Once again as business leaders, we are facing a crisis. COVID-19 ranks among the most difficult in my career because it impacts the health and welfare of every human being on the planet. In many ways, it feels like a war. The big difference between this crisis and others is that we are all fighting the virus together, instead of each other, and we are doing it from our homes.
As I do my best to lead my company, and the boards of companies and charities that I sit on, I am applying an approach that I’ve learned through the years:
It is incredibly important to know what is going on so that I can make the best decisions possible. We are always inundated with information, so for me, the only way to be really informed is to read from a variety of different and credible sources and to talk to other leaders from different industries and with different perspectives. No one really knows what will happen in the future but we all can know what is happening and assess what may happen if we take the time to get different perspectives before drawing conclusions.
During a crisis, it is critical for leaders to be present for their direct staff, clients, employees and others in the community. Everyone is under stress and trying to deal with new challenges. Being there for everyone, while hard and time-consuming, is leadership.
Message the troops
Communication is always important but when people are uncertain about the future they need to hear from credible voices. Be that credible voice. Make sure your leadership team is doing the same. Overcommunicate. Use technology to do it.
Say what you know and don’t sugarcoat the facts
Sharing the truth as new facts emerge is critical. That seems obvious but it is incredibly hard to do in practice. Many situations come up that may scare your employees or clients into doing things that hurt your business. It is easy to convince yourself that not sharing these things in real time is better. That is a mistake. Share the facts. The facts always come out and if you, as a leader (or your organization), fail to share them quickly, you will lose credibility. If the omission is serious enough, you may lose your ability to lead.
Effective decision-making always requires input from others. In a crisis, when you cannot possibly know all of the facts, input from those you lead is even more important. Critically, input makes for better follow-through and execution. If decisions need to be implemented quickly, especially in an adverse environment (like a crisis), you need to get the team onboard by considering everyone’s perspectives.
There are many times when putting decisions off to the last possible minute creates optionality. A crisis is not one of those times. Making decisions quickly and then course-correcting as you go drives execution quality and may save lives. The last few weeks were like that. Making decisions each day about how to get people safe, when no one really understood the situation, was critical to successfully getting people home, or drove failure and possibly risked lives.
These are tough times. Leaders will succeed or fail during this crisis simply because of the way they act right now. It is exhausting but everyone is looking at you right now.
Charles Goldman is president and CEO of , a leading provider of extensive wealth management and technology solutions for independent financial advisers and their clients.