Leading through COVID and Beyond

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Leading Through a Crisis and Beyond


Right now it can be hard to see beyond the overwhelm, the disbelief and your own negative outlook. You may be facing the need to keep employees safe, manage productivity, and protect revenue. All in an environment where it’s hard to know what is true, what is fear-mongering and what the government will do next. If you’re like me you may discover that your “crisis issues” actually point to things your business needed you to address a long time ago. And in crisis, there’s opportunity. 

As the leader of your business, taking hold of that opportunity falls to you. These aren’t easy leadership moments, but you have both the opportunity and the responsibility to serve and guide your people. To do it consistently and to achieve the best you can from your people, yourself, and from the opportunity this situation presents, you’ll need systems. 

When you view your business as an interconnected web of systems, it will include responses for both positive changes and negative ones. In this guide, adapted from an EMyth publication I’ll show you the five steps you need to create a crisis management system for yourbusiness, so you can navigate challenging times while also setting up your company to be stronger in the future.

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the Opportunity.— John F. Kennedy, US President

Crisis Ethos:

Optimism sets a different machine in motion. Especially in difficult moments, the people you lead need to feel confident in your ability to focus on what matters, and not to operate from a place of defensiveness and self-preservation. This isn’t about saying things are good when they’re not, and it’s not about conveying some innate faith that “things will work out.” It’s about believing you and the people around you can steer toward the best outcome, and not communicating the feeling that all is lost if things don’t break your way. The tone you set as a leader has an enormous effect on the people around you. No one wants to follow a pessimist.

– Robert Iger, CEO Walt Disney Company

 Re-frame the situation to motivate and give confidence for meaningful change.

Re-frame the challenge, motivate, and empower both yourself and others to deal with the situation.

Focus on what you can control.

Resist the temptation to blame the situation on things outside of your control. When things go wrong it is tempting to blame outside actors to protect our own ego. Avoid this behavior and reflect on what you can control.

 Be systems orientated, not goal orientated.

During a time like this, reflect on recurring problems you had in your business. Business frustrations will lead you to weaknesses in your systems. Work on systemic solutions to fires that never seem to get put out. 

Look for opportunities for others to contribute.

Times of uncertainty and volatility are opportunities to build up your team’s confidence. Self-assured leaders aren’t afraid of seeking counsel or input from their team. Building up their self-confidence will not weaken the confidence they have in you. Leaders frame the problem to provide motivation and empowerment to the team to seek help to resolve the problem. Leaders understand empowering others around them is the only way to lead.

You Don’t Have to Have the Answers to Lead

A crisis demands leadership. You may be faced with the need to keep employees safe, to manage productivity, or to protect revenue, or do all three at once. Often this can occur in an environment that is changing constantly. You have the opportunity, or perhaps more appropriately, the responsibility, to serve and lead your people.

Fortunately, leading doesn’t require that you have all the answers or even know all the questions. What leadership asks of you is to communicate and make decisions in a way that gives your people something to work from, solid ground.

Don’t Abandon the Foundation

That solid ground starts with the foundation on which your company is built. Your Company

Values and Brand Promise are the rock and foundation that won’t change, no matter what the crisis might entail. When you embrace these elements and ensure that each communication and each action are in alignment, then no matter what happens, you’ll ensure that you and the company operate with integrity.

This Too Shall Pass

As you develop a crisis management system, the big picture context has to be that this event, circumstance, or situation, will pass. You need to prepare your company to be there when circumstances return to a new normal.

By taking the long view, you can avoid making short-term reactive actions and take action that sets you up for the future. If this sounds familiar, it should. Most business owners start out making short-term, reactive decisions in hiring, taking customers, spending money, and so on.

When you develop a long term Strategic Objective or vision for your company, it gives you a way to check your decisions and ensure they are taking you toward your vision. In the same way, this long view during a crisis can help you make strategic choices that will leave you where you want to be when the crisis is past.

