Speaking with a client today who is concerned about the virus’ effect on current business operations, I asked, “Will there be more business? Will your organization be able to survive this?” and she said yes, absolutely. But what hadn’t happened was the leaders strategizing about how to go from here. A lot of information is flying around about how to keep the virus from spreading, how to keep yourself safe, what to stockpile or not – but I’m seeing less attention paid to creative ideas about how to hold steady until the storm passes through. Despite the uncertainty, we can’t simply freeze in place and panic won’t help.

Following are three practical strategies to move ahead productively.

1) If you haven’t done it yet, call your team together to do problem solving. This can be done at any level – and folks, this is something you can do all the time, not just in a crisis.

If you’re practicing social distancing, great! Have everyone on your video platform. With video on.

·      Tell them to come prepared to brainstorm all the things that should be considered and addressed in the running of the business for the foreseeable future, from people issues to technology to supply chain to problem solving. Or you can brainstorm ideas for staying in touch with your customers, or for continuing to build relationships with donors … choose what’s relevant.

·      Establish a batting order and ground rules (one idea per person per turn, no cross-talk, go fast, ok to have a similar idea, say “pass” if you don’t have another idea when it’s your turn). Be disciplined about facilitating to this, otherwise it becomes a free-for-all. You know what I’m talking about – one person comes with an idea and the room erupts with debate. The quiet people stay quiet. This is not that.

·      Have someone write the input on a white board or other visible medium as it comes. That person writes what is said, not their interpretation of it. There’s no stopping to discuss the input along the way.

·      Put a time limit on it (8 minutes is great if you’re disciplined) and stop when time is up or no one has any more ideas.

From here you can take the input and do what you want with it, or engage the group to make some decisions, or establish a committee, or make agreements about who will communicate what and to whom, etc.

2) Communicate with the leaders of your organization about communication. CEOs, do you know what your managers are saying to people? You may be communicating well but do you have agreements with the rest of the leaders about what they will say? Often well-meaning managers open mouth and insert foot. They make promises they can’t keep, they spray their own fear onto employees, or they’re so vague they create more fear (people fill in the blanks and it’s usually not a positive fill-in). Are the managers handling unexpected work-at-home scenarios well? Are there HR policies in place to make changes legally and are the managers executing them well? You gotta talk about this stuff and not assume everyone is in lock-step.

3) Hold problem solving and planning meetings with individual employees. Anyone affected by this situation is going to have personal and professional concerns. If their jobs are changing or there’s simply more stress and uncertainty at work, the manager should be doing something productive and positive to keep people engaged and accomplishing something useful. High performers can’t just stop and wait. They need something to do that helps. What can be done? If some work isn’t being done what else can be addressed to clean things up for when we all come back on line? What creative ideas can be generated and turned into action? Problem solving means two-way dialogue, not just one manager talking while the employee nods.

I’m happy to talk with anyone who reads this and would like to help. The first call is on me so why not take the help? cwsilver@silverbusinesssolutions.com or 831-588-6191.


Photo credit: Matthew Henry on UnSplash