April 30, 2020

Lead with agility and act with humility in times of crisis

Draw inspiration and apply best practices from businesses that are overcoming virus-related challenges – one of the many is agility


It is normal during uncertain times to worry about what may come in the future. We do not know when the coronavirus pandemic will ease, how life will be after the pandemic, and how we will keep our businesses moving. Businesses may be finding things difficult today, but it is not impossible to find ways to keep our businesses afloat.


While many organizations were fast on their feet and responded to the crisis quickly, many of us have not been that lucky. But it’s not too late to take action. We can learn some lessons from these organizations. One of the biggest is how crucial it is to lead with agility as well as humility.


In recent weeks, I hosted virtual sharing sessions where we curated information on what business leaders can do right now to keep their organizations moving forward. Many businesses are facing this new change so we don’t necessarily have “best practice” case studies to learn from and implement in our businesses and in our lives.


We may not know yet what the best practices are during this pandemic, but what we can learn are the essential mindsets, skillsets, and techniques based on the use cases we have seen so far.


In this scenario, the “use case” refers to the action plans and implementation strategies that have worked for various organizations during this pandemic.


One noteworthy use case we discussed in our virtual sharing comes from the Huazhu Hotel Group in China. What can we learn from this organization that we can potentially repurpose for our business?


The main thing that the Huazhu Hotel Group has done during the pandemic is to combine both top-down and bottom-up leadership. In such a challenging time, the management team has to prioritize the organizational goals and implement them from the top down.


Bottom-up leadership involves the staff executing and also evaluating their tasks, communicating constantly with the management about what is working and what is not. While tasks are one part of the overall strategy, staff must utilize new approaches as well. If I’m a salesperson, for example, I can use Zoom instead of face-to-face meetings to empathize with my customers and show that I understand their needs at this time.


Here are some more lessons we can learn from the Huazhu Hotel Group and apply it in our own businesses.


The group created a crisis task force to review the daily situation.


It needed to understand the industry situation. Additionally, understand how the organization is coping, then analyze the situation and help identify opportunities.


The task force also looked at the daily tasks of the company’s people based on the situation. Are we utilizing the talents of our people wisely and effectively? At this point, agility is key. This involves a focus not only on daily tasks but on hourly tasks in some cases.


They issued top-down guidance for the whole chain


Elements such as what tasks are of high priority and focus at this time are included in this guidance. We must set aside the tasks that are unimportant at this time.


Again, we focus on agility – what can we work on effectively on a daily and hourly basis?


They allowed local franchisees to adapt the guidance to their own local situations


For businesses with multiple branches, it simply means less rigidity when it comes to using the guidelines in local branches.


They took full advantage of mobile applications to keep employees and franchisees informed of any updates and news. Communication and transparency in times of crisis are important. When your people have the right information in a timely fashion, it motivates them.


There are no right or wrong techniques when it comes to devising a strategy for times of crisis. But what can help us and our organizations is to keep an open mind. We should test and trial different ways to keep our businesses running. There are many other organizations doing a great job overcoming the problems caused by Covid-19. Their approaches could also work for our own organizations.


Although we’re struggling today, it doesn’t mean we can’t rise above the crisis. One of the most important takeaways is that we cannot keep doing work in the same way. We must think about the new ways of working and implementing agility, especially during this time of crisis, and also how to keep moving forward once the pandemic eases.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC – Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@new.seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com