Think like an Entrepreneur An Entrepreneur always holds a long-term vision. As you develop a crisis management system, the big-picture context has to be that this event, circumstance or situation will pass. Prepare your company for when circumstances return to a new normal. That way, you’ll avoid making short-term reactive decisions and instead take strategic actions that set you up for the future

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

During moments of instability, it’s so important that you keep communicating with your employees, your customers and your community. Your thoughtful, genuine voice builds stability and confidence.

5 Steps to Consider for Our Current Situation

 1. Take a moment to baseline your business, so you can see what’s true about the business at this moment or last week or two weeks ago. Not in the future.

    1. Assess the current impact of the COVID-19 containment actions of the government on your business. Even if you’re considered “‘essential” how will this pandemic affect marketing, sales, production, and the way you manage your people? 

Questions to consider:

  1. Review your current financial statements as of right now. If you don’t have those at hand, get them from your accountant or bookkeeper. How are your numbers today different from what you expected or experienced prior to the crisis?
  2. Review your customers. Are you gaining or losing customers? Gaining or losing sales? What’s the cause of this? You hear a lot of talk about pivoting these days. Consider how you might be able to pivot to meet changing demands.
  3. Review your product or service capabilities. At this moment, do you need to increase or decrease production? By how much? What types of products and services are most needed? Consider that your customers will likely be staying at home more and will want to improve their quality of life at home. What opportunities does this present?
  4. Review your staffing. Do you need more people or fewer people right now? What impacts has this crisis had on filling the positions you need? The labor situation now is totally different from what it was last summer. Consider improving your management staff.

2.   Pay particular attention to what your people need.

Dive deep into what your employees need in unstable moments and create a communication plan that addresses those needs. 

Every day, you ask your employees to care for your business as much as you do. This care will develop as you care for your employees. In times of crisis, it’s your opportunity to shine in demonstrating this care. This shows up through different actions. 


Ask yourself, “How can I lead my people through this crisis?” Give your employees a way to express their concerns, fears, challenges. (Be sensitive as to whether this should be public, where people can draw strength from each other; or private, to protect individual concerns, or anonymous.) 

Ask your people directly what they need. “Is there anything at all we can do to support you?” Recognize that people may be impacted differently by changes that are occurring, and so they may respond differently based on their individual circumstances. Once you’ve thought about what your employees may need from their work and from you in this moment, both tangibly (like time off to care for family) or intangibly (like having a supportive work environment)—develop a communication plan that addresses that. Here are some questions to get you started.

Questions to consider:

How will you communicate with your team and how often? Should it be in one-on-one conversations, team meetings or email? Is it daily, weekly or as needed? Does it just need to come from you, or do you need to prepare your managers to communicate certain things as well? (Consistency builds stability!)

What message does your team need to hear? This could include your personal outlook, specific instructions, decisions you‘ve made or will be making, etc.

What do you need to know from them to develop your plan

3.   How will the pandemic affect your customer needs? 

Design an honest communication strategy that not only serves your customers but gives them a sense of certainty, stability, and unity when things feel out of control. 

Your customers are likely to change their outlook on what is important to them in terms of their landscaping needs. In this step, you’ll review your different target markets.

Questions to consider:

    1. Has anything changed regarding what your customers need?
    2. Has anything changed regarding what you should offer? 
    3. Are these changes temporary? If so, how temporary?
    4. Are these changes different depending on different demographics or market types? 
    5. Are there other markets or services that you should consider and would be prepared to deliver on quickly?

In light of your responses to these questions, what type of communications do you need to deliver and when? What do you need to communicate to help reduce doubts, fears and knowledge gaps, and to support productive decision-making for your customers? Put yourself in their shoes as you brainstorm any product or service changes you need to make. Then develop a communication plan that speaks to those changes.

Communication Plan Considerations

  1. How will you communicate with your customers, and how often?
  2. What message do they need to hear?
  3. What mediums or platforms will you use to communicate with them? And how will you adapt your messaging for each one? 
  4. What do you need to know from them?

