Leadership in times of crisis #1 – Main ideas
The world, as we know it, has changed this Spring. The Covid virus brought fear, unknown and a crisis that develops in many ways – both humanitarian and economical. In this context, we asked ourselves what can we do to help and how can we remain resources for our leadership community?
On 21 March we started our series of Leadership in times of crisis talks, where we invite MSM Faculty, Alumni and friends to discuss the struggles and opportunities we face during a crisis. The first edition hosted:
- Bogdan Aron – Partner 2Performant
- Wargha Enayati – Founder Regina Maria
- Sergiu Neguț – Associate Dean for Entrepeneurial Growth MSM Romania
- Dan Ștefan – Managing Partner Autonom
You can view the full recording here. If you find it easier to read though, we’ve highlighted the main points below.
How do you see the impact on the short run for businesses, societies and your friends?
Bogdan Aron: 2 weeks ago, in a Sunday, we were thinking if we should be coming to the office or not. Being an online business, we’re more agile and we can easily adapt. 2 days after that talk, we found out I was positive and everything turned upside down. We had to take decisions quicker and we didn’t have time to overthink it. I think that is what’s happening now, urgency makes people make decisions faster, maybe some you should have taken a long time ago and which are sped up now.
Although we are an online business and we hope it won’t have a big impact, but we already see our partners and couriers being affected by the current context.
Dan Ștefan: a few weeks ago, we made contact with the first Covid patient from Romania, who rented a car from us. 2 of our colleagues were quarantined and we realised that we are in the first line. Not as the doctors are, but we have direct contact with clients through our car hiring business.
We saw that the most affected are event businesses, transportation with drivers and a few thousands of corporate clients, which we have. We are prepared for this crisis, for which we have been preparing for a few years. Being a family business, our approach to risk is much more prudent. For around 2 years we have been preoccupied about a potential crisis. In a crisis, it’s important what you’ve done before the crisis. This is what we’ve learnt from the previous crisis.
These days, we are looking at safety first, to protect those that need to continue the activity. Secondly, we looked at ensuring liquidity in the next following weeks. We have a few cash resources which we can use. We also contacted all our clients, although there are a few thousands of them, but we wanted to see how we can help and they appreciated that. Third, we also looked at scaling. It’s important to know that you can scale downwards, not only upwards. We decided to stop investing in any new cars and there are over 700 cars which are in limbo.
What we also learnt from the previous crisis is to also look at income, turn every stone and see if there’s any new revenue you can find.
We started thinking about how we can help and support others who are helping, especially those that take care of patients and containment of the virus.
Wargha Enayati: I operate in a few areas and they each differ. The medical system has dropped by 30% already (for general medical services). Another 2 companies I own that organised around 80% of all the medical activities and events in Romania are now at 0. We were also developing the project Enayati Medical City, where we have 200 workers now and is the biggest medical project in Romania. And we were just thinking a few days ago, how China managed to build a hospital in 10 days and we’d have to stop construction due to the crisis.
But let’s talk about leadership, for which we are in a big crisis, because we lack an ethical code, which this crisis highlights. This virus makes us fear collaboration, we don’t trust it anymore. We only trust regional/close companies, but we are dependant on international commercial relations.
Dan Ștefan: as leaders, it’s important to show calm and it’s ok to show that we are vulnerable. Our team members look at us for a vision and insight into what is happening – things we can find in Nassim Taleb’s book Anitfragile. To be able to do this, I think we need to focus on our mindset and how we react to them. One of my favourite quotes from Drucker is the one that says the problem is not turbulence, the problem is that you’re using yesterday’s logic and we fall in love with our own opinions. A very important thing for a leader is to practice intellectual humility, when we understand we don’t have all the solutions. Even though we are calm and assertive, we adjust plans every day.
The bigger the organisation, the more we need autonomy. As leaders, we don’t have answers to all questions, so we have a flat organisation, to enable quicker decision making from smaller teams, that take these together with the clients. Simplicity brings agility.
Bogdan Aron: what helped us in this time is that we returned to our values, one of which is transparency. We communicated a lot, both internally and externally, on Whatsapp, on Slack, live chats, we helped each other a lot. A negative thing that happened is that we worked more than we would have in an office, since we worked more remotely. The positive thing is that we established a connection between people and I think this is important because we are now in a marathon, not a spring. This won’t be over soon and we’ll need to be ready for the long run.
I think this is a good time to return to the basis – the vision and why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s important to help each other to stay sane, we’re not used to be online and talk on virtual platforms all the time. Business wise, I think this is a good time to assume leadership in our organizations and in our community. This is what I’ve done when I found out I was positive – I was preoccupied of how serious it will be and how much it will affect my close one. Luckily, no one was hurt and most of them are exiting quarantine soon.
But when I started felt responsible for the health of the people I came in contact with since coming back from London, I started creating Whatsapp groups and communicate extensively.
Dan Ștefan: these situations make leaders stronger. It’s an opportunity to talk about values and how they change in times of crisis.
Wargha Enayati: when there is something that threatens our businesses, the risk is that we regress to a form of intelligent animals. Where just thinking matters and we become selfish. I need to pay attention now that what I talk is in accordance to what I do. A quote I like says that sincerity is the fundament of all virtues.
This scale down will affect us all, but how we do it, how we support people, how we transmit our values, does the employee feel that I am sincere when I talk to them, even if I have to make drastic decisions, for which I am genuinely sorry about.
Bogdan Aron: I think we were lacking communication skills, so the virtual environments may help us learn to pause when others are speaking and to communicate more.
Sergiu Neguț: This is a great time to start preparing for the future – ask yourself how will the world look like when this is over (more digital) and prepare your business for then. What is the piece of progress we can do for ourselves in these time, so we can draw something from this period.
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