Employee Facing Leadership Strategies for Better-For-You Brands in Times of Crisis

March 23, 2020 | by David Lemley

Today is not like yesterday, and tomorrow will be different still. It’s going to be this way for a while; we just don’t know how long.

Among the multitude of companies, brands, consultants, and friends offering advice during this crisis, we offer these insights and reassurances for better-for-you brand leaders.

What this Crisis Looks Like for BFY Brands

Different market sectors in the U.S. economy are being affected in wildly different ways: healthcare is overextended, foodservice and hospitality are in dire straits, finance is swinging wildly. CPG and retail industries are reacting to acute changes in consumer behavior, shopper demands, and supply chain challenges.

We predict that in the short term, BFY brands (especially shelf stable products backed by a strong supply chain and distribution model) will see an uptick in sales. We also think that gain will taper off as pantry-stocking is no longer urgent, but household inventory becomes normalized.

Post-crisis, business will be challenging for any brands that

  • have rested on their laurels
  • became overconfident thanks to the uptick in sales
  • hunkered down and waited for the crisis to pass

Internal Leadership is More Important Than Ever

Culturally, BFY companies tend to be nimble, entrepreneurial, swift, scrappy, and comfortable with forward failure. And those are valuable characteristics when the ground is shifting underneath your feet. The watch-out, though, is overconfidence and tone-deafness to human needs for clarity, certainty, and safety. Leadership now means tapping your organization’s strengths without getting out over your skis.

From a structural standpoint, your team is likely already scattered and working from home. Ironically, it takes more time and effort to lead a diffuse team than a co-located one; your check-ins and communication shifts to multiple times per day from daily or weekly.

Remote working offers some teams a chance to be more task-focused—and that’s a good thing, as people like to feel they’re doing something productive now. But leaders need to be asking questions about how people are feeling, how they are taking care of themselves, how their families are faring. As a leader, you must encourage sharing and offer ideas of your own, opening the line of communication to vulnerability and uncertainty. Your team needs to see your humanity now more than ever.

They also need from you an honest and realistic sense of the company’s new reality. Help them understand the opportunities and challenges you face and enroll them in finding solutions. Let them see you flexing your leadership muscles.

Strategically, this is the ideal time to undertake initiatives related to capital-B Brand: why your brand exists beyond making a product or profit. Think beyond features and benefits. What is your brand’s true promise? How do you keep it with your internal team and your external audiences?

Appealing as it might be, this crisis isn’t the opportunity for you to pounce. Absolutely, focus on keeping the business strong, but don’t worry about beating competitors in the short term. Save that for long-term brand relevance and mid-term innovation.

As you’re communicating with worried investors, shareholders, and supply chain partners, be honest, but let them know you have or are formulating a plan that will ensure that your brand is beloved in the current crisis and beloved in the new normal that will come after.

The brands that will gain market share will be the ones that use 2020 to gain trust and heart share.

Functionally, here are a few recommendations for managing a remote team:

  • Videoconferencing beats phone and email
  • Increase scheduled and impromptu check-ins, and use these as opportunities to lead emotionally as well as tactically
  • Increase the amount of praise and attaboys/attagirls
  • Keep team meetings positive, focused, and civil; if you need to call someone out, do it in a one-to-one video chat

Your employees, business partners, supporters, and customers all need to see leadership from you that invokes love and togetherness. They need to see your vision of a bright future in a dark today.

Our Offer to You

We are offering Zoom and phone chats with any brand owners that are needing an external “eye” on your concerns and situation. You may have worked with us, or never engaged with us before. Either way, we are here to help, listen and offer insights as we see them.

No strings attached.