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Lead Your Team During COVID-19 Pandemic

Originally published
Originally published: 4/1/2020

How to lead your team and keep your business afloat during COVID-19 and and time of crisis.

Hunter Super Tech Cody Baetz was dispatched to a home without air conditioning. In the process of performing diagnostics — amidst the coronavirus outbreak — Cody asked the young mom if she was running low on any supplies.

Turns out, her baby was out of diapers and she’d been frantically looking all over town, but to no avail. Like toilet paper, diapers had vanished from the store shelves.

Since the AC unit needed a return trip, Cody told the customer to hang on and he’d see what he could do when he came back. He went directly home, loaded up some extra diapers from his house and returned. You can bet Cody saved that customer’s day.

Although Cody’s actions sound heroic — and make no mistake they are — it’s simply who Cody is and how all our employees interact with customers every day. We put people first.

Leading in Turbulent Times

Business as normal is anything but normal today. Normal has changed. Will it be for the better or worse once we beat the coronavirus? That depends on you, the leader. My dad used to tell me that nothing great happens in your comfort zone.

Our leadership was forged through education, by pursuing our vision through our mission and living our core values. That’s our comfort zone. To transcend it and to specifically address key leadership points, I use the Go Time formula.

Years ago, we studied many successful companies. Each and every one of them had a variation of a common formula: create a series of steps that help lead, innovate and solve problems.

The Go Time formula is not only a prescription for success, it’s a rally cry at Hunter Super Techs! I loved it so much that we named our training company after it too, The Go Time Success Group.

As you look for guidance in these troubling times, to lead your team through this crisis, you can use the Go Time formula. Although we don’t know how long the coronavirus outbreak will take, we will persevere and get through it.

We are an essential industry and this is our time to do what we do best. It’s time to serve.

G is for Goals

Outline and set goals that tackle your present day-to-day realities head on. Make sure they’re congruent with your vision and mission. And make them crystal clear.

O is for Observe

Observe means to learn from others. As COVID-19 was striking, I knew the impact could be catastrophic. The first thing I did was to seek wise counsel. Proverbs says, “plans fail from lack of advice, but wise counsel brings success.”

At Go Time Success Group, we put together a webinar with seasoned leaders who had navigated crises before. It included: Larry Taylor, who was the chairman of ACCA during 9/11; Ben Stark, a 40-plus year seasoned entrepreneur in this industry; Jim Batson; a long-tenured businessman whose company was founded in 1884; Matt Michel, who leads Service Roundtable, the largest contractor best practice group in the nation; Tyler Kime, whose company was founded in 1934 and was one of the first contractors to publicly communicate measures his company was taking during the crisis; Tom Howard, an HVACR contractor who is also VP of Customer Experience for Service Titan; and Dave Rothacker, an industry thought leader and leadership expert.

The seasoned and level-headed advice is the type of proven, action-oriented items contractors need at this time. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when we can take this advice and modify it for our own companies.

T is for Take Massive Action

Here are action-oriented items gleaned from our panel:

  • Define reality but remain optimistic. Larry Taylor says, “Open your heart, open your mind, then and only then, open your mouth.” Open your heart by listening to those who are in pain, scared or suffering. Get a feeling for what is going on. Open your mind by gathering data and facts to help you make intelligent decisions.
  • Coworker and customer safety are a priority.
  • Handle as much office work remotely as you can.
  • Create a clear plan of action, keep people informed and visually, verbally and physically demonstrate care and concern. You cannot over-communicate with your team and customers. Use social media and other methods. Reassure them your company will prevail and together you’ll get through it. Remind your team — every day — of good safety practices.
  • Demonstrate and exhibit hope, compassion, stability and trust.
  • Don’t overreact. Look at the data and remain calm. Your team needs a leader who is emotionally strong. Take action after thoroughly confronting the facts.
  • Be open and transparent with your banker. If needed, take action on securing capital; use your line of credit. Apply for SBA emergency loans. Defer as many payments as possible.
  • Consistently get updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and your local government.
  • Communicate pertinent updates to your team and customers.
  • Prepare for contingency actions regarding your building’s power and communication technology.
  • Do not penalize coworkers and companies due to items that arise because of the coronavirus.
  • Your field personnel are on the front line. Get out on the frontline with them. Support, reassure, re-supply and lead.

General Stanley McChrystal bases this leadership advice on the actions of Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln:

  • Outline the difficult problem ahead.
  • Exhibit confidence that we would come through in the end.
  • Confront it head on. Didn’t try to minimize it.
  • State that you demand a lot from your leaders and a lot from the people.
  • Proceed to live up to it.

I is for Inspect

Inspect the results of action taken. Dave Rothacker recommends keeping an organic learning document or journal.

Make note of items to be addressed when business returns to normal. Pay special attention to your KPIs, especially your cash flow.

M is for Modify

Things are changing, not only daily, but hourly. Review action steps that have been inspected and modify accordingly.

Communicate the adjustments to your team immediately.

E is for Engage

Now, more than ever, is the time to lead from the front. Be physically in front of your people. If you cannot, then get in front of them digitally every day. They need to know that you are putting their safety first and that you care.

Never send someone into a situation they aren’t willing to go in or one you wouldn’t go in yourself. Be an inspiration. Inspire and serve your people. Instill hope.

Vision and Values with COVID-19 and Beyond

I began here with a story of how Cody Baetz went the extra mile to serve the customer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies would admonish their technician for doing what Cody did — but we created a vehicle, designed to serve customers and coworkers, many years ago when we defined why we are in business (mission), where we are going (vision) and how we serve (core values).

Cody brought these to life with his actions and it certainly makes a good story: In turbulent times, a company and technician rise to the occasion and rescue a customer. But this heartwarming story is, in reality, simply another day for us at Hunter Super Techs.

Years ago, along with my leadership team, we harnessed our “why” and used it to guide us.

Our vision is to get really good, develop leaders and expand to neighboring areas.

With our people in mind, we concentrated on creating, nurturing and developing leaders. Through inspiration, example and action, we influence our leaders to think, speak and act in such a way that makes a positive difference in their life and in the lives of those they lead.

Equipped with a positive spirit and in order to achieve the vision, our leaders teach and live the company mission. Our core values govern how we behave on the way to accomplishing our mission.

Trying and turbulent times, like we are seeing now with COVID-19, have a way of prioritizing what is really important. They also pull the curtains open to our consciousness, pouring light forth on our faith, health, family, friends, employees and home. We become awakened and thankful for what it reveals.

Remember what’s important. Remember why you started in this service business. Be a leader for your team through this crisis and come out a stronger business on the other side.

To learn more about COVID-19 communications, check out this article.   

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