COVID-19 has challenged us all to be flexible and adaptable at an amazing rate of speed. Business forecasts that looked strong and growing two months ago have cratered, workloads that were off the charts suddenly disappeared, everyone has had to connect electronically, and a simple handshake is no longer a viable way to greet a colleague or seal a deal. It’s easy to slide into anxiety and be paralyzed by uncertainty, but how we frame this moment in time is a powerful lever to our mental health and productivity. Leaders have always had to be masters at framing their thinking and the thinking of others, but with the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for that capability grew. What’s a Frame? Frames are the boundaries, interpretations and simplifications that we make mentally to understand a situation. We create them instinctively as a result of our experience and the data we take in, and they are particularly valuable in ambiguous or complex situations. We have both reactive frames, which shaped by our emotional responses, as well as proactive frames, which are shaped by logical thought. These mental filters not only help us make sense of a situation but also influence the range of actions we consider. As a result, our frame can be self-reinforcing, which is the powerful insight behind Chris Argyris’ “Ladder of Inference.” Frames are an integral part of processing information and making sense of a situation for ourselves. They are also a valuable tool to help leaders convey information to others.
Strategic thinking is always important; it’s a critical foundation skill for effective leaders. But in crucible leadership moments like the present, it has outsized importance.
In our work at Insight Experience, we focus a lot on communication as a key lever of leadership. It’s never been more important than right now, when many are facing crucible moments in and outside their business.
Say what you will about the current crisis, it is clearly a crucible time for leaders. Not all leadership moments are created equal, and this one is huge. For most of us there has not been a more important time in our leadership lives. This is both good and bad news: it means the consequences of your leadership now will most likely have outsized impact in the future. How we each behave as leaders in these moments of fear and uncertainty, when our most basic human instincts crowd in, will be remembered long after the crisis is past. Like it or not, this will be part of your leadership legacy, so consider carefully the choices you make.
If there was ever a time a company and its leaders need deep financial acumen it is now. Many of us have experienced periods of financial turbulence in our lifetimes. Black Monday on October 17, 1987, the aftermath of September 11, and the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 and 2008 are some of the more memorable. But these events, as extreme as they were, pale in comparison to the current Coronavirus pandemic.
The last several days have been a whipsaw of adjustment for leaders and teams in organizations around the globe. The coronavirus pandemic has gone from casual remarks in pre-meeting chit-chat to disruption of supply chains, travel plans, work locations, childcare, and personal security in a blink of an eye.
We are living through a case study of crisis management for leaders. The coronavirus may have limited or may have significant impact on your business, but in either case, it’s taking major mindshare for employees and creating anxiety in organizations around the globe. Insight Experience teaches leaders how to communicate effectively. Normally we’re focused on accelerating business results or aligning complicated organizations or helping engage employees to deliver on a vision. We see and learn from the leaders we work with all year long about how challenging effective communication is even in the simplest of settings. An unprecedented, unknown concern like coronavirus makes communication that is heard and helpful even more difficult to achieve.