The Importance of Mindset in Crisis

April 13, 2020 Joe Britto

Reading time: about 3 minutes.

The start of this year has been difficult for everyone. Covid-19 has cut a trail of death and financial hardship that could continue for months to come.

By now many organizations have triaged their businesses. With expenses to pay and a loss of income, for some of us it’s unclear if our business will survive. Add to that the looming financial crisis and its clear the bumpy ride isn’t letting up.

That’s why this blog is about the importance of mindset in crisis. There are two options for a business in crisis: follow a traditional cost cutting path, or shift the way we think. The paths lead to two very different places. As leaders, the road we embark on is up to us.

Do What You Know

There’s wisdom to doing what you know in a crisis. It’s fast, the path forward seems clear, and it feels like you have a handle on what’s going on.

In the face of Covid-19 many businesses have lost orders. Supply chains have started to fall apart. In a climate where our bottom lines are heading toward the red, conventional wisdom starts telling us two things: cut costs and try to generate income. In a Covid-19 world, that’s seen a surge in online offerings, and a rate of lay-offs no one could have imagined.

That may have helped many businesses survive the first wave of Covid-19 hardship, but it came with a consequence.

The Problem of Doing What You Know

The problem with doing what we know in a crisis, is that by its very nature a crisis is unpredictable. A pandemic is even more unpredictable. Who would have thought that governments would offer to subsidize employee wages by 75% in Canada, or 80% in the UK?

That’s the thing about crisis. Things change fast and making decisions that seem traditionally sound right away don’t take into account the changing landscape that emerges as a crisis unfolds.

Mindset in Crisis

From a mindset perspective, how people determine a course of action is a simple process: when we’re confronted with a decision, we reach back into the inventory of past situations, decisions, and actions in our heads and find the one that most closely resembles the challenge in front of us. We then look for the one that produced the best outcome in the past, and apply that to the situation we’re currently facing. That short-hand is helpful 98% of the time.

The problem of using that approach in the current pandemic is that we have no repository of similar experiences to draw on. So what we’ve done before, regardless of how successful it was then, is not a good indicator of what we should do now. That’s why ideas like cutting staff right away, or hunkering down to ride out Covid-19 aren’t necessarily a good idea.

Where in our past experience repository did the government help pay our staff’s wages? And how can you prepare to hunker down when you don’t know how long to hunker down for?

Ask Different Questions

Instead of the experience repository approach, we can be more effective in a crisis by drawing on three attributes: genuine curiosity, flexibility of mind, and enterprise thinking.

Genuine curiosity asks different questions so we can learn from their answers. What will I need in place to recover? What help is out there? How are my competitors handling this crisis, and what I can do differently? Answers to simple questions like that send us off in different trajectories that lead us toward a different course of action.

Lay-offs & Recovery

Flexibility of mind then takes those answers and operationalizes them. Take the first question above for example–what do I need in place to recover?

If I’m a manufacturer my recovery depends on the ability to make product. If I lay off my ground teams I can’t make product when the chance arises. So with flexibility of mind, I start thinking about what can my frontline teams do that might help the business survive? That can’t be making product because no one’s buying. But that doesn’t mean the answer is to let them go.

Enterprise Thinking

Remember, what you do now effects how your customers and staff see you when the dust settles. That’s what enterprise thinking means in our Covid-19 world. Pandemic or not, the enterprise is never just your bottom line.

We say the most about ourselves by the way we act when things are at their worst. When your business is able to recover, you’ll need the good will of customers and staff to help you make it through. Think now about how you can earn that good will.

Develop Short and Mid-Term Strategies

Your strategies can be informed by the questions and answers the three attributes throw up. I’ve said before in this blog that strategy flexes and adapts. The value of short and mid-term strategies is it leaves room for adapting.

As things change, your strategy needs to change too. Keeping flexible in your thinking allows your strategy to flex in the best interests of your business.

Free Help if You Need It

At Innate Leaders, we’d like to help leaders develop new ways of thinking to help reduce layoffs, maintain supply chains, and address their business challenges, so businesses and people are financially viable six months from now.

If you’re a business who is struggling financially to adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ll donate our expertise for free via video-conferencing to help you develop a mid-term strategy, or rethink how you do business.

If you’re in a position to support this endeavour we’d welcome a contribution, but if not, we’ll provide our services for free.
There’s no criteria to fulfill. Just contact us and we’ll do whatever we can to help.


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What to dive deeper?

Check out The Six Attributes of a Leadership Mindset by Joe Britto

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Our approach starts with an interactive experience. We work with your teams to develop the six attributes of a leadership mindset that enables them to work together, model leadership, and come up with solutions themselves.

Facing a practical challenge?

Our consulting ignites a revolution. It grows the six attributes and operationalises leadership behaviours. Not only do your people have great ideas, they have the mindset to make those ideas succeed.

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