Great leadership carries us through the crisis

Current topics / Monday 01.06.2020

Leadership during these abnormal times has been put to a test. Not only makes remote work leadership a challenge but for most companies COVID-19 has meant significant changes and tough decisions. The way we all lead will leave mark for the future.

Our company teams have been working very closely with our companies’ management teams. We also gathered people together – remotely, of course – to discuss their companies and share and learn insights with and from other companies. Our feel is that the silver lining to the corona-crisis is the way it has elevated our leaders to a new level and develop the teams to tight groups.

Recurring themes in the way our company CEO’s and other management team members have led include increasing communications by a factor of 2-4x, empathetic approach to tough decisions, reciprocal flexibility with their employees and keeping the team spirit up. I’ll go on to share a few examples.

Communications is difficult even in the best of times. In a crisis, the need for information increases and the challenges of disinformation become even more apparent. For example, in Unisport the CEO is doing regular virtual town hall meetings with the staff. However, as getting questions from hundreds of employees at the same time is difficult, the CEO is also doing virtual site visits across the organisation to enable a better dialogue with the employees. In Lyyti, an anonymous Q&A channel was set up to allow everybody to voice their concerns without any fear for personal consequences.

Empathy is the super-power of a leader. A very good example was set by the new CEO of Jungle Juice Bar. JJB was forced to close the majority of the smoothie bars because of the lock-down. Almost all the 500+ employees were furloughed. The typical employee at JJB is a 20-year old student working part-time, and she typically has no experience of temporary lay-offs and what she needs to do. The CEO personally took the time to have multiple virtual meetings with the furloughed employees to go through step-by-step how to apply for financial support in their situation. This type of dedication will carry a long way in cultivating the right kind of company culture and sends a strong positive message in the recruitment market.

Flexibility needs to be a two-way street. The consistent story from companies is that the employees have taken surprisingly well the cost-savings measures and temporary lay-offs. The leaders have also shared that they have come up with more flexibility towards the employees that has helped in the reciprocity. For example, Kotikatu realised that many of the 1400+ employees taking care of apartment buildings have a tough time home with the schools being closed. The company quickly set-up a model that the employees can start early in the morning, be home helping their kids with home school during the day while their spouses may be elsewhere at work, and then continue in the evening. This type of flexibility is typically not a given in this type of a more operational field work.

Keeping the team spirit up – especially in tough times – is undoubtedly important. In many of our companies we hear stories of both top-down leadership led actions as well as grass-roots activity to keep a smile on your face. Teams-meeting with a 1920’s theme or upload-it-yourself background photos or silly hats competitions has been the name of the day.

While the COVID-19 induced crisis is obviously not a positive phenomenon, the Vaaka team feels confident with the way our CEO’s have been able to not just manage the crisis but also lead their organisations. Great leadership sets a positive tone to exiting the crisis and continuing a good path to a bright future.

Juha Peltola, managing partner


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