Planning Ahead For Risks Is Crucial To A Company’s Success.
The coronavirus pandemic has amped up risk management, forcing executives and employees to adapt to remote work, learn new technologies, and find different ways to serve clients and customers. “COVID-19 has helped more people than before understand that a single root-cause issue can totally trigger risk at an enterprise level that affects everything.
How to keep risk management on track
Put people first. The pandemic has forced many office workers to set up their laptops in kitchens, dining rooms, or home offices, where they attend virtual meetings and complete tasks online. Weeks and months of working remotely have highlighted the challenges of turning a home into an office, particularly in families with children in which both parents work from home.
A lot of people are stressed. As employees adjust to working from home, some are dealing with the extra challenge of young children being out of school and learning virtually. Companies must recognise that and support their workers.
Identify the “main thing”. It’s more important than ever for businesses to narrow their focus to what one calls the “main thing”, whether it’s selling or making a product or offering a service essential to the business. Anything nonessential could be sacrificed to cut costs.
Identify risks. Dealing with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic is creating new risks. Business leaders must identify and prioritise them.
Respond to risks. Once risks are identified and prioritised, leaders need a plan of action. They should be realistic, especially in tough situations.
Planning ahead can be the key to responding effectively. Some business leaders used to be hesitant to plan for worst-case scenarios, but the pandemic is changing that.
“Executives were saying, ‘That’s not going to happen. We don’t have time for this. We’ve got more critical things to work on today,’ “I think they’re realising, ‘Ooh, it would have been really helpful had we done that.’”
Start off by offering words of reassurance
When things go wrong, whether it’s limited to within your office walls or as with this current pandemic, stretches around the world, as a leader it’s important that you get in front of those you serve – both your employees and your customers – and offer them reassurance that you’re not only aware of the problem, but that you’re working with others to find appropriate measures to address the situation.
This absolutely needs to be your first step. The reason why goes to understanding how our brain processes information. We’re all familiar with the brain’s fight or flight response to stress. But what we also need to understand is how our brain processes information.
Specifically, our brain separates the information it gets from our various senses as being either a reward or a threat. Now on the surface, this seems pretty straightforward. However, our brain has developed this shortcut that when it encounters something unknown or unfamiliar, it automatically labels it as a threat.
That’s why the first thing you need to do is reassure those you lead that we’re going to figure this out, we’ll get through this, that we’ll prevail in the end.
Specify what measures you’re going to take
Once you’ve provided reassurance to your employees and your customers, you need to back this up with a clear guidance on what measures you’ll put into place to both prevent the situation from getting worse and once under control, what you’ll do to resolve it.
A key part of your crisis management toolkit has to include the ability to quickly develop a new road map that will help people get a clear understanding of what you’re going to do to lessen the fallout and get back some measure of control.
Providing this level of clarity and follow-through – that this isn’t a one and done update, but an on-going conversation – will grow trust levels in your leadership, which is critical to keeping people calm and rational, and not acting out of fear of the unknown.
Help people see past today and towards the long view
It’s the nature of leadership that leaders more than anyone else tend to view things in the context of the long term. But the reality is for everyone else, it’s more about the here and now. For example, in the case of COVID-19, while it’s reasonable to ask people to self-isolate themselves if they’ve been potentially exposed to the virus, this doesn’t take into consideration what the financial costs will be for that person not just today, but in the months ahead as their finances take a hit from not being able to work.
That’s why after providing that reassurance that we’re going to get through this and specifying measures that demonstrate how we’re going to achieve that, you need to remind those under your care of the future you originally described to them that they’d achieve under your leadership.
You need to be honest with your employees that yes, the current crisis will cause both delays and unforeseen costs to your organization’s productivity and bottom line. But you need to remind them of that grand vision or long term goal you’ve collectively set out to achieve. You need to instill that sense of hope that because we’re collaborating to find a way through this crisis, we will ultimately prevail.
At present, all we see and hear about COVID-19 naturally stokes fear and uncertainty. And frankly what we need to hear more of is about our collective resilience. Of our drive to overcome any obstacle, and especially our care and concern for others, which is why we’re taking the measures we are – not just for ourselves, but for our greater community.