There are six steps in developing and implementing the “Lights On” strategy:
- Hold everything. Put everything on hold, even for just a few hours. This allows everyone to absorb the events and determine a response.
- Build a start-stop-continue worksheet. This worksheet is an intentional map of decisions and options created by answering these questions:
- What must we start doing?
- What must we stop doing?
- What must we continue doing?
- Deploy learning resources optimally. Create a plan using the start-stop-continue worksheet to determine how to optimally deploy people and learning resources.
- Start an “information safari.” Collect information from learning consultants, points of contact, company leaders and employees, customers, the media, society and leaders of other companies. This information gathering is ongoing and paramount to ensuring a successful “Lights On” plan.
- Include critical communications and bring people together. Send out a daily email that evokes hope, resilience, togetherness and passion. Include guidance and appropriate humor to motivate a distraught workforce. Keep communication open and transparent. Look for ways to get people together, and allow them the opportunity to express themselves. Focus on the emotional needs of the employees first, and then ask for their help in focusing on the business needs. Celebrate even the smallest successes to boost morale.
- Develop 30, 60, 90-Day Scenario Plans. The process starts with asking these questions:
- What is known?
- What is probable?
- What is unknown?
Respond to each question from the organization’s perspective, and then respond from the learning and development perspective. Example:
- What is known? Loss of customers.
- What is probable? Redeployment of employees.
- What is unknown? Actions of government.
Learning and Development Perspective
- _B_What is known? Customer retention communication in partnership with marketing and communications departments, broadcast on web TV.
- _B_What is probable? Reskilling programs for impacted employees.
- _B_What is unknown? Revisit daily; be ready for communication.
Continue to ask the same questions throughout the development of the 60 and 90-day plans.
To be successful, leaders must take care of themselves along with everyone else. An ideal leader maintains transparency, approachability and integrity. When problems arise, the tendency is to manage on autopilot. Leaders must never neglect employees, and they must show empathy and continue to communicate openly.
A simple and powerful technique is to develop a set of leadership guidelines.Leaders follow these 12 guidelines in their “leading through learning” strategy:
- Understand things will never get back to normal. The way it used to be helped pitch the company into crisis. Use the crisis as an opportunity to improve and find a new normal.
- Take care of one another. Find ways to take care of one another. Leaders must find someone they trust to share their feelings and concerns.
- React…pause…respond. Immediate reactions have the potential of being wrong. Take a moment to collect information and reflect on the potential consequences before deciding upon a course of action.
- Talk — even when there is not much to say. There is no such thing as overcommunicating, especially in times of crisis. Constant and consistent messages from leaders reduce rumors and promote trust.
- Be visible. When leaders go into hiding, employees become fearful. Keep the office door open and take some time throughout the day to walk around and talk with people.
- Maintain integrity and high moral values. When hard decisions need to be made, stay true to core values.
- Optimize costs, with retention in mind. Concurrently discuss cost optimization with a retention plan. If staffing cuts must be made, work to retain the best employees.
- Be a brand ambassador. Instead of telling everyone everything — the good, bad and the ugly — deliver internal and external information in as positive a light as possible without stretching the truth.
- Assess and rebuild trust. Focus on building a trust-centric environment. Trust encourages openness in people, increases productivity, and builds stronger relationships with all the stakeholders.
- Remember, leaders are human. Leaders have good days and bad. It is important to hold it together as best as possible.
- Think like a child. For a short period of time, live in the moment and escape to play like a child. Take time to tune out, and do not allow business to absorb every minute.
- Leaders need to take care of their emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Take the time to eat right, start or continue an exercise routine, and get a good night’s rest. Seek out a counselor, a coach, or a friend if the need arises to talk to someone.
GUIDING THE EVOLUTION OF THE ORGANIZATION’S CULTURE
Turbulent times magnify the positive and the negative aspects of an organization’s culture. The intensity of the emotions brought on by the crisis offers a rare opportunity to recognize and make appropriate adjustments. The learning and development professionals are powerful participants in facilitating those changes. Their unique position allows them to gather information, draft learning solutions, communicate changes, and coach leaders to introduce and reinforce those changes.
Cultural change is not without its challenges. The authors recommend following these four steps:
- Identify the existing culture. Pay close attention to emerging negative emotions, particularly those that are fear and anger-based. Document observations.
- Facilitate what to keep, what to eliminate, and what to add. Review documented cultural observances and determine what needs to stay, what needs to be eliminated, and what needs to be added to the culture. Further consideration is necessary prior to implementation. Every leader must be on board with the final decisions; those who are not should negotiate an exit strategy.
