Intermission Episode

Four Essential Practices Leaders Find Most Valuable During the Corona Crisis

Written by Dr Antoine Eid

Leadership Coronicle Icon This week I had the chance to go Live on YouTube with 9 Leaders in different industries to share their knowledge and experience with the viewers of the Leadership Coronicle™. This webinar series of 6 Chapters in Season 1 is a platform designed to provide support for Leaders and Businesses during the Corona Crisis. I would like to thank in this occasion the teams at Leapership Consultants and SODECO Solutions for sponsoring and directing these webinars.

The two questions addressed to the Speakers were:

  1. How are you managing yourselves and others during these times?
  2. What are the positive experiences you would like to share with the viewers?

Sami Handley, Managing Director

IEMS – Institute of Environmental Management and Sustainability – UAE

Sami Handley We will get through this; for sure we will, but we have to deal with things a bit differently. One of the biggest challenges (and we have about 6000 staff members at Bee’ah) is managing the mental and physical state of employees. We followed a ‘Servant Leadership’ model. Leaders learned very quickly to connect with people. The more we communicate the more we connect with people. We are leading from heart. The downside is, if you constantly lead from the heart you might lose your focus on the commercial aspects. A new layer of challenge.”

“I don’t think the crisis will end suddenly. We should be adaptable. We need to work with different scenarios. Around 2 weeks ago we developed a new product that addresses the new challenges. Why go back to an archaic model when the new one is working? The communication with the team has been the best it has ever been. Why lose that momentum? People are getting used to this new life, and we can see it has started to work for them and for the company. We can see that leaders are better than they used to be and employees are better persons now. I wouldn’t want to go back to where we were before the crisis. The bonding is better than ever before.”

Aysha Sulaiman, HR Director

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) – UAE

Aysha Suleiman Working remotely was not in our mindset. Shifting mindset was difficult. Our team was used to personal interaction. We made the infrastructure and the technology ready for them. We found some resistance, but Communication and Transparency were key. I confirm that the Leaders who spent the time to understand people’s feelings found it easier to manage them. What we also find beneficial is revisiting the budgets to accommodate and delay any expenses that can be delayed in order to prioritize the payroll. Employees are assets and they should come first. We will be back but not as before. I learned as a Leader to be agile, resilient, connect different dots, balance between business and people, and learned the importance of efficiency and addressing people’s skills.

Practice I:

Louay Bissar, Managing Director

Pharma – Lebanon

Louay Bissar “In the pharma industry, Leaders are facing a dilemma. To assess the performance of our organizations, we consider four layers:

• Human Capital
• Internal Operations
• Customers, and
• Financial Key Indicators.

Which layers to prioritize? How can we keep our eyes both on the morale of employees and the alarming financial indicators? It’s a complex process but Leaders should consider all aspects in parallel.”

Johnny Matar, General Manager

Bankers Assurance SAL – Lebanon

Johnny Matar Leaders in our industry are under pressure to continue generating business in a business model that relies primarily on face-to-face sales. We found ourselves in a state of shock at first. We started working on the morale of our 250 sales agents at first. We then addressed a change in the model by creating an online approach to reach clients. In parallel, we aggressively changed the whole sales process to conduct online meetings and presentations with our potential clients. The sales process within the industry is unexpectedly changing shape. Sometimes it takes a crisis to help us reconsider a business model. The expectation post COVID-19 is a mix between virtual and face-to-face sales approach. We realized the aspect of the efficiency of technology in saving time and reaching clients at different times.”

Hovig Kozobiokian, Managing Director

Dekerco Foods & Processing SAL – Lebanon

Hovig Kozobiokian We import food products and sell to the HORECA sector. Our market was lost overnight (hotels, restaurants and cafes). We had to find a quick solution. We started advertising through social media and selling to households at wholesale prices including delivery. I was not a big fan of social media but was surprised by the snowball effect which we were not prepared for. Now we have dedicated departments to deal with inquires and distribution. Our whole structure is changing; we had to cope. It was a positive surprise. Cost hasn’t changed much as we did not lay off any employees, but with this new model of selling, we are able to cover our costs. I can confirm that we discovered a totally new market through this crisis. We used to deal with chefs, now we have a new big client. We will continue with this business model that is proving to be very rewarding.”

