Leading In Times of Crisis: Achieving the Promise of Your Business Plan

Each day of this enduring crisis brings new challenges and opportunities requiring compassion, collaboration, and grit to forge ahead. As many of us have come to understand, navigating the complexities of the COVID landscape requires doing more than helping our organizations “weather the storm.” To inspire and mobilize action through what feels like a perpetual state of uncertainty, leaders must serve as a stabilizing force—providing realistic direction, aligning team focus, drawing on the collective intelligence and experience of employees, and rallying workers to adapt and thrive in a shifting reality.

How can leaders chart a course and sustain momentum in such a fluid environment? Start by getting ahead of changing circumstances. Envision success and the immediate steps to drive quickly and decisively toward it. Continually assess and ruthlessly prioritize the most critical work of your organization and move people forward with a discrete set of priorities—engaging the right resources in the right activities. Regularly check your horizon and demonstrate agility since you will need your team to do the same, embracing trust and resetting expectations along the way. Communicate plans and course corrections honestly and in a way that resonates at a rational and emotional level. Be adaptable and open to new opportunities, making strategic choices with a clear understanding of tradeoffs for your team and organization.

With 2021 approaching, are you balancing near- and long-term planning, carefully articulating criteria, assumptions, and contingencies? Are you setting and resetting expectations with others, clearly defining their roles? How are you engaging with your teams in the “new normal”?

Promoting a Culture of Accountability

The best of us make a personal choice to rise above current circumstances and take ownership of achieving key results amid continuing change, fully understanding that many factors are outside of our control. Modeling this mindset and the following behaviors with our employees can help to promote a culture of accountability resulting in greater cohesion, commitment, and action toward realizing critical milestones along the path to recovery and beyond.

Driving engagement and high performance in our current state requires facilitating a shift away from limiting beliefs and actions that can hinder success, e.g., blame, denial, and an attitude of “wait and see.” An accountable culture promotes confidence and autonomy, and with greater clarity and control, employees are better equipped to see beyond problems to focus on solutions and what they can do. Research has shown that organizations with a highly accountable workforce see roughly an 86% increase in innovation and 90% faster execution than organizations with low levels of accountability.  Start to create greater accountability for results by reframing current narratives and providing experiences to help your people think more positively and productively about their daily work.

Communicate what is valued most at this time—not only desired outcomes but the beliefs that will help drive the organization forward. More importantly, model the way and reward those on your team for doing the same. Whether you realize it or not, each interaction you have with others in your organization creates experiences that either foster or undermine desired beliefs, behaviors, and outcomes.

Guiding organizations through the residual disruption and ambiguity of the pandemic will require a continual reset of priorities and redirection of resources. Leaders who paint a compelling picture of success and engage the hearts and minds of employees through meaningful experiences along the way will provide the clarity, purpose, and positive accountability needed to achieve the promise of their business plans.

What beliefs must you and your organization hold to achieve key results? Are the daily experiences you are creating fostering or undermining desired beliefs and behaviors? As a leader, are you modeling a mindset of positive accountability and supporting your team in developing and demonstrating the same?


This is the fourth and final article in a series derived from the Leading in Times of Crisis workshops
delivered pro bono to support our executive network in navigating the uncertainty and change brought
about by the coronavirus pandemic. See previous articles on balancing a new set of success metrics,
modeling self-care and resilience, and compassionate, courageous leadership.

DCG’s purpose—and promise—has always been to help leaders lead change, and it drives us now more than ever to support our colleagues, clients, partners, and friends in managing through the continuing impacts of COVID-19. Our team is with you on this journey, and we are here to help.

Leading In Times of Crisis: Modeling Self-Care and Resilience

Right now, many organizations are planning for re-entry, some even navigating a slow return to pre-COVID environments and routines. Leaders are reimagining the future of work while still responding to present organizational demands and opportunities. As we hover between what was and will be, we are reminded of the journey ahead and the resilience needed to effectively support and lead our people through this ongoing crisis.

