Navigating the storm

Consistency is key to managing through crisis

The coronavirus lockdown was uncharted waters.

I don’t presume to have all the answers for navigating the worst global pandemic in a century, and I certainly cannot provide a step-by-step guide to help your company combat COVID-19. But as a U.S. Navy veteran and founder of a manufacturing firm with dozens of employees, I’ve learned that one strategy for managing any crisis is consistency.

It may not be the first word that comes to mind with crisis leadership, but consistency is the anchor to ride out a storm.

As the virus spread and life changed, I reminded myself that Apeks should stick to what helped us grow revenue by 3,000 percent over the last seven years. That meant maintaining consistent operations and holding steady to our fundamental core values and guiding principles.

To be sure, businesses must adapt in ways such as having employees working from home. But be consistent about the things you can control. Don’t abandon what was important yesterday just because you have a crisis today.

With the anchor of consistency firmly in place, you’ll better manage all aspects of the business through crisis, including:

  • Vision. The long-term strategic vision is critical to coming out on the other side as a stronger version of your pre-crisis business. Your mission, goals and the things important to your company before the crisis are still there through the crisis — and long after.
  • Trust. At Apeks, we put faith in employee productivity. We trust people to do the right thing, whether or not they’re in the office. Obsessively monitoring and controlling work habits can send a manager into a death spiral. Ultimately, inconsistent leaders risk losing trust when things go back to normal.
  • Planning. Plan and prepare for every imaginable scenario. Each manager has a short-term contingency plan to ensure production continues in the event of a positive test for coronavirus. As an essential business, we continued to work, taking care to separate workstations, split shifts and increase daily cleanings.
  • Personnel. People aren’t tools; they’re human beings and should be treated as such. Stay connected through remote-work technologies. Turning on the camera for a video chat is never the same as an in-person meeting, but it can remind us of the importance of collaboration and that we are all in this together. Additionally, laying off staff for any reason other than subpar performance breaks trust. While cutting the workforce may be an easy short-term solution to your bottom line, consider the potential long-term effects it may have on the future quality of recruiting and retention.

As uncertainty reigns, you can be a consistent, stable voice. People gravitate to that which they know, so a familiar management style goes far in weathering a crisis. Inconsistent, panic-driven leadership doesn’t work and only leads to more chaos.

Authentic respect for leaders isn’t given out with a placard on the door; it’s earned during these times of angst and uncertainty. Be a consistent presence and lean on what your company does well. You will be a stronger company for it.

Andy Joseph is president of Apeks Supercritical