5.28.20 “As the fog of this crisis begins to dissipate, we have to balance how we react and rebound with how we reimagine new products, new models and new ways of serving customers in a post-Covid environment. I believe the most important thing a leader can do is to lift your head and look forward. Life and work feel different now. We need to create new and interesting ways of doing things for our employees, customers and society at large. That will be what makes the difference moving forward.”
Tami Erwin, CEO, Verizon Business
5.27.20 “Stay true to your purpose and why you exist but don’t be afraid to pivot. Be decisive. Now more than ever testing new things in new ways will give you instant and sometimes surprising feedback from all of your stakeholders – investors, partners, audience members, consumers and team. Knowledge and insights are key, so stay connected with your network, sound them out and listen to their perspectives and thoughts. It’s these insights that have helped Worth move quickly to a new set of products, programming and content ideas for our community. Most of all leading through this crisis has required and reminded me to be compassionate, courageous and stay curious.”
Juliet Scott-Croxford, CEO, Worth Media
5.26.20 “It’s easy during crisis to take a short-term view, but now CEOs need to take the long perspective. It is essential to support your employees, and by that I mean the blue-collar workers, by training them, communicating and keeping their morale high. As for aligning leadership, you may never get everyone on the same page, so you have to work with those who agree and build a plan together. The keys to being a strong CEO during crisis times are stamina, discipline and bravery.”
Pehr Gyllenhammar, former 24-year CEO, Volvo
5.22.20 “My biggest recommendation: stay true to who you are – as a leader, and as an organization. For SAS, this means taking care of our people. SAS was founded on the principle of treating people like they matter. We cultivate this behavior; we lead to our values. And, as a result, we have a global workforce of the most talented problem-solvers whose nature is to help and treat customers, partners, colleagues and communities like they matter.”
Dr. James Goodnight, Co-Founder, Chairman, President, & CEO, SAS
5.18.20 “Life is not full of ‘high five’ moments. In fact, the real test of leaders is not how they respond to success, but rather how they respond to setbacks, mistakes, and adversity. As a British officer observed some decades ago, ‘Don’t tell me how high the guy jumped, tell me how high he jumped back after getting knocked down.’ Members of one’s organization make mistakes, some significant. Leaders themselves come up short and exhibit faults. Circumstances present challenges – as certainly is the case in unprecedented fashion with the ongoing pandemic. And the question is how the leader responds. Does he or she guide the workforce in responding resolutely, determining the new big ideas in an inclusive, open, and iterative manner, communicating the big ideas relentlessly throughout the breadth and depth of the organization, overseeing the execution of the big ideas with skill and energy and resolve, and determining thoughtfully how to refine the big ideas in order to do it all over again? If so, the organization will answer the challenge impressively, adapt appropriately, and, in the end, not just survive, but succeed.”
General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, and former Director of the CIA
5.15.20 “To lead a company, especially in a time of unprecedented global crisis, I find we are laser-focused on our purpose. We know the how, what and why we exist. The team and I have never communicated better. Through great communication, we’re learning, we’re adapting, we’ve become more nimble, efficient and effective.”
Mark Del Rosso, President & CEO, Genesis Motor North America
5.6.20 “In a crisis, it’s easy to panic and throw out your game plan. My advice is to avoid that temptation. As the COVID-19 outbreak became real, our leadership team turned to the guiding principles we established years ago. While we’ve shifted priorities, adhering to these principles helps us remain disciplined and gives us a framework for decision-making. As a result, our franchise partners and team members understand and embrace the actions we are taking. A&W is weathering the crisis well because of that. I believe we will emerge an even stronger organization.”
Kevin Bazner, President & CEO, A&W Restaurants
5.5.20 “The COVID-19 pandemic has really brought home the value of knowing our purpose as an organization. When I first joined MassMutual more than 30 years ago, I don’t think I fully appreciated what it meant to be purpose-driven, even though we have been since our 31 founders pooled $100,000 to start the company in 1851. Every year in this role, I’m grateful to have such clarity about why we exist – to help people secure their futures and protect the ones they love – but never more so than now. Since the crisis began, we’ve made a number of decisions backed by this purpose – decisions like moving quickly to working from home, using technology to connect customers with their trusted financial professionals, and talking to our managers about leading with empathy as people balance work and personal obligations. There’s no universal playbook for organizations to follow right now – we each have parts to play, and if you know your purpose, it’s much easier to determine what you are best positioned to contribute in difficult times.”