Tapping into our emotional intelligence to inform our decision-making and regulate how we respond to our own and others’ needs along the way is vital to ensuring our organizations emerge from this pandemic stronger than before. While self-care at this time might feel self-indulgent, it is critical to caring for and leading others. We have an obligation to display through our own behavior and interactions how we are keeping ourselves whole, balanced, and resilient in order to give our people permission to prioritize what they need to meet the challenges at hand.

What does self-care look like for leaders amid COVID? Make time for what “fuels you.” Regularly pause to clear your head, reflect, and understand what you need in the moment. Accept that in this time of great uncertainty you will not have all the answers, and this is okay. Regularly seek connection with peer leaders and lean on trusted advisors for guidance and support.

As a leader, are you present and aware of where you are emotionally and what you need to support yourself? Are you proactively caring for yourself or reacting moment to moment? Do you have a support system and trusted advisors in place?

In addition to practicing self-care, we can focus on equipping ourselves with the psychological skills necessary to forge ahead and lessen the continuing impacts of the pandemic. Pioneer of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman, asserts that mindset is the key to cultivating resilience and even achieving post-traumatic growth—moving beyond recovery to adapting and innovating. While several factors contribute to resilience, the ability to draw on mental and emotional reserves to recover quickly and flourish in the wake of adversity is essential.

This “mental toughness” can be developed through a variety of practices including mindfulness and self-regulation to fundamentally shift the way we relate to our thoughts and feelings and improve our ability to respond under pressure. Promoting resilient thinking in ourselves and others can help to minimize catastrophic notions and see choices, opportunities, and solutions versus problems. Highlighting signature strengths within yourself and your people and how they can be honed and applied in new ways can help teams adapt to adversity and facilitate progress. In addition to ongoing, positive communication and engagement with our people, employing authentic and inspirational communication to articulate a compelling vision offering direction and hope can help to strengthen organizational trust, relationships, and commitment to shaping a better future.

Our mindset has the power to determine how we perceive and emotionally respond to crisis. While fear, denial, and blame can hinder our ability to move forward, shifting our thinking to recall successes, consider new possibilities, and reflect on the collective resources and capabilities of our people and organizations can boost our own resilience and rally our teams. Start by creating a narrative for your organization in which this time is seen as a fork in the road, and challenge your people to do more than endure this crisis but embrace the opportunity to discover new strengths and thrive.

Are you modeling a resilient mindset in the “moments that matter”? How are you supporting your people in building this skill?


We recently volunteered our time to host a series of Leading in Times of Crisis workshops to support our executive network in navigating the uncertainty and change brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the third in a sequence of articles derived from the workshop offering change expertise and resources to help equip leaders at all levels to lead their people through this crisis successfully. See our previous article on compassionate, courageous leadership.

DCG’s purpose—and promise—has always been to help leaders lead change, and it drives us now more than ever to support our colleagues, clients, partners, and friends in managing through the impacts of COVID-19. Our team is with you on this journey, and we are here to help.

Leading in Times of Crisis: The Call for Compassionate, Courageous Leadership

These past few months have taken an emotional and psychological toll requiring greater empathy and support from leaders than ever warranted in the past. To inspire and mobilize our people in these increasingly challenging times, we must seek to understand our employees’ perspectives and show genuine care and respect for their feelings. What team members need right now are leaders with the compassion and courage to lead from the head and heart, empathetic leaders who can create the psychological safety necessary to work through unspoken concerns and open a dialogue that reins in employee fears, promotes optimism, and rallies their people’s best thinking to forge ahead.

Empathy is the capacity to understand the emotions and perspectives of others. Truly empathizing, or “feeling with people,” can be difficult because it requires us to connect with something inside of ourselves that “knows the feeling” described by another. Empathetic leaders make the vulnerable choice to tap into their own emotions to understand and authentically engage with their people. They ask questions, listen, and validate where their team members are and what they need—and they respond in a meaningful way to help them move forward.

While a “soft” skill, numerous studies draw a hard connection between empathetic leadership and increased levels of loyalty, engagement, and performance. Trust and relationships deepen when employees feel heard, understood and supported, leading to greater collaboration, innovation and productivity—especially in times of crisis. While empathy comes naturally to some, others need to cultivate this essential leadership skill.

