As a business owner, I have taken on the responsibility to lead. When a crisis hits, like COVID-19, each person in a position of leadership must step up to lead. People are counting on us to lead. Leadership is defined as “the act of causing a group of people to follow.” How does one lead when facts are uncertain and slippery, and there are large consequences for going in the wrong direction? I looked up the definition of crisis and found that it is described as “a time of difficult or important decision making.” Clearly, COVID-19 qualifies as a crisis that requires leadership. What lessons can we take from this and perhaps use on the next crisis that may be thrust upon us? Here are Five Leadership Lessons of the COVID-19 crisis.
Lesson 1: Communicate
In times of uncertainty, a leader must open the lines of communication. As things unfolded and it appeared businesses might be restricted or shut down, my focus was on setting up lines of communication. While employees are at work, meetings can be had by gathering, but what happens when and if that can’t be possible. For us, we gathered mobile phone numbers and tested sending texts to each person the weekend before the Stay-At-Home order was issued in Ohio. Thankfully there was a day to meet with my managers and then gather employees before the order was active.
Lesson 2: Purpose
Believe that you and your organization are there for a purpose, and when in crisis, there is an opportunity to define that purpose more clearly. For DaNite Sign Company, our aim has been to encourage entrepreneurship through signage that enhances an organization’s ability to communicate their mission and attract customers. During the COVID-19 crisis, requests for signage projects slowed as businesses focused on immediate survival concerns. Our team looked at our purpose and determined that we could provide free signs to restaurants to help communicate carry-out or delivery services offered. A prototype sign was designed and distributed, which resulted in helping many businesses in a time of need. By doing this service for free, we help preserve our purpose and also share a sense of community and hope.
Lesson 3: Hope
When in the middle of a crisis, be hopeful. To be hopeful means “feeling or inspiring optimism about the future.” Hope comes first by believing in a future. For me, I turn to a particular scripture in the Bible that some call the Formula for Success. That is “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (KJV Proverbs 3:5-6). In the middle of a crisis when facts are slippery and uncertainty is everywhere, hope comes from believing in something much bigger than ourselves. Take a minute and find the source of your hope and then share your hopefulness.
Lesson 4: You Are Not Alone (YANA)
At a time of crisis, do not go at this alone. Reach out to the community of leaders that are going through the same or similar crisis and talk. I have been blessed by no less than three groups of business owners that joined together to talk. Early on, we communicated every day. As the crisis unfolded, we continued to speak a couple of times a week, then once every week and then every two weeks. These discussions and sharing allowed me to know that I was not alone. I found encouragement through other’s leadership approaches and was able to share my insights. Two of these groups were there before the crisis but were meeting just a few times a year or quarter. If, as a leader, you are not in local and national associations of similar business owners, join one or more now. My friends within the World Sign Associates and the International Sign Association have been terrific resources during the COVID-19 crisis.
Lesson 5: Opportunity
Every crisis is an opportunity. As a leader, I am to find the opportunity and go for it. New markets can emerge. Talents that you didn’t know your team had may emerge. Look for the possibilities, and you will find them. My leadership team decided that we would emerge from this crisis as a better company. For us, that meant creating more efficient processes in the plant, organizing and sprucing up the office space while others on our team were working from home or furloughed. As the COVID-19 crisis comes to a natural end, we are ready for a new beginning with a more efficient and refreshed workplace as we continue our purpose.
Your friend in the Sign Business,
Tim McCord, President
DaNite Sign Co., Columbus Ohio