Fears over coronavirus, increased strain on first responders and hospitals, stock market turbulence, daily press conferences from government officials and grocery stores with empty shelves. All of these things can send even the calmest person into panic mode. For those who are business owners, CEOs, executive directors or managers, one question looms large: How do we lead with certainty in such a time of uncertainty?
Historical data can be a source of comfort and a guide to what works best. Authors Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras surmise, in the book Built to Last, that companies with a clear definition of their core values and a culture that embodies them are most likely to outlast and outperform others, even in times of economic crisis. I reminded myself of that the other day, when I heard the first rumblings of layoffs, delayed payments and event cancellations.
While what I do may not work for another person in charge of a team, I thought now might be a good time to share what I reflected on during those first days and what I plan to turn to in the weeks to come, whether the decisions are minor or major. For me, I simply can’t ignore our agency’s core values, since they hang on our office walls. However, being fully remote – like many workers right about now – I found myself longing to see them again and thinking about why they were created in the first place.
In the earliest days of founding Impact PR & Communications, a few of us sat inside the back area of a coffee shop and talked extensively about why we were all together and what our PR and marketing firm needed to stand for in order for all of us to want to show up and give our all. Not only did we come up with a short summary of our ethos, it soon became the best compass I have ever found to point us in the right decision-making direction.
New hire? All I’d need to think about, once they met the hard skills portion of the job description, was if they embodied our values and would fit in with our team. No longer a good fit? The words on the wall held the answers I was looking for. Take on a new client or politely part ways? Again, the values served as the perfect guide. Pitch the media or go back to the drawing board? (Tips from my colleague, Sheila Bogan, here.) Well, you get the idea!
As we steer toward some unusual days ahead, I find myself again looking at these values: collaborate and communicate; build bridges; invest and immerse; act with integrity, always; and look forward, think forward. Can we team up and use our talents, even in the time of coronavirus, to share messages that matter? Can we connect people more meaningfully to one another so we become that vital bridge, instead of a barrier? Can we use this time, even moments of pause, to develop as professionals and draw closer to our clients? Can we put our own needs aside to do what’s best for our partners, our friends in the community and humanity? And, especially key, can we not get so caught up in what happened yesterday or today, and the hardships faced, but instead use these realities to look to the future and to think of new, innovative ways to do our best work and live our best lives?
I’m pretty darn sure we can do all this – and more – because in the midst of every challenge is an opportunity. With our values at the center of our decisions, we know we’re always heading in the right direction.
I hold hope that many organizations will do the same, when faced with decisions about employees, vendors, clients and staying true to their missions. With that, we’ll all come out on top.