Becoming an empathetic leader requires:

    • Actively listening with care and focus, holding time and space for all that needs to be shared
    • Looking beyond your point of view to consider the perspectives of others
    • Recognizing and accepting others’ feelings
    • Assuming positive intent and refraining from judgment
    • Modeling self-awareness and vulnerability, openly acknowledging and voicing personal feelings and needs with clarity and compassion
    • Frequently checking in with employees, meeting individuals where they are emotionally, and offering encouragement

Unsure of where to begin? Start by asking questions, demonstrating patience, curiosity, and a willingness to listen with an open mind. The desire and capacity to truly listen with intent are what set empathetic leaders apart.

Practicing Active Listening:

    • Focus only on what the other person is saying—not on what you are going to say next
    • Be fully present, avoiding distractions and multitasking
    • Observe nonverbal cues (facial expressions and body language) and control your own so as not to inadvertently send the wrong message—especially in today’s remote work environment, use video conferencing to connect whenever possible
    • Validate understanding by asking clarifying questions and summarizing what was heard

The scale and complexity of our crisis landscape will continue to pressure-test leaders and organizational cultures. While the disruption and uncertainty forced upon us by the coronavirus pandemic and the consequences of recent tragic events cannot be changed, we do have a choice in how we respond. Seizing everyday opportunities to practice empathy and lead employees forward with humanity will position us all to emerge from this shared experience stronger than before.

Do you have a solid understanding of where your team members are emotionally and what they need from you today? Do you regularly check in to listen, offer encouragement, and provide the support to help them move forward? Are you honest, transparent, and caring in your communications?


We recently volunteered our time to host a series of Leading in Times of Crisis workshops to support our executive network in navigating the uncertainty and change brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the second in a sequence of articles derived from the workshop offering change expertise and resources to help equip leaders at all levels to lead their people through this crisis successfully. See our initial article on three success metrics leaders must work to balance now.

DCG’s purpose—and promise—has always been to help leaders lead change, and it drives us now more than ever to support our colleagues, clients, partners, and friends in managing through the impacts of COVID-19. Our team is with you on this journey, and we are here to help.

Leading in Times of Crisis: Balancing a New Set of Success Metrics

The spread of COVID-19 has forced unmatched levels of change and uncertainty upon us and taken an emotional toll impacting our daily ability to focus and function.  Leaders successfully navigating this crisis with their people are regularly pausing to acknowledge and respond to both their own emotions as well as employees’ feelings of anxiety, fear, and grief in order to effectively move their teams forward.

Our adaptation of the Change Curve, informed by the research of Elrod and Tippett, illustrates the emotional journey typically experienced in times of disruption as well as the magnitude and range of emotions felt as individuals come to terms with change. Although there is a progression from left to right, it is important to understand that responses are not always linear and that it is common to move back and forth along the curve—especially in times of crisis, as change rapidly unfolds. Leaders often feel a responsibility to respond with courage, optimism, and an unmistakable calm, driving toward Acceptance and Commitment as quickly as possible in order to best support their teams. This is not always possible—nor is it a realistic expectation. Leaders are prone to the same emotions as everyone else; acknowledging and owning these feelings in ourselves and identifying and honoring them in others are key to helping us move past them.

Examining our leadership role in the context of the COVID-19 crisis has surfaced a new set of success metrics that must be balanced to effectively navigate this change and achieve sustainable results. Conducting a weekly leadership “pulse check,” we can monitor how we are doing against the following:

    1. Supporting Self
    2. Supporting and Inspiring Others
    3. Setting Direction and Mobilizing Action

Supporting Self:  Protecting the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of employees throughout this crisis requires leaders to prioritize and model self-care. Tapping into our emotional intelligence to inform our decision-making and regulate how we respond to our own and others’ needs is vital to ensuring our organizations emerge from this pandemic stronger than before. While self-care at this time might feel self-indulgent, it is critical to caring for and leading others. We have an obligation to display through our own behavior and interactions how we are keeping ourselves whole, balanced, and resilient in order to give our people permission to prioritize what they need to meet the challenges at hand.

What does self-care look like for leaders amid COVID? Make time for what “fuels you.” Regularly pause to clear your head, reflect, and understand what you need in the moment. Accept that in this time of great uncertainty you will not have all the answers, and this is okay. Regularly seek connection with peer leaders and lean on trusted advisors for guidance and support.

