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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