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A good time to be bold - leading through crisis

“Showing that people's ideas really matter and showing how valuable those individuals are to the success of the company is critical,” Lisa Lurie, founding director of Exec Ascend.

Lisa Lurie, founding director Exec Ascend

When I speak with our business customers, many say don’t expect a return to “normal” in a post COVID-19 world. It seems the only certainty COVID-19 brings is uncertainty about the future. As a leader, I’m always thinking about what’s next and what I can do differently. With the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to get stuck thinking about the problems of today when the future is uncertain.


How can we find a way to keep an eye on the future, manage the lack of certainty and get some control back into our businesses?

This podcast series arms business owners with information and insights to help them adapt, evolve and build resilience for the future.


Recently, I caught up with Lisa Lurie, the founding director of Exec Ascend, a leading executive coaching consultancy specialising in leadership development, to discuss what leaders can do to help their businesses during this time.


What sort of business leader are you?


The way business leaders respond during times of change can determine their success.


Lisa believes in times of crisis, two types of business leaders emerge - those who focus on the crisis and tend to be more reactive and tactical, hoping for a swift return to business as usual and those who see the opportunity in uncertainty, who adapt and mobilise their teams around this.


“It's a really tough situation for many businesses right now,” Lisa says. “They are all working in high stress environments. They’re all needing to pivot to remain relevant and needing to draw on a growth mindset as well as focus on the immediate challenges in front of them.”


Radical accountability


For Lisa, business leaders who are a step ahead of their competition are those who demonstrate “radical accountability” for themselves and their teams.


“They’re the people being really proactive; they’re taking lots of initiative, the buck stops with them,” Lisa says. “They’re shortening decision time frames and they're responding in a really bold way.”


According to Lisa, there are three key elements of radical accountability:


1.    Localised decision making that allows individuals and teams to have responsibility and accountability to deliver specific outcomes;

2.    A level of autonomy, freedom and trust for staff to achieve their business goals; and

3.    A connection to the vision and strategy of the company.


Lisa believes business owners need to reveal their thinking to their teams during this time. They need to explain why a particular customer is so critical or why certain tasks need to be expedited.


Leading through uncertainty


One of the signs of a great leader is having an engaged and high-performing team. Google research to discover the secrets of effective teams at their organisation found what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together.


Lisa believes ensuring everyone in the team has an equal chance to talk and has psychological safety within the team where they won’t be embarrassed, rejected or punished for speaking up are important steps to achieving high performance.


Phone meetings are a great way to create an opportunity for everyone on a call to have an opportunity to speak. I know with my own team we go around the virtual table and allow people to say what they think and everyone is welcomed to inject their ideas into the conversation.


Ensuring your team feels safe to share their ideas has strong links to your company culture. If your company culture is built on trust and respect, your team is more likely to feel secure in speaking up.


The way individuals feel can change throughout a time of crisis and Lisa says it’s important for leaders to set an example for how they want their teams to behave.


“Showing that people's ideas really matter and showing how valuable those individuals are to the success of the company is critical,” she says. “Slow down to demonstrate your care and trust in those individuals - it’s also caring about them as people.”


Accelerate customer connections


During times of uncertainty, it’s important to accelerate connections with customers, and not just expect them to be there when circumstances return to whatever ‘normal’ looks like.


Business owners should be regularly talking to their customers and providing them with an opportunity to check in and stay up-to-date.


Lisa says a focus on face-to-face time with key customers, to show them you care about them and are invested in their success will go a long way to strengthening your partnership.


While it may feel like we’re over communicating, Lisa believes it’s important for business leaders to stop and think from their customer’s perspective.


“It's really important that leaders put themselves in their customer's shoes and think about how to support them in a way that's actually sustainable for their business,” she says.


Thinking about the long-term loyalty of customers is something I am passionate about. We have regular communication with our customers and staff – and these conversations are even more important for us during a time where the world’s economic and social landscape is changing so rapidly.


It’s essential that businesses do everything they can to not only survive this crisis, but come out on top. And one way they can do that is to ensure they’re having regular conversations with their staff, their customers and their bank.


Listen to the podcast above to hear the full conversation.


Lisa Lurie is the Founder of Exec Ascend, a leading executive coaching and leadership development consultancy. She has successfully delivered hundreds of executive coaching engagements and executive team programs, drawing on corporate experience gained over 12 years in strategic human resources at organisations including ANZ, BHP and Medibank Private. Her leadership and culture expertise and organisational psychology training enable the delivery of high impact results for her clients. 


You can find out more about Lisa and Exec Ascend via their website at www.execascend.com.au or info@execascend.com.au


For the latest information on COVID-19 visit anz.com/covid-19.


For more stories from ANZ small businesses and how they’re managing COVID-19 visit ANZ News.



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