Avoid overcorrecting in times of crisis

If you’re a business leader, or sales manager, chances are the occurrences over the past several months were not in your original business plan. Many of us, in fact, probably cannot wait for 2020 to come to an end.

The word “crisis” has been on everyone’s lips for quite a while now, but crisis points both to a decisive, potentially hazardous moment … and to the decisions, we make as leaders. Knowing that we will continue to face new and uncharted territory in the last quarter of the year, how do leaders make sure they don›t overcorrect, overreact and/or over-engineer in response to the new reality? Here are three ideas and suggestions for you to consider:

• Look closely at your market. The voice of the customer has never been more important than it is right now. What are your customers doing? How are your customers interacting with you? You should have at least monthly meetings with your best customers regarding their current state of affairs and what they see as the new future. What are they gearing up for in 2021? What are they setting as strategic priorities in this “new reality?” How do you fit into the picture? Stay as close to your customer as you possibly can. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a decision that was made a month ago.

• Ask yourself “what if?”  Create a list of “what if” questions that can help you and your team create contingency plans for dealing with various scenarios you may encounter between now and the end of the year. Do some brainstorming around each “what if” situation; the more people you can involve in this discussion, the better. Ideally, you want engagement and input from all of your employees. The idea is to generate multiple perspectives on how they’re interacting with each other and with their customers. These brainstorming sessions are great team-building events, and they can help leverage the rising spirit of collaboration that may have emerged as one of the silver linings of this period. Many of the companies and organizations we work with report that collaboration across departments has been higher over the past six months than it has been for them over the past three years.

• Look at your business plan one month at a time. One of the cardinal leadership sins in this current business climate is a lack of flexibility in a plan that could be outdated. Create different contingency plans based on what you believe could happen, then review those plans every 30 days. Ask yourself: is it time to pivot, or is it not? For instance: Do you need to rent office space, or should you transition to a virtual working model? Who knows at this point? Take it 30 days at a time. Try it with one department or segment of your organization and see what happens. It may be a good decision today, but it might not be a good decision 30, 60 or 90 days from now. This approach allows you to crawl-walk-run, as opposed to simply running at full speed in a direction that may or may not be good for your business.

The emphasis in all three of these ideas is on flexibility. Nobody can tell you with certainty what the world will look like even one month from now. These three tips can help you to plan and execute flexibly as you start to confirm the details of the emerging, rapidly changing reality your business will be facing in the weeks and months ahead. What’s going on in the environment is out of your control, but you’ll want to retain as much control as possible over the processes, the behaviors and the strategic direction of your organization. ♦

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or jmarshall@sandler.com.

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