Leadership in times of crisis

For a strange reason, Charles Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” comes to mind at this time.

This is a short series I will be writing about from Brandt International’s perspective during the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world right now. Brandt may not be as large as some other organizations in our industry but I know we pride ourselves on our agility and leadership team. We will share as much of our experience as possible, hopefully, it will encourage everyone or be helpful to you in one way or another.

As the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and escalated globally, Brandt was quite ahead of the curve. In fact, way back in January, we ran discussions and hypothetical scenarios of what could possibly happen during our regular Senior Leadership team meetings. One of them happened to be a lock-down scenario. I will elaborate more on those days prior on March 18, 2020 (when Malaysia officially was locked down) next time but for now, I would like to focus on being a week into the Movement Control Order (MCO).

All Brandt staff are working from home as I write with essential services functioning as best as possible in the current situation. During the financial crisis in 2007, the focus was on the CFO. The role was so critical that the decisions made by the CFO could determine the fate of the organization. Today, I would like to highlight the role of the HR Director or Chief People Officer.

We’re fortunate to have a people-focused organization and as soon as the MCO was announced with two days notice, our HR, led by our capable Kabil Shamsuri, was already prepared. While we have planned to meticulous detail the various potential scenarios for business continuity, it was the quick action by the HR team to execute.

One key element is communication. Brandt HR has been sending updates regularly, including holding morning briefings for staff and using office displays updated frequently with information for our staff. Our flexible and staff empowered policies meant that in fact, for Brandt International, March 9, over a week ahead of the MCO, we could start our work-at-home (WFH) operations. To the HR team’s credit, this phased approach went ahead smoothly with very few hitches. With each phase, like in any of our projects, continuous improvements is ever present. Any hiccups were noted and fixed quickly before the next phase. We were way over 50% WFH by March 16. Only essential services were operating from our location or specific client locations and even then, there was no neglect for these staff. Food was provided to ease their burdens and also to keep them safe and healthy. Team leads were regularly briefed and no one was excluded. So you can see that while it was the worse of times, it was also the best of times if leadership steps up.

For sure, we are in uncharted territory. What we do now is very important and I believe that it is critical our leadership teams step up to the challenge for our organizations. We need to pull together if we are to get through this. Brandt’s senior leadership team is continuously connected 24×7 monitoring the situation along with our regularly scheduled video conference meetings.

Do share what has worked for your organization and your experience and actions you have taken to manage this situation. We all can do this. Like Charles Dickens’ wrote, depending on how you lead, will determine what kind of “time” it is for you.

More to come, stay tuned.

marcom
Eugene is the Director of Marketing, Commercial and CX at Brandt International. With over 20 years in various industries and start-ups, his passion lies in Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience. He is rather OCD about design and interfaces in particular. Mildly diagnosed with ADHD, he drinks too much coffee and generates ideas at random times all the time.

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