Following up the blog on the 5 great leaders in business, the Ye! Community hosted a webinar focused on leadership mistakes in crisis and how you can learn from them. As a young entrepreneur, how can you remain a strong leader during a time of crisis? How will you react to criticism? What can you do to be better prepared for future risks? To answer all these questions, our expert David X Martin, shared his 6 steps of leadership in crisis, from his 30 years of experience in risk management, finance, and cyber security. Here are some of the key takeaways:

1. Anticipate- Predicting what lies ahead

Some of the best strategies that David X Martin learned throughout his career are to predict the future. How? The best way to predict the future is to create it! Sounds easy…NOT! However, he broke it down for us. In practice, this means always be aware of what is going on around you and think about the alternatives. He also shared that it is important to take stock of critical changes in the market and to make a future based decision around them. Think to yourself, if I see X change happen in the market, I will respond by doing Y. Basically, don’t drive your business with blinders on, and keep in mind that the best business decisions are made when you have alternatives.         

2. Navigate- Course correct in real time

It isn’t always easy to change course right in the midst of navigating a crisis. First, it is important to understand various market changes. Be prepared and know where you are - this relates to with your finances, with your suppliers, with your market share, and with your clients - know where your business stands in time and space.

If you make a mistake in course correction and navigating a crisis, try to understand the cause of the mistake, then review and assess it. It is equally helpful to think about the mistakes that have not yet been made, in other words, the future mistakes. There is no harm in questioning the assumptions you make, especially in times of crisis. A good business leader is constantly looking ahead, and once she/he gets to that future point, noting down where they were wrong, where they were right, and adjusting accordingly so as to not make the same errors again in the future.

BONUS INSIGHT: For youth-led SMEs in particular, that may be small in size, offering highly specialized niche products and services in under-served markets, think being small as your advantage, not your downfall! Compared to larger companies, SMEs are more agile, capable of quick and easy adaptation to changing circumstances, and in better contact with suppliers and clients, thus less bureaucratic and more connected with the issues affecting those around them. Consequently, young entrepreneurs could lead their companies to target new opportunities in a more efficient way, therefore focusing in on where you can add the most value.

3. Communicate- Continually

Often during this crisis, we have been told that leaders should “over communicate”. As a business founder and team leader, you are responsible for handling risk and you should own up to the risks. This is because you know your company, your clients and the challenges that your business is facing in the most comprehensive way. Therefore, it is your role as the leader of your company to communicate your knowledge and insights in a way that ensures employees feel included, trusted and important.

Trust and confidence between the founder and his/her team is therefore crucial, and can be built through some simple and practical steps. For instance, utilize different tools, such as phone calls, Skype, and Zoom. Good communication fosters innovation and builds team morale. Meanwhile, through informal communications, the business leader and the team need to get to know each other beyond job roles, in order to increase their team cohesion. During a crisis, it is vitally important to establish and maintain interpersonal bonds that enable a group to cope with conflicts better.

4. Listen- To what you don’t want to hear

Kindness is a key word in work and life. Listening to people, even when it hurts, helps to build trust. Often, just saying ‘I hear you’ or ‘I understand you’ can make a huge difference in establishing a relationship with your team, your clients or business partners. When you hear critical feedback (or give it), remember to be humane and always treat others the way you want to be treated.

Here are some tips: Repeat others’ statements or questions back to them, so they know they have been heard. This will allow them the employee to better understand how and what they said, and for you to demonstrate that you were listening. Furthermore, it ensures that you heard them correctly. In repeating a statement back to someone, that individual may actually realize they didn’t say what they intended to, or that it came out in a manner they had not intended. This tactic promotes greater understanding between two figures who might be at odds.

5. Learn- From experience to apply in the future

”I make a lot of mistakes, but I only make them once.” - David X Martin.

For David, there is nothing wrong with taking risks as long as they are managed and you can learn good risk management skills in taking them. It is important to note, that the larger the risk, the larger return – however, the larger the risk, the larger the potential loss should you fail. Therefore, it is critical to once again, know your business and its position in the market - know your boundaries and stay in the right lane.

In the face of crisis, you will also need to know what you don’t know, so that you can avoid any future mistakes and be prepared for any prospective risks. Take some time to think about scenarios where your business might be at risk. Managing and handling the unknown is at the core of risk management, since no one can predict the future, the best way to try to, is to prepare by thinking about unknowns and preparing for them.

In order to protect Citi Bank from growing cyber security threats, David X Martin thought ahead to hire a professional hacker to hack into his employer’s system, in order to get a sense of how it worked and how to prepare for a hack in the future when one would inevitably come!      

6. Lead- Improve yourself to elevate others

A great leader takes a high-pressure situation and absorbs the tension, takes time to think and respond, thereby de-escalating the situation; a poor leader takes a high-pressure situation and reflects that pressure back, building more tension in the process. As an entrepreneur and leader, the best way to ensure your business survives and thrives in crisis, is to lead by example, act as a model, and stand by your convictions. This requires that you not only understand your own strengths, but also give others the courage they need to go through crisis. In practice, think about it this way - what happens to staff, you must do it first as a leader/CEO/founder. 

Watch the full recording of the webinar below!

We have heard more and more people talking about the dominance of digitization in post-COVID world. Interested to learn what the key actions young entrepreneurs can take now to enhance their digital presence? Join the upcoming Episode 4 of Ye! Webinar, Trade in times of crisis: Opportunities and solutions through digital, 2 June, 4:30 - 5:30 pm (CET). Register here.


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