Leading Through A Crisis - We're All In This Together

The coronavirus outbreak is a challenging and uncertain time for all of us. The impact of the crisis on health, wellness, the economy and our livelihoods is unprecedented.

I’ve been inspired by the spirit of community and the help being offered during this difficult period. For example, the consumer brands offering their products to key workers for free and retailers diversifying and re-mobilising operations to manufacture PPE for hospitals at minimal cost. We’ve seen this outreach of support emulating across industry. There’s a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ on a superficial level - although it’s already clear that BAME, the poor and those on lower incomes are disproportionately affected and face worse health outcomes than most.

I would be interested to know how many CEOs are thinking across society in terms of the help and support their organisations can provide?

I work in the City of London but live much further away in Yorkshire. I am not operating in a bubble however I am saddened to confess I hadn’t given meaningful consideration to how care workers and key workers support the vulnerable or allow us to get along in our daily lives until now. 26 Transport for London workers have now died, many carers will die caring for the elderly in care homes. Amongst our many challenges for the future will be to think beyond our staff, customers and CSR initiatives, to the bigger imperative of doing our bit to support our society and the economy in other ways.

I applaud all the businesses that have adapted their operations to make protective clothing or hand gels. As a consulting and recruiting company our challenge is to consider what we can do too. Here are some of the things we have been doing recently – although I fully appreciate these do not have the impact of protecting front line workers’ lives.

We are arranging virtual round tables in April and May to engage our clients, bringing together those across sectors as peer groups to support one another on how best to navigate their biggest challenges. These leaders, usually competing rivals, have agreed to open collaboration and sharing of ideas.

We are connecting the NHS to our pool of senior interim managers who have volunteered to provide their services pro bono. Obviously, the NHS and the healthcare sector more broadly, is under immense pressure and staff shortages in key managerial roles are increasingly likely in the coming weeks. We hope this service will help to plug a small part of that gap. Our pool of senior interims includes finance directors, operations heads, HR directors and crisis management specialists who can step in to help at any minute.

We’ve already been active in assisting with the UK’s coronavirus response in other areas too:

  • Connected the CEO of a major UK Care Homes business to a manufacturer of PPE equipment
  • Offered those building ventilators, manufacturing experts who have volunteered to support them in the production and re-tooling for the NHS
  • Deployed senior interim operations expertise at speed to assist in the development of the Nightingale Hospital in Cardiff
  • Providing distressed companies with pro bono consultancy, with some of our senior interims providing advice via Skype.

All our stakeholders should be reassured that we are fully operational and able to meet their needs as and when they arise and we hope to deploy many more experts through our business continuity services in the coming months.

I would like to hear others views on the broader issue of leading through a crisis and how business leaders can help with the economic and societal challenges we face in the future – perhaps these ideas could be split into more immediate ideas and those longer term?

Doug Baird
Chief Executive Officer
New Street Group

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