1. Calm. Your folks, your employees, your customers, your suppliers, are going to be looking to you as a leader to project a sense of calm through this difficult, uncertain situation.
2. Confidence. You have to be calm, but not still-water calm. You have to project confidence that you’re going to be able to see this through successfully, with a minimum amount of hurt to the company, but also to all of the stakeholders who are relying on your leadership to get them through the difficult days and months ahead.
3. Communication. You have to relentlessly communicate, communicate, communicate. This is to avoid rumors developing that muddy the waters. But when I’m talking about communication, I’m also talking about a strategy for communication. You need a sense of order in which to communicate decisions and priorities, but also have rapid communication to the entire body of constituents—not delays over hours or days or, even worse, weeks. Silence is absolutely the worst possible thing that you allow to happen, because that’s when the rumor mill develops.
4. Collaboration. You are not going to know all the answers; no one expects you to. This is a time for you to call on the resources, the capabilities of all of your employees, all of your team members, and bring them together in taskforces, sub-taskforces, and potentially have a role for everyone in which they feel they can contribute to overcoming the uncertainty, overcoming the crisis. Engaging employees in this way will also reduce that rumor mill, give confidence to them that they will then project in turn to the people who are relying on them as their managers for direction.
5. Community. All of us live in communities. Our factories are in communities, our colleges and universities are in communities. We are leading by example, not just within our organizations, but within our broader communities. And especially since we’re talking here about an infectious virus, it’s extremely important that we set an example, model behaviors that are community friendly and supportive.
6. Compassion is extremely important at this time. We may rise to the occasion if we’re fortunate to have a good team around us, but there are many people in our organizations who are depending upon us, who are not necessarily that resilient. And they need to be given the compassion to express their concerns. So, think of someone in your organization who has elderly parents in a fragile state of health. They’re going to be doubly concerned about relatives at this time when the virus is potentially affecting the most vulnerable and medically challenged in our communities. If they want time off, if they want to work from home, if they need to have a little bit of space to look after their family members, please consider giving that to them. Compassion at a time of crisis is a very important manifestation of leadership.
7. Cash. The most obvious commercial C of the 7 Cs is Cash. Cash is king at a time of crisis, and everything needs to be done to look both short term and long term at the financial health of the organization. After all, your employees, suppliers, and customers are depending upon you to lead, not just emotionally but also prudently with respect to the long-term finances of the organization. Whatever you can do to conserve cash is going to be critical, because that’s what’s going to determine whether your employees are going to be paid next week.
Author: John Quelchis the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvad Business School and Dean of the University of Miami Herbert Business School.