Choices During a Crisis Dictate Future Success
How to lead your team past the peak of a crisis
It wasn’t the first pandemic. Ebola had plagued other parts of the region before. But leaders of a green energy company in West Africa were not expecting it to strike again, at least not in their area. So when a new Ebola outbreak emerged, the company was still focused on growing the sales of its low-cost solar cells to consumers through retail outlets and a partnership with a union serving agricultural workers. Then the pandemic hit its headquarters city and shut off all commerce. The venture’s American founders and its local general manager quickly decided to send employees home for a month-long quarantine with a bonus of a month’s wages in advance, enabling workers to buy what they needed for their families and to stay well.
The founders were stuck on the other side of the ocean, dependent on a distant and now disappearing work force. To support them, the leaders had to reach into their own not-very-deep pockets for the cash. The company’s finances were already precarious after a brush with a corrupt employee’s embezzlement. The founders wondered whether they could find new investors for the still-fragile but promising venture. The leadership team used the time to observe the region’s needs, such as the hit to education and the food supply, and consider how to rebuild a different but better company that could serve more needs.
This company had learned the truth of Kanter’s Law: that everything can look like a failure in the middle. Unexpected obstacles and difficult predicaments can arise in the middle of any human and organizational endeavor. Give up, and by definition it’s a failure. Persist, pivot, and persevere, and there’s hope for finding another successful path.
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