As a leader, are you present and aware of where you are emotionally and what you need to support yourself? Are you proactively caring for yourself or reacting moment to moment? Do you have a support system and trusted advisors in place?

Supporting and Inspiring Others:  Inspiring and mobilizing people in times of crisis requires leading from the head and heart. Seeking to understand our peoples’ perspectives and showing genuine care for their feelings creates the psychological safety needed to work through unspoken concerns. Modeling honesty, vulnerability, and empathy sets the tone for our teams and can open a dialogue that reins in employee fears, promotes optimism, and rallies their best thinking.

If you are unsure of where to begin, start by asking questions, demonstrating patience, curiosity, and a willingness to listen with an open mind. Frequently check in and validate where others are on the emotional change curve, meeting each employee where they are, and offering encouragement. Architect social support and connection by assigning “buddies” within teams, conducting regular team huddles, and one-on-ones. Ensure time spent with team members addresses topics such as well-being, capacity, new ways of working, and key priorities enabling a path forward. Follow up regularly; team members feeling okay today might not feel the same tomorrow.

Do you have a solid understanding of where your team members are on the change curve and what they need from you today? Do you regularly check in to offer encouragement and provide the support to help them move forward? Are you honest, transparent, and caring in your communications?

Setting Direction and Mobilizing Action:  An enduring crisis such as this will require all of us—leaders and team members—to show up stronger, longer. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and each day will bring new challenges and opportunities requiring compassion and collaboration to sustain. The most effective leaders will have the connection and understanding to draw out the strength of their people in new ways and create a way forward that employees will feel they can both contribute and commit to.

Begin by assessing and identifying critical work at this moment in time and engaging the right people in the right activities.  Check your horizon and model agility with your team since you will require the same from them, resetting expectations along the way. Communicate plans honestly and in a way that resonates at a rational and emotional level. Be adaptable and open to new opportunities, making strategic choices with a clear understanding of tradeoffs for your team and organization.

Are you balancing near- and long-term planning, carefully articulating criteria, assumptions, and contingencies? Do you set and reset expectations with others, clearly defining their role? How are you engaging your teams in preparing for the “new normal”?


We recently volunteered our time to host a series of Leading in Times of Crisis workshops to support our executive network in navigating the change and uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the first in a sequence of articles derived from the workshop offering change expertise and resources to help equip leaders at all levels to lead their people through this crisis successfully.

DCG’s purpose—and promise—has always been to help leaders lead change, and it drives us now more than ever to support our colleagues, clients, partners, and friends in managing through the impacts of COVID-19. Our team is with you on this journey, and we are here to help.

United in Our Commitment to Helping Leaders Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis and Lead Through Change

Our team recognizes that the community of leaders we serve is being tested like never before; the spread of COVID-19 is profoundly impacting people, businesses, and institutions across the globe.  The speed of this ever-evolving situation coupled with the need for decisive action, despite the weight of pivotal decisions and acute uncertainty, make for unprecedented human and organizational challenges.

We are aware that leaders are struggling to instill confidence in employees, provide a sense of security in their organizations, and manage changes in day-to-day operations, all while sustaining momentum and a forward focus on strategic initiatives.  In service to one another and to our clients, we gathered virtually to connect and share valuable experiences and insights offering guidance to help not only our own team but the leaders we support, as we journey through this crisis together; here are the takeaways that rose to the top.

Leverage communication to strengthen organizational trust and lead people forward. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on COVID-19 highlighted findings that “my employer” was the most trusted institution/source for coronavirus-related communication over business in general, NGOs, government, and media. Regarding the most trusted spokespeople, the CEO of “my employer” came in at 54 percent, squarely in the middle of the ranking among scientists, medical professionals, WHO and CDC officials, government officials, journalists, and “a person like yourself.”  What an extraordinary responsibility and opportunity!  Key implications for leaders?  Be proactive and over-communicate, sharing accurate and reliable information in a timely manner.  Be as “visible” and accessible as possible, leveraging technology to connect with dispersed and remote employees.  Adopt a transparent approach—treating employees as respected business partners—and share the “why” behind critical decisions.  Be vulnerable and admit missteps, taking accountability, and setting expectations for course correction.  Focus on opening up a dialogue—not on having all the answers—and keeping the conversation going.

