Crisis Champions: An Introduction


In a time of crisis we all reach for those words of wisdom and experience that have echoed down through time. My intellectual giant of choice is Mike Tyson who said, somewhat aptly in my view; “everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the face.” Crude yes, but that’s what COVID feels like for most of us.

One thing that has become very apparent to us all is that, control is an illusion and our environment a lot less predictable than we like to think. Great leaders help define reality. In this case it’s the impact of COVID, on our individual team members and collective organisation.

For business leaders everything has changed, priorities, focus, and tempo. The environment we operate in is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Yet everything has remained the same. The characteristics of great leadership remain unchanged in a crisis, but the timeframes and impacts become hyper-concentrated. There is a contracting of decisions,...

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People Always Assume the Worst

What is it about bad news?

It sells well, travels fast and seems to catch our attention. Our 24-hour news cycle is unfortunately built on it. Despite all the views to the contrary there is nothing wrong with communication in most companies. All and every staff survey will put communication at the top of things to improve, and yet bad news will get around a team at the speed of gossip.

Organisations leak news and despite all the efforts to maintain secrecy, people inevitably know something about what is going on.

Many leaders endeavor to cloak everything on a ‘need to know’ basis, as if there is a risk of everyone knowing what’s going on. The trouble with this is, people talk and if there is bad news brewing, they will automatically assume the very worst. 

So even if you have dire news, let people know, be transparent, go broad in your reach for ideas and input, and trust your team to handle it well.

Have one plan; make it very open and transparent, super...

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Productivity is a Fruit of Environment

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize [winner] in economics, once wrote: "Productivity is not everything, but in the long run, it is almost everything."

Are you frustrated by how long it takes to get things done? Why is that? What would it take to get higher productivity? We do have a major problem with productivity levels of below 1%, despite all our technological advances. Something is fundamentally wrong, not at the fringes but at the core of how we do leadership, business and run organisations.

Productivity is not an outcome driven by stopwatches and clipboards.

If it were, we would see gains. It’s a product of an engaged environment, created by a leader as its catalyst. The leader encourages and protects the environment, the environment delivers engagement, and engagement produces productivity. Authentic leadership creates an engaging environment that leads to increased productivity.

In today’s business environment, trust in leaders is at an all time low according to...

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Everybody Has An Off Day

People are human, would seem to be self evident; yet do we treat our teams that way? Are they just organic machines? Of course not!

Sometimes as leaders we become so fixed on our goals and KPIs we forget we are hiring flesh and blood, flawed, inconsistent and subject to outside influences. They are not unlike you and I.

Occasionally I wake up and don’t want to do today, it’s not my usual good morning God, it’s more like good God it’s morning. We all have families and relationships that aren’t always perfect; or is it just me.

Build in some grace and some flexibility for your team. Don’t expect 100% performance all the time.

Allow for some ups and downs. Have the conversation when it’s not going well, not from a ‘you should’ perspective but from a ‘how can we help’ stance. Who knows what others are going through?

Asking the question may help rescue a wonderful employee who is going through the mill, and just...

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No Innovation, No Business

The marketplace is moving at a staggering rate, digital disruption is everywhere. Your business model is under duress regardless of your industry. Business models used to fail every ten to twenty years now it’s every three to four years; sometimes less. Recently Spotify disrupted iTunes, the iconic disruptor of the music industry. “No innovation no business!”

To move fast enough organisations and their leadership have to be inherently agile, encouraging innovation to be in their DNA. Only in agility and innovation is there the likelihood of sustainability. If you don’t innovate, you die. Look at Nokia, absolute global dominance gone in less than a decade. They ignored the smartphone revolution and became irrelevant very quickly. Their response was to defend the status quo. This is a very natural reaction. Defend what you know, but now we have to embrace what will kill us.

The scale and speed of the digital revolution means we are all being disrupted,...

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The Axe Is Not Your Friend


Cutting costs is a simple way to improve profitability, in theory at least. However in the real world of a dynamic marketplace, imperfect people, unforeseen circumstances, collateral damage and unintended consequences, the spreadsheet seems to lie.

No one has ever cut their way to sustainable profitability. Then when the result isn’t met, a new round of cost cutting and the inevitable and perennial restructuring continues. The axe is not your friend.

How do we overcome this somewhat inevitable cycle?

Get more than the accountants on the job. The pure financial perspective is still only one view, albeit important. Whilst keeping costs flexible and under control is an important factor; investing in people, future capabilities, and bolstering your value proposition through innovation and service, are what will ultimately grow your business.

So it’s not “either or” it’s “both and”; now and the future, costs and investments, people and...

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Being Busy Is Not Good

I want to challenge a cultural phenomenon; when asked how we are, especially in a work or business context, our positive response is that we’re busy. Now whilst the complete opposite of that is a problem, being busy may not be our most effective state. Being busy is not necessarily good.

Recently the World Health Organisation added burnout to its official list of diseases. The term was first applied as a psychological diagnosis in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger. Which is a splendid name.

According to the W.H.O, “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; feelings of distance, negativity or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy. If you’re too busy for too long, this is you!

So how can we get out of our busy cycle and create an environment around us that is more effective...

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Slow Down To Speed Up

Do you feel like you are always working working working, with little or underwhelming fruit?

Does your workday leave you feeling tired, ineffective and unfulfilled? This is actually very common in leaders and their teams.

Sometimes we have to slow down to speed up; and build some white space into our hectic schedules.

We are not wired for a sprint; we’re built for a marathon. Like all good runners we have to pace ourselves if we want to win. As the great piece of racing advice says, “to finish first, first you have to finish”.

There is a very good physical reason for this. Our physiology is built so that under stress we operate closer to the ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain, further done the brain stem. We stop operating effectively in the frontal cortex, where our ideas, creativity and higher thoughts are active. This is why we have great ideas and an almost constant stream of schemes and dreams, once we’ve relaxed on holiday. Or that good...

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Control Is An Illusion

I mentor and train a lot of leaders, a number note that their teams don’t take responsibility, won’t make decisions and don’t think for themselves. Often this frustration is driven from a desire to control them?

“I love to be micro-managed,” said no one ever. Whether we like it or not, control is an illusion. Even if we think all is under control, it seldom is. In a hyper-controlled environment fear is the prevailing emotion.

Fear dominates and paralyses. In fear you loose all innovation, free thought and entrepreneurial passion. If we want to have a committed team we have to relinquish an overt desire to control.

Daniel Pink, talks about three areas that drive engagement, and in my view therefore productivity. Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. If we create the environment where these develop in our teams then we will be amazed at the outcome.

We all want to be good at what we do; grow our talents and exercise our abilities, it’s part of what...

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Overcoming Politics

If you’re part of any organisation, well, any organization that I know, then politics is, you know what?

It’s kind of part of the game and the larger the organisation, the more politics that can occur. But even in small teams, it can be a little nitpicking, politics, little things going on all the time that can be really disruptive to having a great culture and people being open and transparent and politics can really cut across what it is that you’re trying to achieve as a leader, as you build a great team.

There’s a number of ways you can deal with it and, for me, the first thing is don’t engage in it yourself.

Demonstrate a way of doing things that’s not aligned with a political mindset.

If people see you stabbing them in the back or stabbing other people in the back or gossiping or running down the company or talking about your superiors in a way that’s undermining them, then they’re gonna take that as acceptable...

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