- Revisit core purposes and values. Based on a global survey of 250 senior executives, the authors have identified 15 core values that are vital for all leaders. They emphasize that courage is the most important value. Leaders must be strong enough to speak for what is right and true. They must ask the tough questions, make the difficult decisions, and not tolerate deviation from those core values. Those who make such compromises should be asked to leave.
- Communicate and reinforce core purposes and values. Now that core values and purposes have been defined and the leaders are either on board or filtered out, it is time to implement change. Typically, organizations that suffer failed initiatives usually
- give up midstream,
- deliver inconsistent messages,
- lack follow-through, or
- attempt to measure results too soon.
There are four stages to follow in exact sequence to boost the odds of sustaining successful cultural change.
1. Create awareness. Get creative and get people talking. Make all updates and changes to the organizational structure known to everyone. Make the information available everywhere, including the bathroom. Have contests with daily winners. Capitalize on every opportunity to create awareness, and respond quickly to questions or concerns.
- 2. Move quickly to adoption. Launch small pilot groups and informally observe and broadcast examples of the new core purpose being implemented. Enthusiastically celebrate and communicate even the smallest of wins. The learning and human resource professionals can assist leaders by answering questions and providing individual coaching at this stage.
- 3. Penetrate deeply. Move to this stage when a few visible parts of the organization have adopted the new core purpose. Continuously remind and reinforce best practices. Reward role models, and enable them to teach others about the successful practices.
- 4. Implement measurement. After most of the employees have adopted the new core purpose, begin to measure and track progress. Eliminate surprise by offering regular feedback to employees. Continue to reward role models publicly.
COACHING FOR LEADERS
In the midst of all this chaos are the people involved. Leaders are faced with significant change and turbulence during times of crisis. Coaches can play a vital role in the solution by providing a safe sounding board to convey thoughts and fears. For best results, provide all leaders within the organization with coaches and help enable leaders to be able to coach others. There are six basic steps for developing an organization’s coaching function:
- Provide coaching for all leaders. When available, it is best to use highly trained and certified internal or external coaches. If not available, members of the learning team can become acquainted with coaching approaches and methodology.
- Show concern for all employees. While a CEO can travel to reassure major customers, most customers interact with low-level employees during a crisis. Those employees need support from leaders who are visible, genuine and empathetic to their daily struggle.
- Help leaders have both a macro and micro vision. Leaders use macro vision to look ahead and anticipate, and micro vision to look at today and yesterday to find where things went wrong. Having dual vision allows leaders to engage employees who do not report directly to them. By asking probing questions and empowering other leaders to follow suit, employees begin to feel part of the solution and real innovation emerges. Leaders must get personal and learn the true fears and concerns of those employees; in return, they should reciprocate and truly connect.
- Reinforce coaching by encouraging connectedness. Employees who genuinely feel connected to a company will give everything they have to see it succeed. The deeper the connection, the more likely they are to spread that connection to others. Reinforce this connection by being transparent, expressing pride in others, and asking powerful questions that elicit real and honest answers.
- Select and utilize coaching questions. The authors list 39 questions categorized in five areas: (1) about the leader, (2) about the team in respect to macro vision, (3) about the team in respect to micro vision, (4) about the customer relationship, and (5) about gaining commitment.
- Start a help line. Once the successful coaching program is in place, it is important to open another avenue for employees to go for answers. Create an online access point where frequently asked questions can be uploaded and accessed at anytime. Offer a phone number for them to call for immediate assistance or to be directed to the appropriate resource.
USING SOCIAL NETWORKING MEDIA
During a crisis, it is essential to find a scalable, flexible and reliable solution to rapidly communicate with everyone around the world. Creating a 24/7 social media presence is possible for any organization. The authors recommend using web videos in order to deliver transparent and consistent messages to audiences worldwide. They suggest producing a block of programming and replaying it again to fill a 24-hour period. Use end-of-programming evaluations or other evaluations to measure effectiveness and impact.
During a crisis, employees will use other social networking tools to express their feelings. It is important not to attempt to quell these attempts but rather provide guidelines for professional behavior. Monitor online information and participate in discussions to correct misinformation and learn what people are thinking.
While there may not be much or any new information, it is important to follow this advice when deciding on what to communicate.
- _B_Communicate often. Say what you know, and say what you do not know. Confirm all new information before releasing.
- _B_Schedule updates. This provides structure and calms fears. On the first day of the crisis, schedule updates hourly. On day two through seven, update twice per day, and more frequently if critical information becomes available. After that gauge frequency based on demand for information. Never cancel an update. If no new information exists, repeat what is already known.