Anchor your response to your company’s purpose and values. There is great power in purpose; it matters to us because as human beings we have an innate desire to belong and contribute to something bigger than ourselves.  Aligning employees with purpose—especially in turbulent times—inspires commitment and motivates performance. Values create meaningful touchpoints within your organization; shine a light on values-based decision making and values in action across the organization as well as outside the company as care for employees, customers, partners, communities, and others is demonstrated.  Identification with company purpose and values builds community, strengthens loyalty, and yields powerful outcomes.  Reputation, after all, is built from the inside out.

Practice empathy. Be mindful of the human side of change and the emotion involved. Future expectations have been disrupted, a sense of control has been lost, the ability to process a lot of information in a short period of time has been compromised.  Many people are being asked to change their behavior in drastic ways, and not just at work, but at home and in their communities.  Check in regularly with employees and ask how they are doing, how their family is faring.  Listen for understanding, and offer genuine care and support.  Use this time to strengthen relationships with your people.

Model the way. Employees will take a cue from leadership on how to feel and respond. Leaders exhibiting a calm, focused mindset and a sense of control will help their people to display the same. A hallmark of a crisis is its nature to change quickly. Leaders must demonstrate agility and adaptive behavior in their decision making and actions, as the current environment will require this behavior from people across the organization.

Plan for the future.  Be clear about the here and now, but point to organizational strengths, opportunities for collaboration, progress being made, and a vision for the future. Envision success and continue to adapt plans, ensuring flexibility to respond in this rapidly evolving climate.  Be open and transparent at every turn. The far-reaching and long-lasting impact of this healthcare crisis is still uncertain; however, continual communication with employees and external stakeholders to align expectations and realities and chart a path forward will help reduce the fear of the unknown, focus your people, and empower them to act.

Our team’s purpose—and promise—has always been to help leaders lead change. We are united in our commitment to doing all we can to support our colleagues, clients, partners, and friends in managing through the impacts of COVID-19. We will navigate this crisis together, the only way we know how…the DCG way. We stand with you, and we are ready to help.

Investing in Soft Skills Development for Leaders Yields Hard Bottom-Line Results

Today’s global marketplace is complex, unpredictable and ever evolving. Change is occurring more drastically and at a faster pace than in recent history, and according to research from the World Economic Forum, 35 percent of skills required for workplace success today will be different by 2020.

Unfortunately, most leaders are not developing fast enough or in the right ways to be effective in this new environment. Technical aptitude and business savvy are no longer enough to meet the demands of the role, and top-performing organizations are quickly recognizing the need to develop a strong pipeline of up-and-comers capable of leading people to deliver business results amidst change and uncertainty. To face the challenges of the coming decades head-on, leaders must become more adept at collaborating, driving accountability, inspiring employee commitment and moving organizations forward.

There is nothing “soft” about the skills needed to connect well enough with employees to lead them effectively through both periods of stability and transformation. Soft skills—such as listening, coaching, influencing, problem solving and communicating effectively—are proving to be as important, if not more important, than technical competence as managers advance through the ranks. What’s more, “The Hard Science Behind Soft Skills” (Chief Learning Officer magazine) cites research by Development Dimensions International revealing an average return on investment of $4,000 for every $1,100 spent developing soft skills.

What soft skills gaps are you recognizing in yourself and/or your team? How would closing these gaps drive improved business results? What can your company do to better align leadership development objectives with the needs of the business?

Our team partners with companies to identify soft skills gaps and build the capabilities required to achieve the highest levels of individual and team performance. Click to explore our soft skills development programs and how we can help your organization cultivate these critical skills in your leaders over time.

Naturally curious and eager to listen, our team would love to hear your thoughts on this very important topic. Connect with us! Give us a call, send a note, or follow us on LinkedIn. If you liked this post, consider sharing it with your network and inviting others to comment and join the conversation.

