Leading Through Uncertainty and Fear

With the coronavirus pandemic pushing many businesses to the brink, leaders must keep in mind the proactive actions they must make not only to survive the current crisis but to be ready for when the economy comes back. Let’s go inside a new report on the subject with Jonathan Sarn of Kinsley|Sarn Executive Search and Rebecca Ellis of First Person.

May 1, 2020 – We are living in unprecedented times in which fear and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic are having a tremendous impact on our lives. Matters are further complicated by having to live in isolation, all the while hearing from 24/7 news outlets about the rising numbers of infections and deaths. As the global economy all but grinds to a halt in many sectors, numerous companies are reacting to the constant changes and challenges with the sole focus of survival, according to a new report by Jonathan Sarn of Kinsley|Sarn Executive Search and Rebecca Ellis of First Person.

“Leadership is being forced to make critical decisions in very short order that will decide whether their business will be able to make it through the next month, quarter or year,” said Mr. Sarn. “Decisions such as production shutdowns, budget freezes, wage reductions and employee restructuring are daily news reports.”

2 New Recruiting Guides Focus On Adaptation, Forecasts and Recovery

The nation’s vast executive search community and their clients are quickly adapting to the new realities of Covid-19 – and what it means for hiring in 2020 and beyond.

Hunt Scanlon’s latest executive recruiting industry sector report series will be available in 30 days. Hunt Scanlon Media will offer its two-part ‘Executive Recruiting State of the Industry Report’ focused on the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Part 1, ‘Adapting in Uncertain Times’ will examine how executive recruiters are resetting expectations in the midst of an unprecedented interruption to their business.

The part 2 installment, ‘Forecast & Recovery Strategies’ is our aftermath report – and provides critical data to guide your decisions and inform you on forward-thinking recovery strategies. Industry experts from across the talent and recruiting spectrum offer up their wide-ranging opinions, definitive viewpoints, and expert forecasts.

Many expect a significant pause in business, followed by a sharp rebound later this year. We talk to the experts, uncover the opportunities, pick the sectors and reveal how search firms and talent organizations are navigating and adapting in uncertain times. Hear from top talent experts, including: Frederickson Partners; CBIZ CMF; Russell Reynolds Associates; Odgers Berndtson; Options Group; ZRG Partners; Wilton & Bain; Diversified Search; Caldwell; Hanold Associates; True Search; Slayton Search Partners; Coulter Partners; Cejka Search; Solomon Page; Acertitude; McDermott & Bull; Academic Search; Beecher Reagan; Bowdoin Group; Kingsley Gate Partners; Comhar Partners; ON Partners; Perrett Laver; CarterBaldwin; Stanton Chase; Buffkin/Baker; Major, Lindsay & Africa; WittKieffer; Klein Hersh; Furst Group; Invenias; PierceGray; LifeSci Partners & more! Buy Both Reports Now!

“While these are critical decisions for right now, it is vital that leaders do not forget about the proactive actions that they need to make so that they are best equipped to handle this period in time as well as being prepared when the economy does come back,” he said.

Communicate Short-Term Wins and Long-Term Strategy

With most employees working remotely and the increased speed of decisions and actions, it is vital that you take the time to connect with your team, the report said. “Step back from reacting to the events around you and make sure that you are maintaining and building trust with your team by communicating regularly and with transparency so that they understand what is happening and why,” said Mr. Sarn. “Be clear about the company’s goals and challenges – they may have ideas or suggestions that you may not have thought about.”

It is also important to find ways to make your team feel valued by recognizing, and if appropriate, rewarding ideas, accomplishments and behaviors that help the company during this period. A personal note or phone call goes a long way in helping employees feel appreciated and engaged.

“Communication is one of the most critical competencies for leadership, especially in turbulent times,” Mr. Sarn said. “While you have multiple demands and challenges, you must make regular and meaningful information sharing a priority. If you are not careful, you will become so focused on your goals that you forget the people critical to their successful achievement. When you choose to treat your people as a means to an end rather than a valued member of your team, they will lose their motivation and ultimately their engagement.”

Identify and Invest in Key Talent

“Talent is arguably the single greatest enabler of business strategy and if you have not already done so, now is the time to identify your critical employees,” said Mr. Sarn. “Just as you would not let someone walk off with your financial assets or intellectual property, there needs to be a strategy in place to protect your critical talent from raids or from walking out the door.”

Related: The COVID-19 Impact on Executive Search

Importantly, use this time to invest and retain your key talent. “Schedule regular video calls with them to provide them feedback, offer developmental recommendations and discuss their motivations and engagement,” he said. “These are the employees that are not only important for getting through this crisis, but who will be instrumental to your performance when the market does turnaround. If you do not spend the time engaging and enabling them today, they will be the first ones to leave once the war for talents heats back up. Employees that are motivated, engaged and focused have an exponential impact on the bottom line.”

Coach and Develop All Employees

Mr. Sarn said to coach your team and recommend ways to achieve ongoing development while they are remote. “Effective leaders are relentless in their efforts to help prepare their people to achieve results by empowering them to be both responsible and accountable,” he said. “They inform their people and they stay informed themselves. They are quick to help, quick to coach, to recognize, to say thanks, to cheerlead and to generally promote a positive, winning culture.”

Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic
When The Loring Group opened for business earlier this year, the future looked bright. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Steve Caliger, the firm’s managing partner, talks about how his team is navigating the crisis, its impact on the search industry . . . and a silver lining or two.

“Invest your time planning on how you can help the business and your people be successful versus trying to react to everything, most of which is outside of your control,” Mr. Sarn said. “When things do go wrong, seek first to understand how you may have contributed to the problem.” Then consider how your people may not be living up to their commitments by asking:

  • Are my people holding themselves accountable?
  • Are they actively measuring their performance?
  • Are they focused on our objectives?
  • Have they built and maintained strong relationships to enable success?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, said Mr. Sarn, be a responsive leader by circling back to help your people understand where they failed by providing the appropriate feedback.

Related: Leveraging Existing Response Plans to Tackle COVID-19

“This is an important time to reconnect and reengage with your people,” he said. “Meet with them by video to check in beyond their work – what are their interests and what is important to them. By engaging in meaningful conversation, you learn what is going on with them and how you can encourage, support and possibly support their life goals. By connecting with your people, you get invited to participate in their decisions because they trust and respect you.”

Be Vulnerable and Seek Candor

The best leaders seek feedback from their team and from people who have the courage to tell you what you may not want to hear. “You invested in building a team that provides a diversity of perspectives and experiences to make the business successful, so seek and value their input,” Mr. Sarn said. “Be vulnerable. Listen for themes and then consider how to act on the feedback to be more effective moving forward.”

“While there are a multitude of opinions about when this crisis will end, how the economy will react and what the future hold, one thing that cannot be disputed is that talent is a key differentiator – both in terms of how a company adjusts to the current reality and how it will be prepared to succeed in the future,” he said. “How you lead your team today – how you communicate, provide feedback, seek input and recognize your employees – will have a significant impact on your success tomorrow. Choose to invest the time, it always has a positive return!”

“The most impactful leaders have a strong sense of humility and a willingness to change and adapt based on other’s input and ideas,” Mr. Sarn said. “During one-on-one calls, leaders should ask for feedback from their team. Ask specifically about your ability to recognize the value in others (without feeling threatened), admit when you are wrong, and give credit, recognition and visibility. As you collect feedback from each report, look for themes and decide on actions.”

Related: Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments