“What we do today, will define us tomorrow”
The corona virus pandemic is a very tough human tragedy. In a short time, it paralysed the world, shutting down borders, sending significant swings in the markets, straining all supply chains and leaving people with uncertainty about their future. With such uncertainty, companies are naturally concerned about the impact on their financial performance in the short and long term. On the other hand, employees are also not sure to what degree their own families will be impacted and how long that impact will last?
During this time of doubt, employees are expecting and hoping that company leaders take actions that protect both themselves and the business. This is the time where the quality and caliber of leadership is tested, and the bold actions taken during this time of crisis will long be remembered after this is all over.
As I reflected on own experience over the last 28 years leading organizations through 2 gulf wars, several political and civil unrests in Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Pakistan and Nigeria and managing through the 2008 economic crisis, I would like to share few leadership behaviours and actions that were critical in navigating these tough times.
As a leader, I learned that communicating openly and honestly, and listening to the organisation heartbeat were paramount to help lead through these crises. Town hall meeting and round table discussions were very frequent. Those events allowed me to share the why and how behind my decisions and created venues to know what is going on in the minds and hearts of the people. This also allowed me to understand the emotional, psychological and physical impacts that people were going through. My priority was to always ensure that people worked safely and felt financially secure, if possible. If pay and bonus cuts were necessary, they were executed starting from the top-down.
Developing financial models and strategies with recession and post-recession proved to be necessary to ensure survival during and after each crisis. Working on talent development and having the resources required to drive innovation and turn-around plans proved pivotal to fast recovery.
Over the span of my career, I lived and managed through several lockdowns due to war, daunting security scenarios and unpredictable personal safety risks. In all these situations, I was blessed to have the needed bravery and the strong mentality to stick around the troops I am leading. My daily routine was to keep reminding people to focus on what they can control during the tough times. Being worried and uncertain understandable, but while a certain amount of worry is normal, I encouraged individuals to reach out and seek help from a mentor or a friend when overwhelmed. Outside work, I dedicated quality time with mid-level and senior leaders to provide one-on-one coaching sessions and get to know them better on a personal level.
A final note, experience taught me that navigating tough times brings the best in people and unites them toward a greater good. The sense of connection, camaraderie, care and willingness to extend a helping hand were astonishing. I think those qualities were critical to preserve one’s sense of well-being and one’s ability to cope and adapt in crisis.
The crisis and pandemic will pass. What is crucial to remember, as leaders, is that “what we do today…will define us tomorrow.”
About the Author
Jihad Tadros is a high-profile executive with over 28 years of experience working for multi-national and regional companies in multi-cultural environments spanning to 10 countries in the Middle East, and Africa. His rich exposure, strong business intellect, sharp strategic insight, well-rounded business, operational and financial acumen and expertise in building relationships, brought powered leadership to driving high value revenue and profits gains in difficult and challenging environments and countries.
Jihad is a speaker, a management trainer and a business and operational turnaround expert dedicated to helping enterprises attain their mission-critical results through leveraging human capital and systems.
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