Feedback from CEOs and leaders at recent peer-to-peer events hosted by BlueChip has focused on how COVID-19 has accelerated, not halted, expectations of leaders and brands, the market risk that comes with this. Leaders also spoke about how they see work evolving as we emerge from the "great social experiment" of mass WFH and the challenge of connecting with others when remote. These three themes inform our monthly COVID-19 response briefing, and our advice for CEOs dealing with such challenges.
1. Market feedback
Intelligence about the impact of COVID-19 on specific financial services sectors, not published by media.
A. Managing ourselves and our connection to others.
CEOs, business owners and senior professionals are really missing, and need to replicate, normal and business social connections.
You may have done this for your staff, but you haven’t yet figured out the best way to do this for yourselves. This is best summed up as “we didn’t know we needed it until it was gone.” And while structured, annual events (conferences, briefings, meetings, educational forums) have been replicated, few to none have recreated the coffee break conversations and the street corner catch ups. It turns out that these coincidental interactions are vital, and what's lost is more than casual conversation, it's also our sense of connection. Without the context of industry input, our ability to move confidently through decisions has been hampered.
On the flipside, CEOs tell of the blessing of greater connection to loved ones. At the roundtable, participants spoke about being more present for children's milestones, meals together, and relationships - time that would otherwise have been sacrificed (often for work travel).
B. An accelerator for ESG and innovation
CEOs at our recent event spoke about how companies are doing in months what would have previously taken years to complete. This speed of innovation has parallels to advances made following world war. However, some CEOs note that Australia is lagging on innovation compared to its global peers.
ESG was another area where CEOs spoke of higher standards that need to be met, faster, particularly with a focus on the 'G' for governance in the wake of scandals such as AMP and QBE.
Our focus on climate change and social licence has also shifted inexorably. As a result, CEOs, like many Australians point to environmental concerns leading to lower consumption (for organisations and customers) and a broader transition to more sustainable industries.
2. Management responses
This section outlines how CEOs and their leadership teams are responding
A. A licence to be more human, and the evolution of work
The COVID-19 shift to mass WFH was described by one CEO as a “great social experiment”, and many leaders now see it’s their job to preserve the positive changes (flexibility, more personableness) from this time. Flowing from this, they expect there will be a fundamental change to the spaces we work in, and are thinking quite differently about how they lead their people.
Indeed, COVID-19 has clarified that social interaction matters. All leaders we've spoken to as part of our roundtables and research talk about “us, not me”. One CEO described their former work persona as being behind a mask. Now, said the CEO, things are more personable, and this transparency between teams is something that they want to keep.
B. Revising your strategy story
Many of you understand your purpose and values, in particular, are be held to a higher standard in this moment in history than they were before.
What is a strategy story? It's a combination of a leadership narrative (internal) and a branded narrative (external). It’s likely these will be different. Because the context has changed, so has your narrative - you need to evolve both elements of it for the current environment.
3. CEO Guidance
This section provides our guidance on management and communication responses
A. Seek to replicate social interactions you're missing
you may be doing this for staff already - now do it for yourself. If you’re not part of a member organisation, you can go out and create an informal peer network for yourself and your people. You’ll be surprised how open people are to the opportunity to network with fellow, like minded humans.
B. Think about how you're managing reputation risk
While we’ve now dealt with a lot of the operational issues that emerged with COVID-19, many haven’t thought through the ripple effect, which is how you’re managing your reputation.
We are advising clients to run a reputation audit that will enable you to identify the risks that exist inside your own organisation, and your alignment to purpose and values vs your stakeholders’ views of this. The gap between what you believe you’re doing, and what stakeholders say you’re doing is your reputation risk.
4. Appendix: How to help us help you
This briefing is collective intelligence gathered, anonymised and shared with you by my firm for the greater good. We’ve taken the view, based on client feedback, that the collective benefit to you all takes precedence over normal competitive pressures at a time like this. If we’ve not yet spoken, please share your experience here.