CRISIS COMMUNICATION How to Reassure Your Team When the News Is Scary

HBR article by Allison Shapira

We’ve all had that moment on an airplane where we experience turbulence. Maybe you are rudely awakened by a sudden jolt, or you stand up to use the restroom and have to hold onto the back of someone’s seat. Within a few seconds, the pilot’s voice comes over the intercom. What are you listening for? You are listening for reassurance through the uncertainty of turbulence.

With Covid-19 concerns around the globe, it’s not just the airline industry that is experiencing a sudden lurch on its normal journey. Many business leaders are asking how they can communicate uncertainty both internally to their teams and externally to their clients — whether it’s about participating in an upcoming conference or delivering on a signed proposal. Communicating in the face of uncertainty is a constant leadership challenge.

In addition to working with the airline industry on this topic, my team and I have worked with Fortune 500 companies around the world who need to manage high-stakes communications to multiple audiences simultaneously. Here are five steps we have found to be incredibly effective:

1. Pause and breathe.
Before you start communicating to others, take a minute to pause and breathe. When you are the most senior person in a room, your team takes its cues from you in terms of how to act and how to feel. Taking a minute to center yourself will ensure that you present a calm, rational force to your
colleagues and clients. This applies over the phone or through email as well. When you feel anxiety, you transmit that to others. A study of empathetic stress found that observing others experiencing stress could cause observers to themselves to feel more stressed.
2. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.
In public speaking, knowing your audience in advance is critical. In times of uncertainty, it’s paramount, regardless of the medium. Do a thorough strategic analysis of who you are communicating to. What are their concerns, questions, or interests? What do they need an immediate answer to? You might use language such as, “I know many of you may be thinking…” The quicker you can address what’s on their mind, the quicker you will be able to calm them down. If you are not addressing their most pressing interests, they might not even be listening to you.
3. Do your research.
In times of stress, misinformation can be especially destructive. Seek out credible sources of information, and read the information fully before distilling it into clear, concise language. Share those links with others, so that they too have a credible resource. As a faculty member at Harvard, I
appreciate that the university created a separate webpage with credible sources for more information and that it sends frequent emails with updates.
4. Speak clearly and confidently.
You can speak with confidence even without 100% certainty. You can confidently express doubt or uncertainty, while still sounding like you are in control of the situation. You might say, “Reports are still coming in, but what we understand so far is this…” Communicate frequently with your audience, even without news to report, so that they know you are actively following the issue. Fellow communication expert Nancy Duarte wrote an insightful article on this topic several years ago and said, “People will be more willing to forgive your in-progress ideas if they feel like they’re part of the process.”

5. Have specific next steps.
In times of uncertainty, it’s helpful to provide your team with tangible action items. Discussing your own next steps or recommending next steps to your audience gives them a sense of control so they feel like they are contributing to stabilization. Use language such as, “Here are the steps we are taking” or “Here’s what you can do” to demonstrate action.
Communicating through uncertainty is an essential leadership skill, regardless of whether or not you have a formal leadership role. In fact, the ability to communicate through uncertainty is part of what demonstrates to others your leadership readiness. Use the above steps to first find your own sense of focus and then allow yourself to transmit that reassurance to others.




The Power of Peers in a Pandemic

I serve about 50 CEOS and C-suite executives in peer groups designed to help them grow both personally and professionally.

While under “normal circumstances” we meet as a group once a month and I meet with each member individually, we decided it would make sense to have more frequent check ins with everyone while this was going on.

This is what I’ve seen:

