We asked some of the region’s most prominent business leaders for their crisis leadership tips to share with others who have responsibility of leading a team in these most challenging of times. Here’s what they had to say…
Jane Turner, professor of enterprise and pro vice-chancellor (enterprise and business engagement), Teesside University
“During times of crisis, the focus and scrutiny on the leader can feel uncomfortable and maybe intense at times, and experience shows us that it is often helpful to revisit your leader identity, purpose, values and responsibility and actively give yourself ‘permission’ to lead, to step out and explore new paradigms using the capability that resides within your team.
“The leader’s role during crisis is to actively engage with the team, ask questions that enable exploration, which ultimately leads to new thoughts and ideas. This ability to question, challenge, debate and discuss will enable you to feel more in control of decision making and less backed into a corner.
“This process may make you feel rather vulnerable and even more accountable but right now it is so important to trust in yourself and work with your team to co-create what is required.
“The fundamental element of leadership, particularly during a crisis is the ability to engender trust and to be particularly self-aware of how you are operating/leading. Compassionate and authentic leaders can thrive in this environment.
“Are you a leader that people actually trust? Do you do say one thing and do another? Are you able to genuinely show that you empathise and care about your team? Are you able to make fundamental decisions? Do you engage with your team and utilize their capability and expertise? Research illustrates that these approaches bring the best out in you and your team.”
Charles Clinkard, managing director, Charles Clinkard
“There is an awful lot to consider but there are three key areas for us. First, providing a safe environment for our staff to work and our customers to shop in. Secondly, managing our cash flow and working closely with the bank to ensure their continued backing as we get ready to re-open our stores on June 15. Thirdly, building stronger relationships with our key partners and getting their support to help us recover from the lockdown.
“We are all in this together and while there have been some winners during the crisis, most of us are going to have to make some difficult decisions and changes to how we operate to survive.
“There is no point in burying your head in the sand and hoping the issues will go away, as things have changed and the mix of our business will unfortunately move away from the high street to more online.”
James Dale, partner, Anderson Barrowcliff
“My top tips for leadership in times like these are to lead by example and don’t panic. Your team will be looking for calm heads when their particular version of ‘normal’ is falling down around their ears.
“Filter out the noise and re-focus on your priorities. Going back to basics can be a very useful exercise.
“Be honest and transparent with your decision making. Your team need to know your thought processes so that they can more readily understand decisions made. They may have some valuable ideas to contribute if they can understand your thinking.
“Treat your team like adults. Telling them it is all going to be ok when they know you have no idea on how things are going to turn out, often has the opposite effect to that intended.
“Be flexible and open-minded. When things are changing around you on a (sometimes less than) daily basis you need to be comfortable making a decision based on what you know today, whilst understanding that you may need to change that decision tomorrow as more information becomes available.
“Finally, be optimistic, but realistic. I think the key message is to embrace the change rather than fight against it. There are massive opportunities in times like these and if you are clear headed enough to look for them and implement the necessary changes, your business can emerge stronger and more fit for purpose than ever. That’s a positive for the whole team!”
Sharon lane, managing director, Tees Components, and 2019-2020 Tees Businesswoman of the Year
“The pandemic is a new situation for us all and it’s important to keep reflecting and learning as we go. At a time when there is little certainty around us, leaders and businesses can be the constant.
“I have tried to keep things at Tees Components as consistent and steady as possible – now is not a time for big changes, if they can wait. Where changes have been forced on us, we need to try and get positives from them, and maybe we will even keep some of them when this is over.
“Our work is very collaborative in nature, and our challenge has been to keep that going when we miss our team meetings so much. Communication is so important, because people are physically distanced – keep picking up the phone if you can’t do face-to-face.”
Lee Bramley, managing partner, Endeavour Partnership
“Be honest and open with your people – your team needs to trust and believe in what you are telling them. If the time comes to make difficult decisions then you want them to understand the reasons for doing so.
“Work on your business, not just in it – take the opportunity to innovate faster.
“Get support – do not try to bear the burden on your own – trust in your team. Support your team – invest time in showing that you care – communicate with them.
“And act quickly – delay can be fatal as crises do not solve themselves.”
Ken Devereux, managing director, Devereux Transport and Distribution
“The most important consideration of these times is the safety and well-being of your staff, their families and everyone they might come into contact with during the course of their working.
“As a company, we were already using many items of the PPE needed so had established suppliers, which made sourcing a little easier.
“Another consideration was to maintain as much cash as possible within the business by reducing/stopping capital expense and evaluating all other spending.
“Good, solid HR advice has been very important in the ever-changing and unprecedented times we have found ourselves in.
“Finally, look after yourself.”