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Leading Through a Global Health Crisis

How to Keep your Leadership Healthy Through the Coronavirus Crisis

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is top of mind for everyone. While our first priorities are the health and safety of our employees and their families, we also need to manage the business impact. Travel bans and cost containment strategies are putting pressure on critical business activities, including employee development. Ironically this type of disruption can delay training programs at a time when employees and leaders need them most. The recent infectious outbreak only enhances the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) nature of our work. Navigating the delicate balancing act of business as usual with crisis management will be far easier for leaders who can:

  • Communicate: Deliver news and information, while keeping people focused on core activities.
  • Think strategically: Scan the environment for information. Look around corners. Find creative solutions so you can deliver business activities in new ways with the least disruption.
  • Make decisions: Make decisions using the best information available, while being mindful that we don’t have time to over-analyze.
  • Be agile: Understand possible scenarios and ready your team for change. Each individual will respond to change differently, so your approach must adapt.

These and other skills can still be developed amidst the current events, by applying creativity and technology to the challenge.

Virtual Development Programsimage-29



Many leadership development programs are already designed to be delivered online. If yours is not, you can use your everyday video conferencing technology, like Zoom, to share content and facilitate conversations. Most classroom activities can be reimagined for virtual delivery. You can break up the program into smaller sections, making it easier to schedule. Group work, like business simulations, can be conducted using the same technology, just with smaller teams.

Mobile Learning


Short scenarios that are relevant and realistic can be delivered with mobile devices. This is a great way to deliver on-demand learning that individuals can experience in 15 minutes at a time. Write about a business issue that your leaders are wrestling with and present them with a series of options so they can practice decision making. Be sure to link feedback for each option, so they understand the impact of their decisions. With the right tool, you can collect data on your team’s decision making that will help you manage the business going forward.

Conversation Practice


Give leaders the opportunity to practice difficult conversations. This practice can be done in person with 2-3 individuals or using video conferencing technology. Assign one person the role of the leader, one the peer or employee and one the observer. You can design the conversation topics or let leaders pick their hairiest situation at work as the subject matter. A well-designed and clear process and mechanism for candid feedback will allow your leaders to conduct this activity independently.

These moments of uncertainty and urgency will produce creative solutions. While you can (and need) to use them now, they are likely to become new, flexible options for your teams in the future.


Karen Maxwell Powell is the General Manager of Insight Experience, a leadership development company that designs and develops business simulation-based learning experiences.