Crisis Leadership

Just about every business large and small across the world has been in crisis mode for some time dealing with the catastrophic consequences of the Corona Virus pandemic. Almost daily now there are announcements from companies shedding employees or going into administration. One interesting trend however are those CEOs who are pledging not to lay-off workers. For example, on March 26th in Techcrunch Marc Benioff (Salesforce CEO) announced a 90 day pledge.

This has got me thinking lately at a more macro-level: who are those business leaders who have successfully led companies through crises?

  1. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in pivoting and transforming the business when confronted by an emerging disruptive technology, business models, and established well-funded competition;
  2. Steve Jobs in the late 1990s when he returned to the company he founded (and was ousted from);
  3. Richard Branson in the 1990s at Virgin Atlantic during the ‘dirty tricks war’ with British Airways;
  4. Bob Iger as CEO of Disney when, whilst he was opening Shanghai Disney, a toddler was killed by an alligator at Disney World Florida;
  5. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp as the new CEO of Lego Group in 2004 and embarking on a transformational turnaround;
  6. Angela Ahrendts as the new CEO of Burberry and transforming its brand and performance from ‘chavvy’ to high-end luxury;
  7. Amex CEO Kenneth Chenault following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks;
  8. CEO Howard Schultz in 1997 when a robbery killed 3 employees at a US store;
  9. Toyota CEO Jim Lentz during a 2.3 million car recall in the US

The way these leaders responded to their various crises – whether caused by macro-factors (e.g. terrorism, recession, disruptive technologies) or internal (e.g. mismanagement) – were certainly ‘make or break’ situations. In other words, without strong leadership and executing on relevant crisis management principles, the outcomes could have been catastrophic and/or bankrupted their respective companies.

Such leaders deployed various business strategies and tactics but professionally exhibited courage, decisiveness, emotional intelligence, transparency,  ownership, clear communication, and many other characteristics. It will be interesting to see how many current organisations and brands respond in a way that also gives them the best chance to survive short-term, as well as in a post-Corona world.

 

Zooming

I came across an article this week here which asked whether Corona Virus (CV) could present a tipping point for virtual events. This reminded me of a pre-CV experience at the end of 2019. I attended a virtual conference hosted by marketing guru Seth Godin.

Afterward I was amazed at how far VC technology has come in being able to easily manage large numbers of people in an interesting and organised way which adds-value to both sides. He ran it using Zoom, had over 300 attendees from 50 countries, used self-managed break-out rooms over the course of the 2hrs, and created interactivity (which game them market research) with Q&A into the chat boxes.

Whilst it wasn’t perfect, it was impressive. I would certainly attend more of these, and reconsider in-person ones. Until this time, I had only ever used VC tech for standard corporate meeting use cases with just a few people. Now, I am recommending my parents to set up Zoom as an alternative for traditional B2C options (Skype, FaceTime).  Although that may change if the firm can’t get a handle on Zoom-bombing.

Despite some negative scaling side-effects and challenges, Zoom’s stock has post-IPO gone through the roof (actually, through the atmosphere). This gives them a massive window to place new bets and scale-up new products, value-added services, and M&A.

It is not often a newly public firm gets to invest for the long-term, but now is the certainly the time to accelerate investments into becoming a key player within the enterprise (and B2C?) ecosystem. Vertical, horizontal and hybrid platform solutions across many sectors and use cases will likely emerge as it has with IoT. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, how Zoom responds, and how long until its market capitalisation falls back down to earth.

Homeschooling

We are now one week into lock-down from Corona Virus. With schools closed and my consulting pipeline now zero, this has meant I’ve been on point with our 2 kids (aged 3 and 4) to manage the ‘homeschooling’. In summary, somehow it worked really well in that the kids didn’t kill each other, nor did I want to kill them, and nor did Lydia and I. It was only after day 4 that Lydia and reached for the wine (we assumed this would happen on day 1).

We knew that some structure would be needed – mainly to stop the kids and I from going insane – so I took each day as it came, but trying to balance three areas: learning, creativity, and physical activity.  Aside from some basic materials and ideas the school and nursery shared, I used what we had at home already, plus a few extra learning activity books I bought online. We got extremely lucky with warm spring weather every day which obviously helped.

Here’s very rough look at what each day entailed:

  • 9am – indoor physical activity (e.g. Youtube kids videos featuring Joe Wicks, street-dancing)
  • 930am – learning activities (e.g. reading, writing, drawing, stories)
  • 1030am – snack time and free-play (my favourite part)
  • 1115am – outdoor creative or physical activity (e.g. treasure hunt, school sports day)
  • 1230pm – lunch
  • 1pm – indoor creative activity (e.g. Lego building – my favourite part, puzzles)
  • 2pm – outdoor free-play (my favourite part)

Admittedly, after 3 days the structure certainly loosened and in line with the weather we spent more time outside in the garden.

In addition, we also did the following every other day:

  • Dog walk to the beach (remote area, obviously)
  • VC with family or their school friends
  • Watched BBC’s Our Planet series
  • Watched and listened to a book narration

A good idea which they enjoyed came from my mum. The kids did a ‘project’ where they chose a topic of interest to present back to her and my dad via VC. I helped them find ten facts, find physical items in the house, and find something for them to colour in. Angus chose dinosaurs, and Georgina chose princesses. Watching them (and my parents) use VC technology (FaceTime) to discuss their project findings was fascinating and obviously a basic observation of the future of learning. Next week it will be sharks and giraffes. And possibly wine much earlier than day 4.

If you have any homeschooling survival tips or tricks, please drop me a line at andrewessa@gmail.com