  • I’ve seen members share their best practices so others members employees could be safe in their workplaces.
  • I’ve seen information sharing so everyone could be up to speed about what the loan programs and employee leave requirements really mean and how they really work.
  • I’ve seen members have a safe place to express their fears and concerns with each other.
  • I’ve heard stories of owners “talking employees off a ledge” because they were fearful about the virus, their job, the future and the unknown.
  • I’ve seen more communication, compassionate communication and intentional communication.
  • I’ve seen friends support one another and buy local at lunch for their employees who are still deemed essential.
  • I’ve seen candid conversations with peers who need to be pragmatic in a time when everything seems crazy.
  • I’ve seen business owners who got busier as a result of this, offer to temporarily hire employees of those whose business slowed down significantly.
  • I’ve seen business owners offer up supplies to other companies to help them stay in business and keep their employees safe.
  • I’ve seen relief on members faces who realized they weren’t the only ones going through this AND they weren’t going through it alone.
  • I’ve seen incredible decisions come out of different perspectives and candid observations that made a difference in the future of members companies.
  • I’ve seen owners give raises and bonuses because the work is so crazy, and I’ve seen owners take personal pay cuts so their employees could keep getting paid.
  • I’ve seen powerful relationships get even stronger as these smart successful people navigate this new normal and help each other.
  • I’ve seen an opportunity to take a few minutes with peers, connect, let their guard down and be human so they could get back to leading in a healthy way.
  • I’ve seen commitment to taking care of themselves, each other, their families and their people and reinforcement that they each need to take time to make that happen.
  • I’ve seen human kindness, caring and connection during a time when people can feel isolated, disconnected and alone.

If you feel alone, reach out. Find some peers. Touch base regularly. It can make the difference between struggling through this and thriving through this. I’m honored to be here to help.

Janice HoneycuttChair, CEO Peer Advisory Groups
Vistage Worldwide Chair of Excellence GiANT Worldwide Certified Consultant 

janice.honeycutt@vistagechair.com

Leading with the 4 C’s in the Corona Crisis – Here are the 4 Characteristics from the leaders who are doing it well

Navigating with the Four C’s

Working with CEOs and Business Owners in every industry during this pandemic allows the cream to rise to the top.  Here are The 4 C’s that I See from the leaders who are doing it well:

  1.  Care for yourself.  They would not put this first; they would put taking care of their people first, but they also know if they don’t take care of themselves, they cannot take care of others.  Get enough sleep; pray or meditate; exercise; eat right; drink water; and take breaks. Encourage your people to do the same.  Model it for them.
  2. Communicate.  This cannot be stressed enough.  You need to communicate with your employees, your customers, your vendors and your family.  As humans we fill every void with negative and usually something more negative than reality.  Tell them what is going on, what you are doing, even if it is a tough conversation.  Remind them what they are here for. (Whether “here” is on-site or virtual, the work is still important.) Tell them more than once.  Be the Chief Repeating Officer during this time. 
  3. Compassion.  Sometimes we hunker down, or we power through.  What is your tendency and how is it showing up for those you are leading? Check-in on your people: How are they? What’s going on for them? How can you reassure them? Maybe they just need to be listened to for a minute.  You don’t need to solve their problems. Hearing them out is a huge gift. Acknowledge that this is a scary time for everyone, no matter the paygrade.  We are all in this together. 
  4. Connect.  CEOs who have a network of support weather these storms better than those who go it alone.  Reach out.  Ask for help. 

Remember that our job as leaders is to help everyone around us be successful.  Sustain these priorities as you navigate the new waters we are in.  Stay safe, stay healthy, and lead on! 

I wanted to take a moment to share a few links that I hope add value for you.

Because this information is time sensitive, I wanted to make sure that I get this information out to you today.

Business funding: https://gonm.biz/about-us/covid-19-response/
Employee resources: https://www.newmexico.gov/2020/03/13/nmdws-provides-information-for-new-mexico-workers-affected-by-covid-19/
Data Dashboard: https://www.gohkokhan.com/corona-virus-interactive-dashboard-tweaked/

Interesting article from Credit Today…

The Seven Key Ways Businesses Cook Their Books

Dr. Howard Schilit, who has studied accounting shenanigans for his entire career, says that this chart summarizes every accounting trick he’s ever seen.

One: Recording Revenue Too Soon or of Questionable Quality

  • Recording revenue when future services remain to be provided
  • Recording revenue before shipment or customer’s unconditional acceptance
  • Recording revenue although customer is not obligated to pay
  • Selling to an affiliated party
  • Giving customer something of value as a quid pro quo
  • “Grossing-up” revenue

Two: Recording Bogus Revenue

  • Recording sales lacking economic substance – side agreements
  • Recording cash received from lender as revenue
  • Recording investment income as revenue
  • Recording as revenue supplier rebates tied to future required purchases
  • Release revenue improperly “held back” before a merger

Three: Boosting Income With One-Time Gains

  • Recording gains by selling assets recorded at deflated book value.
  • Including investment income or gains as revenue.
  • Including investment income as reduction in operating expenses.
  • Creating income by reclassification of investment gains.

