In times like this, a company can lose its way and its energy. This happens even when there is no crisis outside your door. It just happens.
Today, we have no shortage of issues, so the specter of energy is paramount. Deal with it.
What is a CEO to do to combat this? Take on the role as the company’s Chief Energy Officer.
What times, Big Red Car?
To set the stage, what I see is the following events sapping energy:
1. The personal implications of contracting COVID19 including the wear and tear of quarantine;
2. The Work From Home friction for your entire team;
3. The business impact of COVID19/the economy on your business;
4. The impact of COVID19 on your customers which then translates to you;
5. The friction of the entire George Floyd/Black Lives Matter strife in our cities;
6. The changing face of diversity in your company;
7. The general state of the economy;
8. The collective impact on personal financial health;
9. The political strife in the country with the impending election; and,
10. Oh, yeah, the performance of your business.
I could probably add a few more, but the big takeaways are this — there are external forces sapping energy, they are complex, and they are not going to be fixed overnight.
Therein lies the problem — these issues will not be fixed overnight, but like even an elephant, you must eat them one bite at a time. Everyday, you have to try to make some progress or know why you have not.
OK, Big Red Car, what do we do?
Glad you asked. The macro answer is you inject energy into the organization.
This can be done in two ways:
1. Eliminate the energy sinks (in thermodynamics and heat transfer a “sink” is something that absorbs heat).
2. Inject energy by doing specific things.
The solution, like everything in the real world, is to do some of both.
OK, Big Red Car, how do we eliminate the energy sinks?
Here is what you have to do — release the toxins.
1. Sit down with your team and acknowledge the tensions facing you. Do not engage in a pity party. Look at the world as it is and acknowledge it.
Get each team member to acknowledge the issues. Get them to unburden themselves. Develop a loose consensus on where the company is v the issues.
2. Identify what you can and cannot change.
3. Put together very simple crawl, walk, run plans to address the ones you can. You cannot address all of them.
Do not say things like, “We are going to hire 34% POC, a fierce hiring quota.” You cannot get there and your team may view that as discriminatory. If you plan and then fail because the plan was not realistic, the failure, the stench of failure, the challenge to your leadership wisdom remains.
Do say things like, “We are going to recruit at historically black colleges.”
The difference between these two statements is reality. Run the adult, real lane.
4. Communicate with the team.
This communication thing is a delicate balance. You need to acknowledge the real problem, make plans, and ensure your plans are realistic and proportionate.
Do not write an email to your company addressing how you are going to re-design every police force in the USA. Run your lane.
Part of communication is listening. Don’t over do it, just do it.
5. This is the one everybody overlooks — run your damn business better than you ever have before.
OK, Big Red Car, how do we inject energy?
1. Run a brainstorming session solely on the business. Get people to focus on the company.
2. Conduct an Anonymous Company Survey with the focus on the business, not the external forces.
Immediately make a change based solely on the survey. This will pay a huge dividend when the team sees you are sincerely watching and listening.
3. Conduct regular all hands meetings monthly and take questions. Milk the team dry until they are asking you which was your favorite Beatle.
4. Double check all job descriptions.
5. If you are behind on your performance appraisals, catch up.
[Pro tip: Most companies who have had a WFH regimen have exposed some poseurs who under the new arrangement are clearly not “good” workers. This is a topic for another day, but take a hard look at this. Who needs to go?]
What you are doing is establishing, re-establishing the contact point between the company and its team, the management and the team, and the leadership and the team.
6. At the founder level, go back and re-tool Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, and Culture.
Some of these issues go directly to Values which underpins Culture. If you are going to make changes, this is where it starts.
The world has changed. The market has changed. The company has changed.
This necessitates a refined view of things. It is critical. You must change.
7. Subtly celebrate and recognize longevity with the company — you are injecting the value of the team into the discussion.
Bottom line it, Big Red Car
Energy is the life’s blood of any organization. When you have been battered about a bit, energy is lost, toxins destroy energy.
As the Chief Energy Officer, it is your job to rekindle the company’s energy. Here are some ideas that I have personally done that I know will work. Good hunting.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be well, amigos.