Company Culture

Build loyalty through courage and action

Lead with purpose and vision to connect with your stakeholders

COVID-19 is shining a light on business leaders, with the media heralding some as highly effective and others as missing the mark. Meanwhile, the economic downturn is creating immense pressure on businesses so that inspiring people to go above and beyond may be critical for survival. Leading with purpose and a clear vision will help you to connect with your people during this crisis and provide a sense of belonging, while encouraging them to achieve their goals.

Purpose is defined by the Forbes Leadership Forum as inspiring your team to take meaningful action to get your organization moving toward its goals, no matter what. Today, meaningful action doesn't just mean making profit. Organizations such as the US Business Roundtable and the World Economic Forum have championed a movement to expand the purpose of a corporation to serve a broader range of stakeholders. Meaningful action today includes a broader set of activities such as investing in the economic security of employees and other stakeholders.

How can we amplify purpose inside of our organizations?  

Speak to your mission, vision and values  

A crisis can be quite disorienting, as teams adjust to their new normal they can lose sight of their goals. Reminding stakeholders of the higher-level reasons they come to work, such as your mission or values, can help everyone focus on what needs to get done. Stand with your team and advocating for them every step of the way.

Be vulnerable

In a crisis there are so many unknowns so no one has all of the answers. Pretending that you do may come off as unauthentic. It's important to be honest, transparent and available to answer questions. Ask for input and really listen. Keep people informed as the situation evolves. Being vulnerable will increase trust and build confidence in your leadership.  

Show empathy

Coming off as tone-deaf is one of the biggest faux-paus a leader can make during a crisis. Empathize with stakeholders and offer support through a carefully planned set of communications. People notice when you pay attention during the good times and hard times.

One thing you could do is to start each week by checking in with each of your direct reports to see how they are doing. Take the time to show them that you also have a stake in their well being. Send reassuring emails to customers and ask your employees to call their major client lists to show that you care. Keep shareholders informed of your plans and backup plans to mitigate risk. Your community won’t forget how you treated them during the crisis.

Identify risk

Ask your team to help you identify parts of your business ecosystem facing challenges. Is one of your suppliers a small business that is at risk? Are there employees who are struggling as their family life has been badly affected by the crisis? Respond by being as supportive as you can to those affected. It will be remembered well past the crisis by boosting loyalty and company culture.

This is one of the most innovative areas of CSR right now. There is a growing number of ways that companies are supporting stakeholder groups in their time of need. Some have established a fund to provide direct relief to employees affected by COVID-19. Others are funding grants to small businesses that are part of their supply chain. Corporate philanthropy is providing real support, and quickly, to those in need.

Align stakeholders  

Outside of a crisis, it can be difficult to convince shareholders to break the status quo and engage in more purpose-driven activities. However, if a part of the businesses ecosystem is at risk, management may have no choice but to step in. COVID-19 related shutdown has devastated small business and sent unemployment skyrocketing. This is not business as usual so do what you can to offer assistance.

Find ways to help  

According to Harvard Business, a surge of energy occurs in employees during a crisis as they navigate to their way to a new sense of normalcy. Finding ways to positively impact the crisis makes work more meaningful and channels that energy into a wave of creativity. In response to COVID-19, companies have produced essential protective equipment, developed vaccines, and manufactured testing for example. Companies have used their resources to be part of the solution and work towards their goals, which in this case was to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and cultivate a new normal.

Conclusion  

Larry Clark from Harvard Business said, “some say that courage is defined as when purpose overcomes fear. In this way, crisis can create the organizational courage to take actions in support of a purpose that would be unthinkable in times of calm.”

Crises highlight a need that already exists: companies need to structure their day to day around a purpose. The outcome of such action is a constant preventative strategy against crisis. Companies with a strong sense of purpose typically know how to motivate themselves and their peers toward a common goal. Therefore, a crisis will only heighten the sense of urgency that already exists within an organization, improving its ability to produce a successful outcome.