Decisions we make today will define our companies for the next generation. 

It’s May 2020 and things are not getting easier. Quarantine and time of COVID-19 is no longer a blip on the radar; the “bubble” has not passed. How our companies work and how our companies manufacture suddenly has to change just as quickly as the world around us. Like it or not, we don’t have control over the decisions our countries, states, and municipalities are making regarding our businesses.

What we do have control over is our actions. What we do have control over are the decisions we make as business leaders. Our leadership styles, our embodiment of the term “leadership” needs to change just as quickly as everything around us. 

And while it may seem difficult, what we need to choose is to lead as humans, and to see the humanity and value in our workers. We need to inspire loyalty and emphasize the people in our businesses. 

Yes, our jobs as business leaders are critically important.

But without our people, our valuable human employees, the reality is we would have no businesses and no one to lead in the first place.

 

Whom Do You Lead?

You worked hard to get to where you are, but in this time of cutbacks and layoffs and furloughs and shutdowns, you need to look around.

 

Your workers worked hard to get you where you are too.

How are you treating the people who helped you get here?

The ones who built our companies. The ones who sweat, bled, and cried along with us. The assembly line workers who put in weeks of overtime last year. The ones who have been with you through the decades, accepting change after change with hardly a grumble.

How about your receptionists and admins? You may think that furloughing them first makes sense, since there’s no one to receive right now anyway. No one’s traveling right now so there’s no need to keep track of that. But do you really think that all they do is answer the phone and make coffee? It that is really all they do, sorry, but you’re not running a business in 2020. 

What about the people in your accounts department, the ones who you almost never see, but who haven’t missed a single day in their 20+ years at the company? Should we lay them off first, since times are tough and business is slow? 

What about your new technician, the one who had just started training? It makes sense to put his hiring (and pay and benefits) on hold, right? Nevermind that his father and grandfather both spent their careers with your company in the same job. Bottom lines are lines.

And before you ask, yes, places like that still exist. They’re incredible and special places, and some of the best companies I have had the honor of working with.

Today. Now. This is the defining moment for many people’s careers. 

That includes yours.

The difficult choices and leadership decisions that you’re making right now, that’s how you will be remembered. I understand that you can’t get blood from a stone, but think carefully before you make those tough calls.

Right now we have the opportunity to redefine loyalty, the opportunity to show the people you lead and the world that there is still something is more valuable than money.

 

Feast and Famine

No matter where you are as a company, there will be times of feast and famine ahead. These times will bring out the best and worst in people. Everyone across every industry has set about making judgments and making lists. They may be silent judgments now, but they won’t stay that way. 

Companies that we will do business with in the future; Companies that we specifically will not do business with in the future. 

Before you fire your receptionist, before you lay off your office workers, before you furlough the people on your plant floor, ask yourself:

Will the money that I save on wages right now outweigh the loyalty and human value that I will lose in the future?

I can’t make your day to day decisions for you, and when it comes down to it, the only company I lead is my own. All I hope is that you recognize and realize that this time of crisis, this great calamity, is also your greatest moment. The choices you make, the actions you take, will define your organization for decades to come. I implore you to think and think carefully before shrinking your workforce.

After all, you’re a great business leader; 

And great leaders always take care of their people.

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