Four: Shifting Current Period Expenses to a Later or Earlier Period

  • Capitalizing normal operating costs, particularly if recently changed from expensing
  • Changing accounting policies and shifting current expenses to a later period
  • Amortizing costs too slowly
  • Failing to write-down or write-off impaired assets
  • Releasing asset reserves into income

Five: Failing to Record (or Improperly Decreasing) Liabilities

  • Failing to record expenses (and related liabilities) when future obligations remain
  • Reducing liabilities by changing accounting assumptions
  • Releasing questionable liability reserves into income
  • Creating sham rebates
  • Recording revenue when cash is received, yet future obligations remain

Six: Shifting Current Revenue to a Later Period

  • Creating reserves and releasing them into income in a later period
  • Improperly holding back revenue just before an acquisition closes

Seven: Shifting Future Expenses to the Current Period (as a One-Time Charge)

  • Improperly inflate amount included in special charge
  • Improperly write off in-process R&D costs from acquisition
  • Accelerating discretionary expenses into the current period

This HBR article suggests we stop calling it “Innovation”, but is the intent manipulative based on insights as to why employees don’t like it? I’d love your thoughts…

Let me start with the obvious: Innovation is the buzzword. In fact, it has been the buzzword for so long, you could say we’ve developed a cult around it.

Board of Innovation, a global consulting firm, estimates that there are about 70,000 books on innovation available for purchase right now. If you read at a pace of 20 pages per day, it would take you about 2,500 years to go through them all. Looking for a shortcut? A Google search will yield you nearly 2 billion results.  This publication alone offers 4,858 digital articles and 10,192 case studies.

Innovation’s public profile is matched by its priority on the CEO’s agenda. In 2019, 55% of company leaders participating in PWC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey claimed “We are not able to innovate effectively,” which placed that skill gap on top of the list.  The 2020 C-Suite Challenge Report, published by the Conference Board, listed “building an innovative culture” among top-three most pressing internal concerns of 740 CEOs surveyed globally.

Whether in the classroom, the newsroom, or the boardroom, innovation is our global darling.

There is only one problem: We might love innovation. But most of our employees hate it.

I first discovered this dirty little secret shortly after leaving my safe job as a business school professor to start my own consulting business, focusing on, you guessed it, helping companies learn how to innovate.

Here I was, armed with the latest research, all fired-up with ideas for ways to help my first client, a global mining company, become more agile and innovative, only to find myself in the middle of a processing facility face to face with a line manager bluntly asking me: “Are you smoking something at the ExCom!?”

Since then, I’ve heard this same question posed in various ways at some point in every single project on which I’ve worked. Only a few weeks ago at the annual innovation jam of a global consumer goods company, I was told point blank: “For you people, innovation is all that. For us, it’s extra work with no results or —much worse — lost jobs.”

The data bear out these fears.   A research team at the University of Toronto surveyed 1,000 American and Canadian knowledge workers (all employed and with college degrees) to assess their attitudes towards innovation. In addition to measuring “drive to innovate,” the scientist looked into things like “grit” and “openness to risk” across two countries and three age groups (under 35, 35 to 44, and over 45).

While the drive for innovation among participants varied from 14% to 28%, only two of the six different groups measured broke the 25% mark. Willingness to take risk was even more telling: at best, 19% of your company is willing, with some age groups dipping as low as 11%.

And that’s the data for the two of the world’s most innovative countries. What are the rest of us to do?

Here’s a thought: Stop calling it innovation

The Nobel Prize winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has spent more than six decades researching how people make decisions.  His finding?   The “lizard brain” — the primitive part of  that is all about fear, fight and flight — is nearly always in charge of our decisions. So, while you might use the word “innovation” to mean “improvement,” employees are hearing alarm bells ringing “Danger! Danger!” and there’s no time to put a positive spin on it.

Instead of scaring everyone off with the I-word, how about finding language that in your specific context (industry, country) speaks of continuity and benefit?