Roger Crandall, Chairman, President & CEO, MassMutual
5.4.20 “I would recommend that any time a company faces a tough decision or challenging situation, write down the principles that will be the foundation for the road ahead. These principles should be rooted in the company’s purpose and used as a litmus test on any decisions that are made. This empowers your team to make decisions in an agile way without always coming back to the CEO. If there is any doubt on potential actions to be taken, lean on your principles and the answer will be clear.”
Tom Polen, CEO and President, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company)
4.30.20 “At the American Heart Association, we have dedicated our life’s work to the health and well-being of people and take seriously our responsibility to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath. Millions of people are counting on us for science-based information and answers, research that gets to the core of big unanswered questions, resources for the frontlines, community programs and patient support. While there’s no denying the complexity of managing through crisis, leaders can find clarity by testing every decision against touchstones that define their culture. I’m incredibly humbled to witness the collective influence of 40 million AHA volunteers, supporters, staff and communities come together with resilience and focus to hero our mission as a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.”
Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association
4.24.20 “The best indicator of how you will succeed leading through this crisis is how you led before the crisis. If you built trust and a strong culture over the years then you can now draw upon that reservoir. Communication is key. In a time of crisis there is no such thing as too much communication. Reach out to all of your stakeholders and when you think you have done enough then start all over. Your stakeholders need to hear from you and most importantly you need to hear from them. Focus on the long term. Ignore the daily fluctuations in the markets, the noise from Washington, and the breaking news on cable news. Look to the future. Know where you want to be in two or three years and set your strategy on how to get there”
Mehran Assadi, Chairman, CEO & President, National Life Group
4.23.20 “I have put a quote on my wall to motivate me when I get frustrated at the current state of affairs, “Take action. Embrace uncertainty. Create the future.” When dealing with uncertainty like our current times: 1. Act. By taking a small step toward your goal. Then pause to see what you have learned. 2. Learn. Incorporate that learning into a game plan for achieving your goal. 3. Reflect. On that learning to calculate your next move. 4. Take the next step. Pause and reflect and then take another small step … The bottom line is, this cycle continues and repeats until you have succeeded or decided there is another more appealing opportunity to pursue. And especially in challenging times like these, leadership and action is the key — I believe a failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it.”
Len Green, Chairman & Founder, The Green Group CPAs; Top-selling author, The Entrepreneur’s Playbook, Babson Professor
4.20.20 “The best thing we can do as leaders right now is to put humanity above the almighty dollar. For Gold’s Gym, that meant making the difficult decision last month to temporarily shut down operations of all company-owned gyms due to COVID-19. While this puts a strain on our business, I knew it was essential that we put the health and safety of our customers and employees at the forefront. We can’t control how these events will turn out, or when this will all come to an end, but we are confident that “this too shall pass.” And in the meantime, I’m working around the clock with my team to come up with alternative ways to serve our members from the safety of their homes, and to simultaneously keep the spirits of my team up. Consistent communication with all parties – our members, our franchisees, our corporate team – has been a key piece in reassuring everyone that all initiatives put in place during this time of uncertainty are designed with the greater good in mind.”
Adam Zeitsiff, President & CEO, Gold’s Gym
4.17.20 “Pets now, more than ever, are here for us – providing much-needed companionship and comfort during this time of uncertainty – and it’s essential that we’re here for them. At Banfield Pet Hospital, this means remaining agile and finding new ways to empower our veterinary teams with the information they need so they can focus on delivering essential, high-quality care to the pets that rely on us.
As we continue to prioritize maintaining a safe and healthy environment for our people and everyone who comes through our doors, it’s more important than ever that we use new, creative ways of communicating with associates while providing outlets that empower them to voice their questions, concerns and offer real-time feedback. To facilitate dialogue with our dispersed workforce of more than 19,000 associates across the U.S., I’ve implemented regular video virtual town hall meetings while continuing to actively engage with associates on social media – in addition to providing daily practice-wide updates with the latest information and guidance. As we face this global pandemic, open, honest and consistent communication with our teams is paramount, and we will continue to move quickly and explore every option possible to ensure that our associates feel heard and supported.”