Practice II:

Carla Nemr, Global Head of Business Development

Tickmill – Cyprus

Carla Nemr Our biggest challenge is not being able to have a face-to-face connection with the team on a daily basis. But what we noticed during the crisis is that productivity actually increased.  We communicate daily, and I am noticing that I have a bigger role as a Leader to identify feelings through language and tone of voice. We also found ourselves responsible to show loyalty to them first so they can feel safe and subsequently loyal in return. Employees’ happiness came first. They are the most important investment.

Simon Morris, Managing Director

Konnexx Limited – UK

Simon Morris “From a Leadership point of view, it’s all about reframing. Leaders must see the opportunity in this crisis. We found the opportunities are there. The critical questions we answered are what the customers need and want. We also emphasized the need to monitor the new skill set required in the job given the new challenges.”

“Business has almost doubled in this crisis. What we’ve done right is communicating with our clients. Clients who feel their suppliers did not actually bother, might not go back to working with them. Now is a good time to open new channels and show customers that we care.”

Rami Tarakji, HR Director

City Group Co. KSCP – Kuwait

Rami Tarakji “Our business completely stopped since March. We are still trying to protect and pay our 2000 employees. We are in a survival mode and difficult decisions had to be made. In order to build the trust, we started deducting Leadership salaries first. We created new budgets, new objectives and KPIs. We prioritized safety through a new layout of the office and use of technology. We encouraged people to work from home by providing faster internet connection, file sharing programs and online meeting programs. Our 4-step approach relies on:

  1. Prioritizing safety and continuous engagement
  2. Reshaping strategy: continuously assessing financial and operational risks and responding quickly through recovery strategies
  3. Communicating with stakeholders: in a transparent and timely manner to secure ongoing support.
  4. Building resilience: continuously communicating new directions and avoiding negativity”

Practice III:

Khaled Khedr, Director

Darwish Holding – Qatar

Khaled Khedr “I emphasize the importance of communication styles while delivering the difficult messages. This communication is critical in creating an atmosphere of trust. We work in retail, so we focused on a new e-commerce operation. From my position as an HR director, I am looking at finding and building the existing capabilities through training, mostly by building skills to manage remotely and business transformation.

Antoine Eid, CEO

Leapership Consultants Group – UK

Dr Antoine Eid “One of my clients is a big investment company. I have been doing Leadership Development with them for a long time. They managed to recruit some of the best brains in the field from around the world. Together with the CEO, we decided to address the fear of the moment in a creative way. People had questions about the security of their jobs and been observing the collapse of competitor companies. We decided to increase all salaries by 10% overnight – that would be an additional cost of about 1.2 million dollars per month. An idea that somehow looks irrational now, but think of the message behind it. While the market is down and others are losing jobs, the company is sending a strong message that we put you as employees first, that you can rely on us, and that you are our biggest investment. Imagine the positively changed dynamics in that team now. People are working much harder than before to prove they are worthy of that trust and that in itself is going to pay the risk forward.”

Practice IV:

Final Thoughts

Within the context of this webinar we shared the positive experiences. However, as Leaders we also went through the common stages of Fear, Denial, Acceptance, Learning and Leading. We are not trying to look invincible, and we acknowledge the importance of the Leader to look vulnerable at times.

The take from this is, people are an asset. This requires a two-pronged approach to present-day Leadership:

  1. Assessing to identify emerging Talents and Skills needed for the future and nurturing them through Support and Training today
  2. Reframing Capabilities to transform the business in order to address challenges and opportunities

Seek help from qualified providers to assist you with proper assessment tools. Open communication channels to identify purposes and motivations. And make a thorough evaluation of your existing capabilities and how to reframe them to address emerging opportunities.

We have been supporting businesses since the beginning of the crisis as part of our initiative to help people and organizations in identifying opportunities, and recognizing emerging talent and developing the appropriate interventions to nurture them.

Reach out if you need to initiate this conversation. You can reach me at my LinkedIn or Email.

Looking forward to seeing you in Chapter IV of the Leadership Coronicle™ under the title: Building the Business “Bucket List”!

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