“In crises, the most daring course is often safest.”
Dr. Henry Kissinger, American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant
The clarity of one’s reason for being makes for a steadfast pole, especially in times of change and ambiguity, helping us to weather economic and personal ups and downs that life throws at us. In this sense, Purpose becomes a very reliable core during tormented times. It provides a source of certainty in the midst of uncertainty.
It helps to recall that the still point of our spinning planet is the North Star. That gleaming object that the rest of the heavens appear to move around. Steadfast, in the same location every night from dusk to dawn, neither rising nor setting, providing unwavering guidance when we look to the skies – and perhaps beyond. So then, what should we look out for to successfully navigate choppy times for our businesses, brands and our teams?
Unless you just drive for the fun of it, you will very likely have a destination to reach in mind. Imagine you take a wrong turn, then your GPS simply says: “Recalculating Route”. Your GPS doesn’t turn off or cancel your route. It simply says ‘recalculating’ - and keeps venturing forward, making sure you reach your destination as smooth and fast as possible. It re-aligns your intention with the current context in mind. For businesses, this means to re-align while strengthening the core. It is a way of evolving while not negotiating the core from which one leads.
This is a delicate balance between consistency and relevance. It is important to remember that going in-sync with the turbulent times must not stop brands from staying true to their Purpose and value system. Keeping one’s integrity is the priority here. The force stays with those who are clear on their Know-Why and combine this with strategic maneuverability.
Communication has always played a big role in many types of crises throughout history. Both interpersonal and public communication are of interest here. Curating the right words is especially important during times of crisis. Words can function as tools for framing, choice creation and navigational direction. Moreover, language is the mirror of culture whether it is the culture of a country, city, industry, discipline or a brand. As Dr. Sigmund Freud pointed out:
“Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing, and even today words retain much of their magical power.”
The right words can spark actions, create movements, reduce uncertainty, maximize social cohesion, facilitate calm and stimulate the economy. No matter how uncertain, any crisis is temporary. What one does right in the short-term will have a positive return in the long-term. So instead of being stuck in the short-term reality, it is important to see the bigger picture. Only those that look beyond immediate situations are those who see a broader plethora of possibilities. As the Nobel laureate, Dr. Daniel Kahneman wisely advised, long-term decisions need to be made with slow thinking. But without safety, it is difficult to envisage the future. So wow can leaders provide a sense of safety in a situation of uncertainty?
The pandemic COVID-19 crisis makes people and organizations more crisis-conscious than ever on a transnational level. Instead of identifying problems, speaking of cancellations and delays along with other weaknesses from the economic impact of the virus impacting everyone, Purpose-oriented leaders direct their attention to strengths, possibilities, and solutions. They are quick with the facts and slow with the blame. For example, they spot what cannot be canceled (independent strategic projects and personal passions). They make the best of the new free time born out of a crisis – and get the things done that couldn’t be done when they didn’t have the time. They identify the spheres that are either less affected or are thriving during economic turmoil. Examples abound from ed-tech, health and pharma, teleworking, e-commerce, media (news, show business, digital apps, gaming, etc.) and many more.
Purpose-oriented individuals or organizations view turbulent times as a decisive moment to strengthen one’s core and work towards a strong emergence post crisis. In what ways can almost any type of crisis be reframed as an opportunity?
Winners have an optimistic mindset.
They see opportunities where everybody else sees problems and, more importantly, they are able to focus exclusively on exploiting those opportunities.
As the saying goes: every cloud has a silver lining. It is a truism that after every crisis, big changes and paradigm shifts shape our future. This can be a shift into a new economic realm, a new sociological milieu or a novel world order.
Good crisis management is also, and perhaps first and foremost, about strong leadership based on taking responsibility and initiative. It is therefore sensible to put genuine, Purpose driven thinking at the heart of our thinking – especially in times like these.