Brian Garish, President, Banfield Pet Hospital
4.16.20 “Leadership is hard to define but easy to spot, especially during times of crisis. During this crisis, it is important to communicate frequently with confidence and a calming tone – be there to listen, as much as to lead. A leader’s legacy will be defined by how they respond to the toughest challenges and I can’t think of anything more challenging than what the world faces today. ”
Dan Berta – President, Fairfield County Bank
4.14.20 “In tough times, leadership matters. Character and courage are at the heart of that; it is the most challenging times when character is revealed. Courage is not the absence of fear, but overcoming fear; a leader has to have the courage to see the truth, speak the truth and act on the truth.”
4.13.20 “Transparency and leadership are of utmost importance as we navigate through this unprecedented time. Employees are desperately searching for answers, guidance and support. As leaders, it is our responsibility to provide them with the answers they not only are looking for but deserve. As we navigate through this pandemic, it is my number one priority to protect staff and patients while also doing everything to alleviate the strain on our NYC healthcare system. We are laser focused on using all available capacity across our system to fight this battle. HSS is known for our resiliency and working together to deliver world-class care. It is important to find the positive in a tumultuous time and rise to the challenge.”
Louis A. Shapiro, President and CEO, HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery
4.10.20 “We have been forced into a work-from-home experiment at a scale far too large for comfort. But it has worked surprisingly well. Videoconferencing has made knowledge workers productive, but IOT and AR technologies have stolen the show for those who work in the real world of factories, plants, and worksites. IOT enables the remote monitoring and optimization of equipment and processes, while AR has enabled remote training and support of front-line workers. Just like videoconferencing vendors, PTC experienced a 10-fold increase in AR-based remote support customer traffic in the month of March. The Genie won’t go back in the bottle after the crisis passes, the days of a distributed workforce is here to stay.”
James E. Heppelmann, President & CEO, PTC
4.9.20 “The coronavirus crisis brought into focus our core business: Partnering with patients. The strain on our country’s already fragile drug supply chain is leaving people struggling to fill their prescriptions. To solve this, our team programmatically developed a supply-chain protocol to locate or source medications across our pharmacy network, ensuring people can access the drugs they need. In parallel, we are advocating for a stronger domestic drug supply chain that can be mobilized when necessary.”
AJ Loiacono, CEO, CapitalRX, a prescription drug supply chain logistics company.
4.8.20 “Our country is experiencing an unprecedented crisis. As leaders, it is crucial that we acknowledge the fear and stress it imposes on our workforce and the communities we serve. At EmblemHealth, we organized early to be a trusted source for comprehensive information about this disease. We committed early on to moving our thousands of non-patient facing employees to the safety of their homes. We also have helped our employees adjust to this new normal with information about how to work in a digital environment and how to deal with the stress of working at home while caring for children and elderly relatives.
And for our members, we went to work quickly to ensure that they had the prescription drugs they needed, expanded access to telehealth services, and directions on where to find testing for COVID-19. We are also continuing to partner with our hospital and physician partners to do everything we can to meet this crisis head on. We will take all the steps necessary to bring our members, associates and partners through this crisis.”
Karen Ignagni, President & CEO EmblemHealth
4.6.20 “I am a Churchill devote and he said a lot but the one I look to these days is ….never give in, never give in, never, never, never… ….so we just have to let it run its course .”
Alan B. Miller, Chairman & CEO, Universal Health Services, Inc.
4.2.20 “At this moment, CEOs are living through a difficult and different time. Yet, today, there are different opportunities and we must take advantage of them. Opportunities are there, and it is up to us to reinvent ourselves and our work. This is not the most difficult time our country has seen. Today, all kinds of digital and virtual avenues of communication bring us together that were previously nonexistent. We have community organizations and community leaders who are moving together. We are energized by the example of those who are assisting others in the wake of this virus, by the leadership in the medical and scientific fields. Those “on the front lines” leading the way to resolve the conflict at hand, and by the courage of people and organizations who have pivoted — tailors who are now crafting masks, breweries who are now making hand sanitizer. Quality, character, courage, and “beyond the call” describe those who respond to these unexpected national pandemics.”
