19 March 2020 | 26 Comments
When times get tough, how do you take care of your employees, customers, family/friends, contractors, yourself, and others? Great leaders are often defined by how they respond in a crisis.
Yesterday I watched a short video on CNN featuring Top Chef producer Tom Colicchio. I generally agree with Tom, but I was dismayed by these two sentences: “In the last couple days I laid off 300 people [at my restaurants]. What we need right now is leadership.”
Colicchio goes on to criticize the Trump administrative (justifiably) and urges them to act (absolutely!). Yet he talks about leadership as if it’s a distant, political concept even though he’s a leader himself. He owns numerous restaurants that have hundreds of employees, and he produces a TV show that also has a large staff. (Update: Just to clarify, I’m not criticizing Colicchio for making difficult decisions, and it actually benefits his staff to be able to apply for unemployment. I just found it odd that his perspective on leadership was only outward, not inward.)
So today I thought I’d list a few characteristics to consider if you’re looking to boost your leadership skills in this–or any–crisis. This is just as much a reminder to me as it is a post for you.
- Take care of your employees’ livelihoods. There are a lot of people–particularly in the service industry–who are suffering right now. If they work for you, now is the time to show them how much they mean to you. For example, The Peached Tortilla in Austin is offer family meal deliveries, with 100% of the proceeds going to their staff. Numerous athletes are paying for the wages of the stadium workers at their home arenas. I understand that businesses need to make tough decisions, but great leaders don’t give up on the people who make their businesses function. This includes independent contractors.
- Protect your employees’ health. I think this is always important, but it’s particularly evident now. Thousands of businesses are enabling their employees to work from home. Others are switching to models (like delivery and curbside pickup) to keep their employees and customers healthy. Yet some companies that could offer such services–like CVS, could go drive-thru only for a while and is somehow choosing not to. “Health” extends beyond physical health–an employee’s emotional and psychological needs are important too.
- Bring joy to your customers. This is always the goal of Stonemaier Games, but it’s even more important when the whole world is stressed out. I sensed this during yesterday’s Facebook livestream, and I think it’s awesome that people like James Hudson are offering special live content to people during this time. I’ve seen the same from celebrities who are offering free online classes, concerts, conventions, and tournaments.
- Identify your clients’ needs. In times of crisis, clients may have a different view of what’s necessary. A great leader is proactive in identifying those needs and pivoting to meet them. I’ve seen this from stores like Labyrinth Games & Puzzles that are offering home deliveries, and other retailers–seeing that peoples’ budgets are constricting–are offering sales on various products.
- Act ethically and morally. It’s a human reaction to act irrationally when you feel desperate. This is an opportunity for leaders to display core principles and values. Amazon, for example, is enforcing their warning to third-party sellers about price gouging on basic necessities on their platform.
- Be present, informative, and accountable. I appreciate President Trump for showing up on TV every day with his team to provide status updates and answer questions. However, it’s crucially important in times of crisis to provide accurate information (crowdfunders can do this via project updates) and be accountable. There’s nothing that makes a leader look more unreliable in a time of crisis than one who blames others and avoids taking responsibility. Being accountable is a sign of strength, not weakness. A great leader says, “I’m accountable, and I’ll make it right. Here’s exactly how.”
- Act with intention towards friends and family. When I was a kid and I saw my mom and dad holding hands, their relationship made me feel safe and secure. Heck, I still feel that way as an adult when I see them together. Displaying your love, gratitude, and availability to family and friends shows them and others how you value lasting commitments.
- Take care of yourself. Physically, intellectually, emotionally, etc. Leaders are just as attuned to their own needs as those of the people around them. Simon Sinek talks about how leaders eat last, which I think is an excellent mantra–but you still gotta eat or you won’t be around to lead much longer.
- Put your money where your mouth is, locally and globally. Great leaders don’t just say what they want or how they want people to act–they open their wallets. If you love a local restaurant and want them to be around after the crisis is averted, order a delivered meal from them tonight or buy a gift card for you to use later. If you want the stock market to stop crashing, stop selling your stocks. You have control over your footprint.
- Actively work towards a better future. Great leaders plan ahead for the worst-case scenario, though it’s rare they actually need to face it. Now the worst-case scenario for many businesses is no longer a hypothetical situation. This is the time to learn firsthand what you need to do to be ready for a better, secure, sustainable future.
What are some recent examples you’ve seen of exemplary leadership in this crisis?
- Some Thoughts on the Economic Impact of the Coronavirus on Tabletop Games, Crowdfunding, Entrepreneurs, and More
- Kickstarter Lesson #98: Creation Is Leadership
- Kickstarter Lesson #156: 3 Tenets of Crowdfunding Leadership
If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!