4.   Envision what your landscape business will look like after this is over. 

Describe what your business will look like once a new normal has settled in. 

By our definition of a crisis, you’re at a turning point. No matter which way the turning point leads, consider it an opportunity to move toward something better for you and your company. This means that you have to define where you want your business to be when the crisis has passed. 

To start, set an appropriate time horizon to focus on. It might be three months, six months, or even one or two years. Choose a date where you can imagine you’ll be completely on the other side of this major turning point. With this date in mind, think about how you want your business to look in terms of: 

  • Products and services 
  • Customers 
  • Finances (i.e., revenues and expenses) 
  • Employees 
  • Marketing 

For example, you may decide that you want your business to go back to normal—that once the crisis has passed, you’ll provide the same products and services to the same customers in the same way. Or you may foresee changes in your approach, the products or services you’ll offer, or the types of customers you’ll have—either out of necessity or opportunity. 

Now, think about your employees. Consider whether you’ll maintain the same positions you have currently, make changes to how you recruit and hire, and/or do something different within your management structure. 

This is an envisioning exercise. You’re thinking forward to how you want your business to operate, so you need to see past the crisis to the way you imagine circumstances will be. And you may need to consider multiple scenarios. Consider where your business is today, where you’d like your company to be and what changes you’d like to make in how it runs.

Questions to consider:


  1. What do we provide today? 
  2. What additions or subtractions would I like to make when we return to a new normal?


  1. Who do we serve today? 
  2. Who would I like to serve after the crisis has passed?


  1. What are our current revenues and expenses? 
  2. What revenues and expenses do I want for the long term?


  1. What does the team look like today (number of employees, roles, etc.)? What changes would I like to make to my team structure, positions, numbers, etc.? 


  1. What mediums or platforms am I using to market to or communicate with my customers? 
  2. What new methods of communication would I like to use? (This is particularly important if you’re changing your products or services.)

5.   Strategize your short-term future. 

Make your short-term strategic decisions in the context of your long-term vision. Experiencing a crisis often includes a period of uncertainty, adjustment and transition. If this is the case, you’re going to need some short-term strategies to respond to any number of unknowns. It’s vital that you have the perspective of your long-term vision (that you created in step 4) before you consider short-term strategies. You want to be sure that the short-term decisions you make will move you toward that vision—or at least not block you from getting there. 

Because your short-term plan needs to accommodate unpredictability and dependence on outside factors, you’ll have to devise a series of triggers and actions. You can’t predict the future, but you can track metrics that inform your choices. 

In this step, you’ll develop a set of triggers that tell you when to take certain actions. A trigger can be a date, a metric or some external event. 


  • Dates. Set a specific date to look at various sales and production metrics. 
  • Metrics. Set a specific metric, like a sales number, that dictates action no matter when you hit that number. 
  • Events. Identify an external event that you could reasonably anticipate, such as a government regulation or a change in the current circumstances. For each trigger, plan a course of action that responds to it. 

This is a great time to bring in help; your key managers, and a business coach, to brainstorm and get a variety of ideas out on the table. 

Keep these things in mind as you work on your short-term strategy: 

  • Everyone involved in this process must be clear on your future goal: the outcome you envisioned in step 4. 
  • Actions should always be in alignment with your values and brand.
  • Actions should take you as close as possible to the outcome you want to achieve. If you do have to take some “backward” steps, plan them with a view toward getting back to your vision. 
  • This is a time to be conservative. The very nature of a crisis is an unknown. The purpose of this step is to help you make informed choices rather than emotional ones—but keep them conservative. 

I think it’s worth repeating. Just as important as during all landscape production services, but more important now. Communicate. During moments of instability, it’s so important that you keep communicating with your employees, your customers and your community. Your thoughtful, genuine voice builds stability and confidence.


Original Article from EMyth – https://www.emyth.com/the-emyth-guide-to-crisis-management?ref=005d0000004V7Y7AAK


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