Frances Hesselbein, CEO, The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum (* Note – Frances is 104 years old and the only active CEO I know who was actually alive during the 1918 Influenza pandemic!)
4.1.20 “Napoleon said that a leader’s role is to define reality and provide hope. Well, the reality of this situation and the situation of societies at large is this is an unprecedented set of circumstances that civilization has not had to encounter in the last 100 years. And while things have been difficult over the last few weeks, I’m confident that things are going to get more difficult before they get better. As a leader my mission is to ensure the wellbeing of our company, our employees, and to ensure that we come out of these events stronger and more viable than ever before. As always, we will be guided by our values. To do the right thing the right way.”
Marc Lautenbach, President and CEO, Pitney Bowes
3.31.20 “Clearly convey your expectations, be visible, listen closely and control the narrative. As you work through the immediate issues of this crisis, think if you were to look back two weeks from now on the decisions you made today. Would you regret them or done things differently? That’s how we’re making some of the most important and hardest decisions we will ever face here at Hartford HealthCare. Lastly, take care of yourself so you can take care of others – and be a role model for your team so they, too, will delegate and empower others. Together, we will get through this.”
Jeffrey Flaks, President & CEO, Hartford HealthCare
3.30.20 “This pandemic could become the “tipping point” for our country moving from shareholder-driven to stakeholder-driven capitalism, as how a company supports its people, customers and communities has never been more important or evident. There are so many great initiatives that CEO’s and their companies are taking. The Just Capital Covid 19 Response Tracker http://www.justcapital.com/ provides many inspiring examples . It makes me optimistic of how American capitalism will emerge from this crisis.”
Dan Hesse, Former CEO, Sprint
3.27.20 “With the current health crisis changing norms, work-life balance is no longer a binary concept, but one that has evolved into a challenging confluence of needs between work, home, and family, all under one roof. As a leader in this new paradigm, it’s important to provide employees with flexibility in how and when their work gets done, and trust and empower them to find the right life balance in these trying times.” James Parker, CEO, Masergy
3.26.20 “In my fifty-year career, I’ve experienced and led companies through many crises, from weather events that destroyed facilities to plane crashes that killed employees, but none of them comes close to the intensity and existential threat of the current crisis, the Coronavirus COVID-19.
However, I learned a lot from those previous disasters and the lessons I learned apply to this one, big time.
1. Engage in Non-Stop Communication
I’m a self-confessed communications freak (many people have confirmed my diagnosis) and a crisis is no time to cut back on communications. Information is power and must be shared, so that people can make good decisions for themselves and for their organizations. Without solid information, people will make up their own, listen to rumors, hope for the best, or imagine the worst. So leaders have to be open, share what they know, respond to questions, reveal what they don’t know, admit when they’ve gotten something wrong. I’m encouraged that so many business leaders are doing just that. In this environment, it’s essential that leaders share information with other company leaders, with government organizations, with the media, and most importantly, with all the constituencies involved in their enterprise including employees, franchisees, financiers, suppliers, partners, and others. Don’t ignore any constituency!
2. Imagine the Post-Crisis Future
I believe in the “power of anticipation.” I learned the importance of envisioning the future and acting on it the hard way from my time at Blockbuster. We could glimpse the future (more video streaming, less physical media) but were not able to take action on what we saw ahead. So, as dire as things are and as focused as you are on getting through the current moment, now is also the time to think about what happens on the other side. The crisis will come to an end, how and when we don’t know, but it will. What will the new normal look like? What things will have changed? What strategies will be obsolete? What opportunities might arise? Who might your competitors be? What have you learned about your organization’s strengths that can be leveraged? How have your employees and customers responded? The food industry, for example, has already seen how important “contact-less” food delivery is to people and expect it will be part of the new normal. Advance Auto Parts, seeing a sharp decline in new car sales, sees opportunity in supplying parts and services for older vehicles.