When engaging internally with employees, Danfoss, a global manufacturing company, has branded its innovation process around the simple, manageable word “idea.”   While not everyone think they can be innovative, nearly everyone has at least one idea. Similarly, Knauf Insulation, a leading construction materials company, puts “Reinvention Days” at the heart of its process, betting on a word that projects continuity and accessibility. Others choose words or phrases for their efforts, programs, and functions that focus on the end benefit to employees, such as simplicity, organizational health, or even just staying in business.

Does it work?

I don’t have formal research to prove this strategy is effective, but I can tell you that, while Danfoss used to spend 18 to 24 months getting from idea to new patent, its very first “24Idea”-branded event generated a patent within 100 days.  Knauf Insulation is doing pretty well also, winning contracts in cutting-edge projects, including the building of a 57-story building in only 19 days in China.

And the mining company that started it all for me? In the past seven years, Eurasian Resources Group has created a new, child-labor free operation in Congo that extracts copper and cobalt from recycled waste. It has gone on to co-chair the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance, uniting more than 70 organizations (including corporate heavy-lifters such as BMW, Volvo, and BASF, plus governments and international organizations, such as Unicef) around disrupting the future of green energy. Innovation? Yes. Yet, inside the company, this is simply part of strategy.

The word “innovation” might speak to your external stakeholders, but when it comes to engaging your employees, it’s time to stop using the word. Whatever term you choose, make it about your audience — not you, your PR department, or the next big Davos announcement. That way, innovation might actually stand a chance.

Article by Nadya Zhexembayeva a former Coca-Cola Chaired Professor of Sustainable Development at IEDC-Bled School of Management, an executive education center in Slovenia, and the Chief Reinvention Officer of WE EXIST Reinvention Agency, a U.S.-based boutique consultancy firm.

5 self-care habits of successful people

myvistage.com/research-center/personal-development/20200203-5-self-care-habits-of-successful-people

“Sometimes I wish I had a moment for myself.” 

Have you felt that recently? 

Busy CEOs are pushed to a high stress level and often feel they lack the time they need to get everything done. Leadership demands hard work, creativity, and long hours, but science shows us that lack of rest and relaxation leads to diminished focus and productivity as well as the likelihood of burnout. 

A growing number of executive leaders and business owners are prioritizing self-care habits. Successful people know that rejuvenation is paramount for maintaining their performance and overall well-being. There are a variety of ways to replenish your energy —it could be 30 minutes of exercise a day, reading for pleasure, spending time outdoors or a meditation practice. 

To get a glimpse into the self-care habits of highly successful people, read on. Below, five business leaders with broad and deep experience in the business world share how they take the time to recharge. 

1. Keep a journal to reflect on your purpose. 

I keep a daily gratitude journal using The Five-Minute Journal from Paper Source. Each day has a page that starts with an inspirational quote. For example, today’s quote is: 

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” GOETHE 

It then asks three questions to be answered as soon as you get out of bed: 

3 things I am grateful for… 3 things that would make today great… Daily affirmations, which is some application of my personal Purpose Statement: “Listening, Learning, Loving, Leading from Abundance.” 

At bedtime, I answer two additional questions: 

3 amazing things that happened today…

How could I have made today even better?

The practice only takes about 5 minutes a day and keeps me connected to my purpose with a positive mindset. As Brené Brown says, “There is no joy without gratitude.” 

Brian Davis, business and talent management leader, Vistage executive coach | Minneapolis, Minnesota 

2. Switch up your activities to enjoy the spice of life. 

My favorite ways to recharge include reading novels and participating in a book club, road biking, skiing, swimming, Pilates, meditation, spending time with family, listening to my favorite music, travel and outdoor hiking. 

I come from a musical family and enjoy a rich variety of genres, including blues, soul and jazz. Some of my favorite artists are Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Laura Nyro, Brandi Carlile and Lake Street Dive. 

I read all kinds of novels and biographies. Lately, I would recommend “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin and “Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin, a Nebula Award- winning science fiction novel exploring a world where we become the other gender on a regular basis. 