- _B_Reinforce messages. Send out message updates. Include the primary message and any questions asked with answers. This briefs those who could not attend and refreshes the minds of those who did.
- _B_Meet one-on-one. Keep a log of everyone’s schedule. All leaders must meet personally with people who report directly to them. Monitor closely to confirm full participation as this boosts connectedness.
- _B_Strategically leverage the rumor mill. Slow down the rumor mill by filling it with facts. Find those people who tend to spread rumors and leak information, covertly and strategically.
- _B_Communicate a new path, a new vision, and new roles. Reinforcing core values and encouraging open communication brings hope to the weary and increases retention.
CARING FOR THE WOUNDED
A crisis takes an extreme toll on the emotions of everyone involved. Employees can find themselves suffering the same five stages of grief discovered in death and bereavement counseling.
Stage 1: Shock and denial. Leaders, along with the human resource staff and learning professionals, must recover faster than everyone else. They are the first responders and are needed to help the business recover. Plan time for self-care and accept that everyone will be affected differently.
Stage 2: Anger and betrayal. Many feel deserted and abandoned, and within days some will have quit or will actively seek new employment. Encourage everyone to acknowledge their anger and begin to use these powerful emotions to move forward.
Stage 3: Bargaining. In order to keep their jobs, many will offer to work for less pay. These negotiations are a last ditch effort. Encourage everyone to accept the reality and move on with dignity.
Stage 4: Depression. This stage varies from mild to severe bouts of depression; everyone is impacted differently. Set up a hotline to address concerns and answer questions. Refer those suffering to internal coaches or professionally trained counselors.
Stage 5: Acceptance. This stage happens at different times for different people. Search for a sense of purpose or meaning to help bring closure. A former employee, Nicola Klein was quoted in the book as saying, “One of my greatest lessons was, if you have a great team of people, working together, who are passionately involved, you can make miracles happen. …When I think of this amazing team, I know ‘nobody wins unless everybody wins!’ We all ‘won’ by going through this together.”
SALVAGING CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH REAL-TIME LEARNING
Customers respond similarly, but it requires innovation and creativity to reconnect and rebuild their trust. It is crucial for these relationships to be salvaged as quickly as possible. Without them, all is lost. Similar to communicating and connecting with employees, one must reach out to customers. Leaders and coaches must work together and formulate the best strategy. The authors suggest using real-time learning to capture the essence of the crisis and co-create sustainable solutions. This involves three stages:
Stage 1: Collect data. A performance consultant is assigned to a customer account to collect data. Study and analyze current projects, revenue, employees, technologies, market trends and satisfaction levels. Interview contacts from both sides of the relationship to find perspectives on the current and desired state of the relationship.
Stage 2: Ignite change onsite. Once the most important areas have been identified, performance consultants spend up to a week at the customer’s location. They observe, monitor and probe to find success and obstacles. Participants receive feedback and practical tools. In the end, the customer is briefed on the results and signs off on the final action plan.
Stage 3: Sustain change. A final report is written and used to document the account’s history and to measure changes in customer relations. This is the time to address any concerns found in Stage 2. Satyam had already performed this task prior to the crisis. Since it already had an established relationship, reconnecting afterwards was much easier.
LEADING THROUGH LEARNING: CREATING A POST-CRISIS PLAN
The first 90 days after a crisis is a period of major change. A plan needs to be developed that looks ahead one quarter to one year and includes plans for aligning ongoing business needs, organizational changes, service offerings, budget allocations and retention strategy. The authors suggest taking three critical steps at this point:
- Be a partner in change. This step includes identifying cultural shifts, policies, branding and anything else that transforms the business and aligns to the path of success. Keep learning at the forefront and use it to make real-time responses to needs.
- Conduct a leadership audit. This step is an evaluation of the strengths, limitations, developments and strategies for the leadership of the organization. This consolidated report assists in maintaining alignment during leadership transition or changes in ownership. The audit evaluates the three dimensions of leadership which include (1) the leader as an individual, (2) the leader’s organizational role, and (3) how the organizational culture impacts leadership in its entirety. Be aware there are two sides of leadership — the explicit and the implicit. The explicit portion includes all written and spoken protocols; the implicit includes the unwritten rules. Include this perspective in the audit for a complete analysis.
- Develop a risk-mitigation plan for the future. The authors continually reinforce the need to learn and develop, even in crisis. This requires forethought and effort for optimal performance. Planning and preparing prior to a crisis makes implementation of the plan easier when a crisis does strike.