3. Develop Multiple Sources throughout Your Supply Chain
Never before have we heard so much talk about the supply chain and how important it is for companies and countries to have multiple sources of key products and materials, especially ones that are essential to weathering a crisis. One friend of mine, anticipating problems with his company’s suppliers in China, moved to different sources, all based in Italy. I don’t need to tell you how that worked out. The lesson is that we should always have multiple sources for our ingredients and supplies, and we need to set them up during normal times so they’re ready to come on line when disaster strikes.
4. Be Kind
During a prolonged crisis like this one, people are vulnerable and concerned. Many face furloughs or the loss of jobs, reduced income, uncertain futures, illness. The lucky ones, like me, can successfully work from home. Many people are even discovering unexpected pleasures in the midst of the gloom. We are learning the beauty of “distant socializing,” for example. People are talking more often on WhatsApp or sharing a glass of wine with friends on Zoom. But let’s not forget that many people are suffering badly. Organized charities and philanthropies need support more than ever. My wife, for example, chairs the Greater Boston Food Bank and they have embarked on an unscheduled fund-raising campaign to meet the expected spike in demand for services. We can also engage in more individual acts of support. For example, I know many people who are “pre-paying” their independent service providers and gig workers—such as hair stylists, yoga teachers, house cleaners, lawn-mowers, task handypeople—so they have some income to help them through the worst. The human instinct is to protect ourselves and our families first, but in times like these we have to take care of each other.
So, to get through this as successfully as possible, I encourage you to keep your eye on the big issues: keep people informed about the present, imagine the possibilities of the future, ready the supply chain for the next disaster, and help others as much as you can.
Nigel Travis, Chairman, Dunkin’ Brands
3.25.20 “Ask yourself, will your business survive a 50% drop in revenue over the next 90 days? If yes, track new information and evaluate weekly. If unsure, build a forecast asap. If no, attack costs.
If more than 80% of costs are people costs, reduce people costs: a) shift some employees to part time; b) defer salaries / bonuses; c) reduce staff; and d) cut travel. If you are unsure about people costs as a percentage, build a forecast asap.
If people are less than 80% of costs, reduce other operating costs: a) negotiate payment terms; b) evaluate all discretionary expenses; c) cut vendors / services; d) reduce inventory; then e) review possibility of reducing people costs.”
Scott Case, CEO, Upside; Founding CTO Priceline
3.24.20 “It is critical that we are incredibly diligent about cleaning and sanitizing our facilities constantly throughout the day as well as reminding our employees to maintain adequate social distancing. We have professional cleaners sanitizing all surfaces in our building multiple times a day. We’re utilizing virtual meeting technology for most of our meetings and staggering the number of employees in the building and in common areas. Our list of protective measures grows daily, and we are constantly asking ourselves what else we can do to keep our employees and their families healthy and safe. These are unprecedented times that require unprecedented measures.”
Cindi Bigelow, President & CEO, Bigelow Tea
3.23.20 “Leadership is of utmost importance now. People are looking for it. You should address all employees in a calm but direct manor. Lay out your guidelines and remind them we will get thru this and we are all here for each other. This is not the first and won’t be the last crisis we as Americans have gone through. United we are strong and will get through this.”
Dottie Herman, CEO, Douglas Elliman
3.19.20 “Older people are about twice as likely as younger, healthier people to develop serious outcomes from COVID-19. Many are more reliant on caregivers, friends and family to help them get the food, supplies and medicines they need. In addition to the medical risks, they also face significant social and economic risks from isolation and scam artists who use times like these to steal money or sensitive personal information. We must all go the extra mile to help our most vulnerable citizens feel a sense of security. We’re all in this together.”
Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO, AARP
3.18.20 “In the face of this pandemic, leaders of all organizations must, first and foremost, evidence a deep, abiding, and unmistakable concern for the well being of their associates. If they do not evidence that they genuinely “care” about the interests of the associates in a palpable way, it is hard to believe that the associates will “care” enough about the leaders agenda to fully help bring it to life. In that sense, “caring” is the cost of admission to the leadership game.”
Douglas R. Conant; Former CEO Campbell Soup Company