Crisis Champions: Create

“Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential.”Said Jeannette Wall, and I tend to agree.

Necessity is indeed the“mother of invention”.

A need or problem encourages creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem. This saying appears in the ‘Dialogue Republic’, by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. So, its nothing new. Yet we still reach for the blunt axe when faced with a crisis.

Taking a moment to consider the consequences. Thinking a little more medium term, looking at our resources, considering options, understanding the changing landscape and appearing opportunities, is how we become successful. It’s where the true pivot comes from. Unlocking creativity in crisis is not a natural response and we have to remind ourselves, and our people, to keep calm and considered, in order to remain creative.

In crisis the marketplace is moving at a staggering rate. Your business...

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Crisis Champions: Conserve


In a crisis situation resources become scare or stretched. With dwindling resources come reduced options. Conservation whilst absolutely required to preserve resources, is as much about reallocation and mindful distribution. Organisations that can make the clarity of priorities early, have more options to preserve resources, more resources to reallocate, and more potential to pivot.

Again it requires some foresight, some thinking and some medium term consideration whilst still acting with urgency. “Every little thing counts in a crisis.” saidNehru. I think that is a wise observation.

Small actions and small amounts of resources applied in the right spot at the right time can yield great fruit.

In the midst of bringing Gloria Jeans Coffees back on track and facing huge pressures on all sides, we found a way to explore some future potential. We partnered with a Franchise Partner and built our first ‘drive thru’. It was a...

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Crisis Champions: Communicate


How and what you communicate in a crisis will very often determine the success or otherwise of your endeavors. It’s that important!

Building trust quickly is essential. You will need people to respond quickly and effectively if you are to move fast enough to react to the crisis unfolding.

Transparency builds trust, and a willingness to be open, vulnerable and authentic goes a long way to building trust.

A wise person said that “the problem with communication is the illusion that its taken place”. Just when you’ve repeated your message yet again, and you’re thinking surely, I can’t need to say this again; it is just starting to land with those who need to hear it. More is better; be succinct and clear yes, but it’s hard to over communicate. What you communicate is also important, be genuine, open and transparent; no secrets, or ‘need to know’ policy, which often becomes weaponised in the hands of power...

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Crisis Champions: Clarify

In the midst of a crisis there is overwhelming pressure, both from within the organisation and from external forces, such as stakeholders and environmental factors.

The key is to generate clarity in uncertainty by holding to a set of agreed priorities.

The opportunity to be distracted by the urgent rather than the important is heightened in a crisis. Beware the noise that comes from someone else’s agenda.

Ensue the organisation is focused on what is truly important, and absolutely foundational, or it will busy itself in the urgent minutia. 

Whatever you do, if it’s going to be effective it has to be simple, super simple. This is not a time for complexity it’s a time for simplicity. You need a clarion call to galvanize an organisation to change its behaviour based on a simple set of imperatives.

The great Kiwi, Sir Peter Blake led Team New Zealand to successive victories in the America's Cup yacht competition in 1995 and 2000. The key to this success was...

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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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