Travel is how I grew up. Other cultures remind me of my limited perspective and expand the possibilities of the world. Recently my trip to an Ecuador cloud forest sustainable lodge exposed me to the world of interdependent biodiversity, and it has changed my perspective. All of this makes me more humble as I continue to discover how little I know. 

Jan Salisbury, 30 years as president of Salisbury Consulting, Vistage executive coach | Boise, Idaho

3. Unplug from technology and reconnect with nature. 

Recharging is an important part of my practice. Something that works for me is being in nature, and more specifically, bird watching. To go out with my binoculars and just BE in nature observing our flying friends grounds me like no tomorrow. And just about anywhere is a good spot! 

When I was 11 or 12 years old, a family friend took me out watching birds in our surrounding areas in Holland, and I was hooked. I’ve bird-watched ever since, and I can often be found with my binoculars. 

In California, I was involved in rescuing Hawk Owls and falcons (Ojai Raptor Center) and administering first aid for birds before bringing them to the rehabilitation center. My favorite birds are the raptors, and I love ocean birds and getting on a boat to travel far offshore to watch albatrosses and petrels. In North Carolina, I watch the cardinals, bluebirds and barred owls in our backyard—such a magical place! 

Niels J. Lameijer, former CEO, executive consultant and senate lobbyist in the Netherlands, Vistage executive coach |Chapel Hill, North Carolina 

4. For the mind-body-spirit trifecta, give more time to the needs of the body and spirit. 

I meditate daily and swim laps during our summer months. 

I’ve been in a pool since I was a kid. I always loved the water. I guess being a Pisces helps that. Every day, weather permitting, I will swim 100 lengths of my 30-foot pool. It takes me about 30 to 40 minutes. It is a time when I can burn off energy, get great exercise, and it simply helps me clear my head. I am always re-energized after a swim.

Over the years I’ve tried meditation with simply using some of the smartphone apps. I never thought I was doing it right because I couldn’t focus my mind, like I know many other people report. Because of this monkey mind, I would give up, thinking I was just not meant to meditate. Then I took a course from a local practitioner who allowed me to realize that my overactive brain was not a sign of meditation failure. So I stuck with it. 

I’ve been meditating 15 minutes every morning in total silence for six months. I used to have two or three insomniac nights each week. In the past six months, I’ve had two. Is it because of the meditation? I guess I can’t be 100% positive, but for a very simple investment of time, I am going to stay the course. It gets my day off to a great start. 

Joni S. Naugle, former banking executive and Vistage executive coach | Reading, Pennsylvania 

5. Harness the power of sleep 

Sleep is the cornerstone of how I recharge, and of my health in general. The best way I find to ensure a good night’s sleep is to bookend my night through these three ways: 

“Letting the day out” by disconnecting from all work and electronic devices by 9 p.m. and engaging in other wind-down activities before going to sleep at approximately the same time every night; Aiming to sleep for seven to eight hours; if I wake up in the middle of the night, I use mindfulness techniques or get up and read something (on paper and non-work related); “Letting the day in” through allowing my day to start calmly before it’s overtaken by events and the agendas of others. 

Great sleep can literally transform your life – and it’s free! 

Giles Watkins, Vistage executive coach and speaker, author of Positive Sleep | London, England 





3 Things Good CEOs Do and Don’t Do

by Sam Reese in Small Biz Daily

During every cross country race in college, no matter how far ahead I got, my running coach would scream: “Don’t be content!” I would get frustrated with him. After a race, I once asked him if there was ever a time in life that he’d want me to be content?

“No, never be content,” he said. “Always try to improve.”

That line has stuck with me my whole life. The goal of effective CEOs is to continue to improve day after day and never be comfortable with the status quo for your company or yourself. Here are three quick dos and don’ts for CEOs who are on the path.

Do

  1. Keep everyone energized and committed to the purpose of the company and use that as the fuel that keeps everybody rolling. When you are clear about purpose, it invites every single employee, every customer and every supplier to make sure you’re doing what you said you’d do. And it creates a true north star that’s the foundation of integrity and trust in your business.
  2. Align the team around strategy, culture, organization, results, and execution. It’s important to always stretch people to get the goals you’re after. But you’ve got to make sure employees are equipped with the right tools, resources and plan to get there. And always make sure the organization and culture are where they need to be. If culture isn’t where you need it to be, it won’t matter what your organization looks like. You won’t get the results, and you’ll never execute with precision.
  3. Listen to objective perspectives from people you trust. CEOs sometimes develop confirmation bias and seek the easy places to get answers that validate their points of view. Avoid situations where you listen to people who just tell you what you want to hear. It may make you feel smart and like you have all the right ideas, but it keeps you from seeing important pitfalls or better solutions. Good CEOs listen to contrary beliefs—both inside and outside their companies—so they understand the full picture.

