Leading through coronavirus disruption

This morning I heard that one of our major customers, with several production facilities in China, announced a complete stoppage of any travel to and from, not just China, but all other countries with significant outbreaks of the coronavirus. And, this afternoon, I heard an analyst saying that organizations are already asking people to work from home.

Yesterday, a different customer informed us that a program planned as a global meeting and program launch in April was being postponed because of the coronavirus. For those who might be minimizing the impact of the virus on business, you are wrong. The coronavirus is a serious threat to business operations and is already straining leadership.

At Cerebyte, we have worked with global businesses for many years and we see three distinct threats (and no doubt there are many more) from the spread of the coronavirus and efforts to contain the spread:

  • Operations are seriously disrupted with massive losses of productivity and efficiency
  • Development programs that were meant to improve operations that relied on onsite group meetings are stopped indefinitely
  • Stress levels in organizations are soaring

The negative synergies between these three factors create a self-reinforcing nightmare scenario for many organizations. The operational breakdowns of supply chains cause more personal and organizational stress, driving out the time and attention required to lead better. The abrupt termination of development programs means that people have less support for managing the crisis and related stress. This stress causes dysfunctional decision making, causing conditions to deteriorate more. The problem here is that this is the very essence of working harder, when only working smarter will help.

The good news, and surprisingly, there is some good news, is that these types of problems aren’t actually new, they are just more acute right now. Operations have been under pressure for a long time, stress was already very high and development programs are always on the chopping block

So what can you do about it? We have been working in these conditions for a long time. In fact, the Sofia Platform, particularly the mobile platform, was designed specifically to enhance an organizations ability to lead in these challenging conditions.

First, can you get people immediate help and fast operations responses without travel?

Yes. The Sofia Mobile program allows for complete operational excellence and transformational leadership programs to be delivered over the internet. A few weeks ago, we launched a development program to Asia-Pacific with everyone working from their homes or remote facilities – no travel needed and no decrease in impact. The ability to deliver high quality support wherever your people are, just when they need it, is designed into our platform. This means that you can provide guidance and support to anyone, anywhere even if they are isolated by travel restrictions.

Second, if people are so time pressured and stressed will they pay attention?

Yes. The two keys to getting attention, reducing stress and enhancing resilience in the face of the virus pressures are grounding to a larger purpose and quickly giving people specific tools to work smarter, not just harder. We did a workshop recently that explicitly included modules on the neuroscience of stress reduction, immediate and proactive actions to reduce existing stress and guidance on how to move into a smarter operational response.

But, can this happen fast enough when people are already extremely time pressured? Yes. Using Sofia’s Discovery capability, an organization can build a comprehensive response capability in two to three hours. Using Sofia’s RealTime mentoring capability, the core knowledge of stress reduction and operationally working smarter not just harder can be communicated over the internet in one hour. RealTime mentoring also provides ongoing remote support and reinforcement in increments of just a few minutes at a time through phone-driven “reflective pauses.” To work smarter not just harder in these conditions, you need to be able to develop, communicate and guide new behaviors in hours – days and weeks are too slow.  

Third, will all of this help sustain operations in the face of such profound disruption?

Yes. The operational and transformational leadership capabilities developed through Cerebyte’s Sofia Discovery and distributed through Sofia RealTime Mentoring are exactly the sort of guidance that optimize performance in the “messy real world” which just happens to be considerably messier than just a little while ago. Every Cerebyte program is always about operational excellence and great transformational leadership in the messy real world. Participants in these programs quickly become highly skilled leaders completely comfortable and effective in leading in situations with significant disruption and great uncertainty – like what we have now.

So the question is, are you going to let the coronavirus paralyze you, your business or organization and your team, or are you willing to proactively lead by working smarter, not just harder?

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