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My Dad always told me that I needed to have a clear sense of the line between right and wrong and once established – to never cross the line. He also said it was completely up to me where I drew that line. The outcome is that people know what to expect and how to trust and work with me consistently.
It seems as if the world is taking tentative steps towards a new normal. Businesses of various kinds are opening up slowly. But what will the new normal look like. Last week I said you needed to plan. This week is about trust.
Where do you start?
Let’s start with people and personal contacts … This concerns not only the people that work for you (some seemingly robust and others with higher risks) but also the people that clean your office, provide professional services, deliver meals. What about your external staff, will they be able (or want) to visit clients? If your government says “get back to work”, what do you do?
After almost 3 months of being taught to be afraid of other people, many of the people in our business universe will not be keen on getting up close and personal.
It comes down to trust. Can I trust that any company is doing the right things – or at least those things that I think are right? Is everyone there healthy? Are they practising good hygiene? Will I be safe?
Each of us has different contexts to determine what we think is safe. We are worried about our own risk factors - immune-compromised, senior, diabetic for example or perhaps we have such a person in our personal bubble.
We are also worried about the environment we are going into. We are being advised, and in some cases legislated, by our municipal health officer, our provincial, county or state health officer and by our federal leadership as well. So who do you believe? Does Sweden have it right or does the mayor of New York have it right? There are no clear cut, widely accepted rules for what is appropriate, for what is ‘safe’.
So what do people think about you in a Covid19 world? Are you the kind of company that would likely be doing the right thing to keep people safe?
You can, of course, do nothing and hope that people perceive you the right way. You can make a stab at it and get it wrong and tarnish forever your brand. Or you can spend some time to do it right.
Doing it right.
Revisit your core purpose – why does your company exist. This is your license to operate. So make sure that whatever personal contact you are making is justified by your core purpose.
Look at your values – what will you do and/or not do. Proctor and Gamble’s stated values are Integrity, Leadership, Ownership, Passion for Winning, Trust. Whatever your response to enabling personal contact is, it must be in harmony with your stated values.
Notice that I started with purpose and values, not legislation. Purpose and values will always trump legislation.
But next is legislation. Compare the advice you are getting from your municipality, state/ province or county and from your federal leadership. If you operate internationally, include the W.H.O. in your assessment. Find the applicable consistent messages.
Lastly, look at your market. It consists of suppliers and clients, companies, and individuals – people just like you. What are they expecting from you? What will they need to hear from you to feel safe?
Can you put these elements together in a statement to explain to your community how you will be operating and how you will keep people safe? This should be compiled into a single page document explaining what you are doing to keep employees, suppliers, clients and people safe. It should be available publicly. It will become your line between right and wrong.
Post this in the entrance to your place of business, post it on your home page and place links to it on your email signature.
Done well, you will garner trust, maintain your reputation and be able to thrive in the new normal.
PS. If you are planning your rebound, you may want to have a look at the 5-Step Rebound Plan. Not for everyone, but great for companies who want to invent their own futures. Let me know if you’d like to chat.