Don’t

  1. Tolerate executives within your organization who take the shortcut to leadership. What I mean by that specifically is people who care more about their own personal credibility than what the company is really trying to accomplish. When things are not going well, some executives will take the path of: “Well, I don’t know what the company is doing, but my team is doing great.” That only develops a counterculture within organizations.
  2. Allow for excuses. Excuses breed failure. By not having excuses, you get creative. You think about ways to manage through challenges, and your goals stay the same. If you start with a list of excuses, the team is going to quit the first time they hit an obstacle. If you don’t have excuses, you can accomplish great things even in tough times and changing markets.
  3. Create multiple stories about performance. It’s dishonest. You’ll end up losing transparency and respect when the truth comes out. You have to just have one story for your team, staff and stakeholders, and the one story has to be the truth.

The more I work with executives and the more I work on my own development as a CEO, these lessons remain true. Being a great CEO isn’t something anyone is born to do, because the challenges of a company, its culture and economic cycles always stay in flux.

It’s a race. Good CEOs are mindful of the health of their team and aware of their competition. They are neither above nor afraid of doing the hard work. They don’t allow themselves to be content. And they always try to improve.

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizations and has advised CEOs and key executive of companies all over the world. To learn how a peer advisory group can help you navigate challenges, make better decisions and achieve growth, visit vistage.com.

Welcome to the New Roaring Twenties!

Welcome to the Roaring 20’s!
Vistage speakers Alan and Brian Beaulieu have ascertained that the 20s will be years of growth economically.  Read this article with data to show why they still believe it.  

By Lauren Saidel-Baker

Happy new year, and welcome to the 2020s! Prepare yourself for a decade of overall economic growth.

If you follow ITR Economics or have heard one of our speakers, you likely already know about our forecast for another Great Depression starting around the year 2030. If you aren’t familiar with this topic, consider reading Prosperity in the Age of Decline, which outlines the causes, scope, and some strategies for withstanding this event. While the book was published in 2014, the key depression drivers cited by coauthors Brian and Alan Beaulieu – our CEO and president, respectively – are more prevalent than ever. Our forecast remains intact.

We have yet to fully quantify the magnitude of decline expected in the coming Great Depression, but it will likely be comparable to that first Great Depression of the 1930s. While this prediction seems dire, there is some good news in the near term. We expect the coming decade of growth – the 2020s – to be somewhat analogous to the 1920s. Welcome to the new Roaring Twenties!

There is an adage, often attributed to Mark Twain: History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

The following graph shows the US Industrial Production Index from 1920 through 1940. The coming decades won’t perfectly parallel this history, but it can serve as a reference.

The 1920s were characterized by overall economic growth, prosperity, and social development. But even the Roaring Twenties did not exhibit straight-line economic rise. In fact, there were three significant recessions in the industrial economy during the decade. We expect the 2020s to be similar: overall growth with some recessions. Expect the industrial economy to contract mildly into mid-2020 and another recession in late 2022 into 2023.

Much like the 1920s, there will be economic ups and downs during the 2020s. Don’t let these regular business cycles distract you from the overall economic rise. If you haven’t already determined how you will take advantage of the opportunities that the 2020s will bring, now is the time. If we can help in this process, please reach out!

Whatever prosperity the 2020s offer, it will be critical to keep the looming Great Depression in sight. Use this decade to position yourself for the downturn. If you own your business and are considering an exit plan, the mid-to-late 2020s may be a good time to sell. At this point, we don’t know exactly when the depression will begin – it could arrive anywhere from a few years before to a few years after 2030. Keep in touch with ITR Economics throughout the Roaring Twenties and be the first to know!

Lauren Saidel-Baker
Economist