Daily guide for leaders during a crisis

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For many leaders, the COVID-19 outbreak is their first crisis. Yet even the most grizzled veterans of corporate America have not managed through a global crisis quite like this one. There is no playbook. This crisis will last for months with many highs and lows along the way.

Working with CEOs all over the world throughout my career, I’ve noticed that successful business leaders tend to rally around the following common principles to stay focused during a crisis:

Focus on today as a priority

Know the most important action you can take right now and stay focused on it before moving on. This situation is evolving quickly and making progress is essential.

Establish a clear goal for your team

Have a clear uplifting goal beyond survival that inspires everyone about what the future could hold. It will remind them of your organization’s mission and give their work meaning.

Communicate frequently, transparently and empathetically

Keep your people, your customers, your partners and your community top of mind. Even if you do not have an answer, you can reduce their anxiety by providing an update.

Maintain a rhythm and pace of hard work

There are no shortage of news updates to distract you and your team. These will be emotionally taxing. Establishing a regular cadence to your day reduces stress and keeps the business moving forward.

Be available

This helps others maintain their dedication and rhythm. Accessibility is the quality your employees look for most during a time of crisis. By staying available, you will also become more aware of your organization’s priorities.

Make decisions

Remain disciplined about your planning, but do not be afraid to act promptly when it comes to decision-making. Do the best you can with the information you have.

Most importantly, remember that you and your team members are human. These are challenging times for each of us. Leveraging your best judgment and the perspectives of your trusted peers will help you remain an effective leader.


Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Sam Reese

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizatio

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  1. Paul Cunningham

    April 23, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    All good principles to live and lead by Sam.

  2. Hi Sam,
    Thank you for the uplifting message and tips to keep everyone motivated. These are difficult times for everyone right now.
    I have been a Vistage member for just over a year now.
    My chair, Bill Drysdale is awesome, he has been a great guide and resource during this pandemic. I truly believe in Vistage.
    Be Well,

  3. Hi Sam, Your points above are much appreciated. It seems I have been innately doing most of these. Like a shepherd tending to his flock. Having a construction company for my entire life, I have survived the highs and lows of prior years, but this one is a real challenge. At first I was a little overwhelmed as were most, but quickly our Vistage group and our company put a plan in place. First order of business was survival and keep cash in the bank. We advanced credit lines and obtained PPP funds which has made the difference. Most new projects froze and several stopped paying but we are surviving on small work that keeps cash flowing quickly and our full staff of 17 people has been maintained thanks to PPP funds. I am very thankful to my Vistage group and chair who I couldn’t have survived without. Thank you.

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