. Having runway 3. Growth 4. Making your customers successful.’ Marianne Bulger, on the other hand, CEO of Prospect, says that this crisis marks the start of a new form of crisis management; ‘We prepare for individual crises (i.e. if someone leaves), but few were prepared for this moment. Crisis forecasting will become a common exercise.’
2. Lessons Learnt
“Calm always wins. No one can think in chaos.”
Sabrina Fitzgerald, National Technology Sector Leader at PwC
Crisis management often leads to important learning curves for leaders. So, what were the participants of #ManagerChats saying they’ve learned through this crisis?
‘Calm always wins. No one can think in chaos.’ These are the wise words of Sabrina Fitzgerald of PwC. A takeaway shared by Siri Agrell of OneEleven, ‘You need a steady leader. Part of your role is to telegraph that this challenge can be navigated and you will help them do it.’
Why is calmness so important in a leader during a crisis? Well, if you have to guide a team of people through uncertain times, the way you react and communicate sets the tone. This is why one of the biggest lessons to come out of crisis management for several of the #ManagerChats guests was transparent communication. ‘My approach is to keep communication honest,’ tweets Avery Francis from Bloom, ‘I’ve had managers lean on ego in times of crisis before and that really does nobody any good. Taking a no-bullshit approach and only sharing what I know while offering support to my team is my go-to’
‘During a crisis, your team looks to you for guidance and how you react to it lets them know what your, and your companies, true values are.’ Inputs Andrew from Stay22, ‘For me showing empathy comes down to good communication, where we are transparent about the situation.’
3. Managing & Motivating your team
“We’ve been very flexible allowing employees to work whenever they can. Being sympathetic to parents now having to take on an extra job as a teacher in addition to their full-time job.”
Mike Porter, CEO at Rewind
A good leader works in unison with his team, and one of the most crucial challenges for all of them during a crisis is managing a group of people whose spirit and motivation is most likely a bit crushed. So how is it done? There seemed to be a consensus on this question in the forum: with empathy.
‘I try to integrate the Stay22 team in the discussions for solutions.’ Tweets Andrew, ‘But it’s also about creating an environment for our team to be open with me & execs, about their personal struggles/doubts. I’m here to lead and support them, not order them around and keep them in the dark.’
Other popular responses to this question included answers like: ‘Listen, reflect and offer support. Ask many questions to find the root of the issue’ from Sabrina Fitzgerald. Mike Potter, from Rewind, also offered a great reply on how to show empathy to your employees: ‘We’ve been very flexible allowing employees to work whenever they can. Not holding people to deadlines. Being sympathetic to parents now having to take on an extra job as a teacher in addition to their full-time job’
Being attentive to the struggles their employees may face whilst working remotely is something many attendees of #ManagerChats referenced when talking about managing their teams. ‘I think the fact that this crisis forced everyone to work remotely threw ‘protocol’ out the window,’ Andrew reflects, ‘I’m not going to ask you to hide your children from a ZOOM call, or only tell me good news, or pretend that you’re not affected by this situation.’
4. Most importantly mental health
“During COVID and this crisis we’ve tried to be more aware of mental health, and help our employees tell us, without being afraid, how they’re really doing.”
Andrew Lockhead, Co-Founder & CEO of Stay22
The importance of mental health took center stage in the #ManagerChats forum as almost every single attendee referenced it at least once. ‘During COVID and this crisis we’ve tried to be more aware of mental health,’ Andrew from Stay22 explains, ‘and help our employees tell us, without being afraid, how they’re really doing.’
Managers are putting in extra work to make sure that they have the time to talk to and check-up on their teammates and address their concerns. ‘People are worried as hell during a crisis. Job security & company viability fears are silent killers of capability. Create space for 1:1 check-ins and hold regular, open office hours’ Marianne Bugler recommends. The importance of remaining connected to help employee mental health is something Nick Stein reinforces, ‘We spend more time sharing personal stories. Without the opportunity for serendipitous interactions at the coffee machine, we need to make structured check-ins an outlet for human connection.’
Celebrating everything you can, can do wonders, from small victories to birthdays as Corrie Davidson from Influenster recommends; ‘I am making sure we still celebrate birthdays (send everyone special flowers, group calls out in slack, etc) and such events. ’ An initiative the Stay22 family is 100% on board with!
Image taken from Fellow #ManagerChats metrics document
The hour-long discussion left Twitter with several incredible quotes that you can read at #ManagerChats or on Fellow’s Twitter account. You can also learn more about it by looking at Fellow’s website. They’re a productivity tool for managers and leaders, who organize initiatives like this as a way to unite them on important issues to share their insights.