Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Every Crisis Brings Opportunities

During every crisis, there are always opportunities. Most of those opportunities can be found in one of five buckets.

People. With almost 50,000,000 people currently unemployed in the United States, now is a great time to hire the right talent, adequately train them, develop them for future opportunities, and ultimately, plan on promoting them. For most businesses, people are our number one asset.

Training. It is difficult to think about spending money on training when every expenditure is being closely examined. However, especially in the new environment, people need quality training to stay current in their field and to continue to do great work. Ideally, training should be interesting, engaging, helpful, timely, and focused on helping people develop personally and professionally. During times of crisis, training is often one of the first budget cuts. As of this writing, many major airlines are trying to decide whether or not they furlough pilots. The problem with laying people off is that there is no guarantee you’ll get them back. In the case of an airline, bringing a pilot back involves a whole series of trainings.  It is time intensive for the staff and there are only certain available simulators. Not keeping up with quality training may be more expensive in the long run.

Process improvement. During times of crisis, we have to make sure that we are looking hard at every step of what it is we do. The US had such good economic progress over the past 10 years, that it allowed some businesses to be complacent. Companies were stuck in status quo because status quo was frankly, pretty darn good. But now, every business is being critically examined. We have to look at how we can be more effective, more efficient, and more responsive to our partners, suppliers, and customers.

Asking questions like:
What do we need to stop doing because it doesn’t really matter?
What can we simplify or streamline?
What part of our strategy needs to change so that we are maximizing our peoples time and our resources?

Resources. In every recession, leaders have to carefully look at their available resources and make tough decisions. Resources are generally defined as land, labor, capital, human capital and entrepreneurship.

Some leaders have had to make the difficult decision to furlough quality workers simply because business is down. Making tough decisions is part of a leader’s job, but the complexity is compounded by the vast amount of uncertainty on local as well as global levels. Leaders have to look at available resources and think about where they realign, reallocate, redesign, repurpose, or retool what is available.

Technology. Winston Churchill once said, ”never let a good crisis go to waste.” Tough times are also times of innovation, technological advancement, and developing new skill sets. This is a time of forced acceleration and implementation of technology. Leaders need to look at what they can automate, innovate, or create that will make them unique and give them a competitive advantage.

How can leaders stay focused and strategic when they are also having to support other team members, be responsive to their customers, and care for their families?

  1. Prioritize what needs to be done and identify the problems that have to be solved first.
  2. Break down large tasks. People need quicker wins, so making jobs seem easier will give people a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Praise people for their efforts. Reward results.
  4. Keep people accountable by creating deadlines and reminding people of those due dates.
  5. Clarify roles and responsibilities so that people are not confused on what they need to do to be successful.
  6. Communicate more than you think the team needs. During times of stress, people don’t always hear or read everything. Communicate, communicate, and communicate more.
  7. Keep a positive attitude! The attitude of a leader is contagious, so stay positive and focus on the future.

Leadership is important. Now more than ever.


  1. Sandra Shelton

    Great observations, Mary! You are Right On!!

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you, Sandra!


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