At one of the National Fluid Power Association’s recent Future Leaders workshops, John Stenz, the CEO of FORCE America chatted with nearly 60 of the group’s members via Zoom, talking about the proper way to lead companies through a crisis — certainly a timely topic here in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected most manufacturers.
Stenz explained that great leaders are really stewards. They should stay accessible to their teams and listen to their people. It’s important to “touch the back wall” every day, to be there in the facility and see what is actually happening. As part of that, they need to make sure to share information with the team. Ideally, be optimistic but also realistic; bad news doesn’t get better with age.
Some of his other points included:
- Elements of culture are so important, and don’t be afraid to be that leader that takes a stand. Make sure everyone knows the company’s reason to exist and where you’re headed as an organization.
- Watch out for negative forces or personalities — never allow a cancer to grow in your team, or there will be serious consequences across your entire staff.
- Try to get everyone thinking and acting like an owner. Everyone must know how they create economic value in their actions — or how they could potentially destroy it.
- Take advantage of your peer groups. When FORCE America encountered a ransomware attack, Stenz used NFPA’s power of networking to collect ideas. His company decided to fight it and wipe all their servers.
- Embrace the learning that you’re doing in this crisis. Know that you’ll be a better leader when you reach the other side. Focus on the fact that things will be better after the crisis is over. Principles and knowing your true north are far more important than your tactics; you’ll make mistakes but move forward.
- Sometimes in a crisis, people feel the need to act quickly. It can be more advantageous to instead listen and go to the people you trust. Take the time to learn and then act. Don’t obsess in trying to find the perfect decision. Move, adapt, and keep moving. A crisis is not going to get better with time.
- With Covid-19, we’ve learned that there are many ways to communicate. Pick up the phone or get on Zoom and talk to people. People like to communicate with each other; they don’t like to be isolated. Focus less on email in these times.
The next crisis your business may experience may not be as widespread as a global pandemic, but finding success in 2020 and 2021 will prepare you for what might personally hit your own business in the future. Keep your team moving forward and learn from Covid-19 to be ready to lead your team through anything.