Leaders Capable of Driving Strategic Change Take Companies from Good to Great

A survey of 7,500 global leaders by Korn Ferry reveals driving strategic change as the top leadership development priority identified by executives. Not surprising, given that half of respondents cite managing through strategic change as the number one shortcoming of current leadership. In fact, only 17 percent of those surveyed are confident their organizations have the right leadership to execute strategic priorities.

Leading an organization through change is tough, and the fact that most leaders are challenged to do it effectively is a big problem. Rapid change and transformation create natural resistance, and studies consistently show between 50 and 70 percent of critical change efforts fail. The stakes are high, and companies must improve the odds of success to compete long term. Hope is not a strategy but arming leaders with the knowledge and tools to help employees face change head-on, embrace it and come through it successfully is.

Whether merging or acquiring another company, executing a new go-to-market strategy, restructuring, or launching new systems, products or service innovations, leaders must possess the capabilities and courage to deal effectively with both the structural and human aspects of change. They must develop the capacity to articulate a compelling vision and help employees understand why the change is relevant so they become energized by what’s possible and motivated to achieve results.

How confident are you in your team’s ability to lead change? Are the leaders in your organization equipped to execute strategic priorities? How would you rank your company’s leadership development ROI?

We work closely with leaders at all levels to create awareness of change leadership strengths and opportunities for improvement. Click to explore our Leading Change Workshop and how we can help your organization jump-start efforts to build this critical leadership capability internally.

Naturally curious and eager to listen, our team would love to hear your thoughts on this very important topic. Connect with us! Give us a call, send a note, or follow us on LinkedIn. If you liked this post, consider sharing it with your network and inviting others to comment and join the conversation.

The Power of Purpose in Leading Change

You may have noticed that more and more brands are swapping humor and clever taglines for advertising messages with a high dose of heart and humanity.  It’s a growing trend as companies attempt to build and deepen connections with consumers that span well beyond their products and services.

While not an entirely new concept, purpose-driven messaging is being used more and more to inspire action for a greater cause.  Communication emphasizing social impact is on the rise to meet the increasing demand and preference for purpose in the brands we buy.  This trend was evident in many of the spots that ran during this year’s Super Bowl, including Procter & Gamble’s “Like a Girl” campaign, Unilever’s “Real Strength” campaign, and the “Make It Happy” campaign from Coca-Cola.

Interestingly enough, outside of brand campaigns, little time is spent thinking about the importance of emotional buy-in.  Building connections to engender loyalty among consumers is just half of the equation, and the most innovative brands recognize the power of using purpose-driven messaging internally to galvanize an organization to support the business cause.

More motivating than a paycheck is a sense of purpose.  It matters to us because as human beings we have an innate desire to belong and contribute to something bigger than ourselves.  Aligning employees with purpose—especially during turbulent times—inspires a commitment that can’t be bought and yields powerful outcomes that can accelerate execution and growth during times of both stability and change.

So what are the implications for us as change leaders?

Change creates natural resistance, as employees must fundamentally rethink and reshape the business while minimizing losses in productivity.  This requires extraordinary levels of energy and engagement.  In their study, “The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management: Why it isn’t working and what to do about it,” authors Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken state that what leaders care about (and typically base at least 80 percent of their messages on) does not tap into roughly 80 percent of the workforce’s primary motivation for putting extra energy into change.

When presenting the case for change, leaders often focus solely on business objectives such as entering new markets, increasing shareholder value, or enhancing corporate reputation.  Ensuring a genuine commitment to the cause requires connecting with employees on both a rational and emotional level—marrying desired outcomes of the business strategy with purpose to engage hearts and minds.

Storytelling is the single most effective way to remind employees of the company’s purpose and their critical role in achieving it.  A powerful transformation story is authentic and begins with the “why” behind change—not “what” the company is trying to achieve.  It creates unique opportunities for dialogue, helping employees to understand the vision and why the strategy is relevant so they become energized by what’s possible and motivated to act.  It answers the “big questions,” from impact on society to impact on employees, and creates a line of sight for people to recognize that what they do matters and is valued.

Naturally curious and eager to listen, our team would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Connect with us! Give us a call, send a note, or follow us on LinkedIn. If you liked this post, consider sharing it with your network and inviting others to comment and join the conversation.