How do you drive urgency and resolve while maintaining calm and good judgement?

This is when mission, culture, values and integrity will count the most.

Being a realist, and also an optimist, this crisis may be the most serious and unusual we have ever faced, but we will get through it.

It will also not stop when the virus abates. It could take a year for the impact to be absorbed and confidence to be restored. In the meantime, your job as a leader is to protect and even grow the value of your company at a time when there are no guarantees and massive uncertainty.

Having led many companies through tough times, I have seen a thing or two.  Even so, we will all have to learn new tricks before this one is over.

Below are some of the common questions you may want to be asking yourself right now.

First, do you know the worst-case scenario?

This isn’t fun but it has to be done.  Be harsh, go deep. Consider every contingency. It’s smart to have an Alamo plan that is ready to go if the worst case happens.

Is everybody focused on the right things?

It’s about you, your earnings, your revenue, your people, your customers… not the macro. So, time to focus. Tune out the distractions like the stock market and politics. Once you decide the 3-5 most important things you must accomplish, focus everyone on them relentlessly.

Are you doing the right thing for your employees and partners?  

Don’t be the dumb company that tries to thread the needle on issues like WFH and paid sick leave and child care. You’re going to need a lot from your people. Make sure you do right by them.

Do you have a crisis team that you can rely on?

This is the “see it, fix it, and ask for permission later” team.  Not necessarily your current exec team (although they are important for stability). Don’t tolerate bureaucracy, speed is of the essence.

Are your core values and mission part of the discussion (or still on the white board)?

Employees will not know what to do on their own in a crisis.  Especially while working from home. Make sure they know that their mission hasn’t changed, just the circumstances.

Reinforce your strategic anchors and strengths and keep moving forward.

The best companies make it through rough patches because they have invested in culture, and now it’s time to cash in.

Do you have a communications plan?

This is a time to leverage the power of straight talk and morale.

Ever been on an airplane stuck on the runway in a snowstorm with no information from the cockpit? It sucks, right? For now, your whole company is stuck on the runway and they need frequent, forthright and no-BS messages from you.

Information and transparency are critical to morale and morale is critical to success in a crisis. Let people know what to expect, and what you expect from them.

How are you engaging customers?

Guess what, your customer’s business is reeling too and they need help. What is it about your value proposition that is even more important to your customers during a crisis? Emphasizing and communicating those capabilities can reposition you and actually increase market-share.

Give everyone in your company a role to play in making customers more successful.  This may not be time for the hard sell, but it is time to be checking in and adding value.  Be smart and flexible now and you will be the first partner to be lit up when the smoke clears.

Finally, are you focused on the effort, or the results?

My Golden Rule…results lag effort.  Since you cannot predict results in a crisis, focus on getting the effort right.

Your 2020 plan is shot. Now is the time to set new benchmarks and get everyone aligned on the effort needed to hit them.

This combination of health, market and commercial disruption is uncharted territory. As the weeks go by, there will be even more questions than answers, but we will all be learning together.

Mike Kelly is the CEO of Kelly/Newman Advisors and Chairman of StrategySource.He has been involved with dozens of companies, often through perilous times. He can be reached at


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