Insights and advice for high-performing Board of Directors, and all leaders of influence, to lead through the crisis and to the other side

03/30/2020

What is the role of a high-performing Board of Directors in a situation like this, and how can all leaders of influence, lead through the crisis and to the other side? Sheridan Broadbent, a speaker at the AFQY Online event on March 26th, shared her advice.

Written by Gemma McKenzie, AFQY Editor

Firstly, the health and safety of your people, including their mental wellness, is your primary priority and you have to keep that in mind all the time. 

We need to be humans. 

This is stressful stuff. People are working with their families around them, there's a lot going on in people's minds that aren't their job, so just remember that when you take decisions as a board, and also as an executive team. And also remember that other companies in your value chain will have that focus too, which might be covering some of their decisions. We need to be humans.

It's really important to be guided by the vision and values of your firm and that they are the guiding light of decisions and trade-offs you're going to make. It's very important for board members and the executive team to make sure that they are reflecting and living those values even when it's really stressful and everyone wants to freak out.

Establish a framework of regular and frequent contact. 

Communicate often, elevate the narrative, and don't declare victory too often.

Make sure the boundaries between particularly the board and the executive team are really clear, and that board members aren't driving the management team and team members bananas with bright ideas. We all want to help, we all want to support, but actually the role of the board is to encourage and guide management, not tell them what to do. 

Keep stakeholders informed with meaningful communications and try to impart new information when you communicate. 

Think about what your key stakeholders, including the families of your staff, the shareholders, the communities you operate within and so on - think about what they want to know, and what is different because of what you've told them. Now is not a time to high five the people with how awesome your company is at dealing with this.

Beware of optimism bias.

Make sure optimism bias isn't affecting your ability to think about what happens if we stay in a prolonged level four, level three, or even level two state.

Keep an eye on Horizon 3, the long term. 

Let's not freak out, and let's enable our people by letting them think big things. 

What are the implications and opportunities of this for your business and your people? What do we need to start thinking about now? For a lot of people they're in it [the crisis] right now, you're in crisis mode, but you may have colleagues or team members who can focus on the strategic and operational opportunities long term, and what that means today - what do we need to be thinking about, what are the pivot points, and how do we recognise those pivot points to be able to do something about it?

As a leader, now is the time for calm optimism, for humour, for wisdom, even if that's not how you feel. If people can see you calmly living the values of your company in a crisis and they see you believing in them, they're going to be much more capable of resilience and greatness. Let's not freak out, and let's enable our people by letting them think big things.

I just want to finish up with something I read in a document I got the other day, sent through by Russell Reynolds, a leadership advisor. It summarised a great view of what those on boards, and at the helicopter view, should be contemplating: "Communicate often, elevate the narrative, and don't declare victory too often."

Watch the full video of Sheridan's talk during the AFQY Online event here!