Navigating business in a crisis requires a systematic response that extends beyond the leadership capabilities of any individual or single organization. Leadership reactions can pull in different directions but always require planning and improvisation to succeed through and beyond an event. George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Anthony Luttenberger, is an executive with more than 25 years of commercial healthcare experience and a leader who we felt could share his perspective on how to succeed and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. How have you historically assessed your team’s readiness, and what training/skills have benefited you the most during the crisis?
One of my key principles is you always start with your people. The right people build your business, and the wrong ones can tear it apart in a fraction of the time it took you to build it. Make sure you have the right team in place, remove the people who will drag you down and make sure the right ones are all in the right positions.
With or without a crisis, we hire, train, develop and retain top talent. Training is continuous and includes both the “Art and Science:” the theoretical and the real-word application, the strategy and the tactical execution. We don’t just train until we get it right, we train until we cannot get it wrong. You only play as well as you practice. In this sophisticated business, we cannot afford to have people learn like a parrot and just repeat things. We need depth, understanding, context and wisdom. We create a team culture of knowing when to lean forward and contribute, when to step back and support a peer and by sharing what works and what doesn’t work. Training and preparation are key, knowing our industry, knowing our products, services & solutions, knowing our competition and always demonstrating unique value articulating it in an easy to understand fashion to our customers.
In a time of crisis, we train for several things: The ability to flexible, both organizationally and individually, and the ability to question, listen and pivot during the change that the crisis is causing. We make sure we anticipate and lead our customers to make good decisions. We engage earlier at all levels of the organization, bring in the right level of support with the proper resource allocation.
Being good can be describe as someone who can look out onto the landscape and hit a target they can see. Being great is someone who can look out onto the landscape and hit targets no one else can see. When a crisis hits, we already see what others do not and act. We build teams with high performers who can see things no one else can see. They have intuition and gut feelings, and they continuously learn more to earn more. They make sure they have the most accurate and timely information to stay ahead with persistence, tenacity, resilience and grit, and they stay after until the goal is achieved.
6. How are you managing your team’s engagement, and what approaches are you taking to develop transparency to maintain a high level of productivity and communication?
It is equally important to manage productivity and activity. This is a critical skill that most leadership teams miss.
The single most important thing you can do to develop transparency to promote productivity and improve communication and connectedness is practice is what I like to call “True Diversity & Inclusion.”
Historically, diversity has been based on the traditional elements of a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, race, color, creed, religion, disability or sexual orientation. Diversity and Inclusion is far more. It includes understanding, accepting and valuing the differences of people and bringing them together with the understanding that when executed properly diverse and inclusive teams outperform teams that are not diverse and inclusive.
This is an interesting topic. Think about it. We are all born into this world into situations we had zero control over. We are born into different countries, different communities and different cultures. We are raised by different parents and different belief systems. We all have different experiences growing up, different schools, different exposures and have developed different skill sets. By leading initiatives of True Diversity and Inclusion, you welcome the input, perspectives, observations, intuition and skill sets of all your people. Take the time to get to know your people. Great things are born out of this. When you make someone feel accepted and valued for who they really are without hesitation or fear to hold back, you accelerate that process. I welcome and expect that people lean forward and add value as they fully participate. The outcomes are truly impressive. There is a saying, “If your presence does not make an impact, your absence will not make a difference.” On my teams, I expect and encourage people to be fully engaged and feeling that they can always bring 100% of themselves to everything they do without fear of judgement or rejection. One thing I never want is someone on my team to hate Mondays or feel unnecessary anxiety about a meeting, but I know there is a natural anxiety around sales performance. I want the team to feel extremely prepared and confident through it all. I also know that the more diverse and inclusive, the more it represents the people we sell to. Our customers are diverse. The effect on increased production is priceless.
7. As a leader what do you feel are the most important management traits for success especially in a fluid situation?
Always control your emotions in all things both good and bad. Never let emotions drive your decisions. Never let your personal natural bias blind you.
Make data driven decisions, both accurate and timely.
Conduct yourself with excellence always, in words and behavior.
Practice service-centered leadership. Roll-up your sleeves and work shoulder to shoulder with your teams. People want to see it rather than just hear it.
Offer more and ask for more, even if it hurts a little. Consider it an investment in your people and your customers.
8. Any advice you can suggest to other leaders that might be a benefit in navigating current business conditions?
Be the calming and encouraging voice of reason. In times of crisis, it is easy to let panic and uncertainly set in.
Be mindful that your number one goal job as a leader is to effectively help those within your organization and customer base to achieve their goals, not your own self-serving preferences.
Never make long-term decisions based upon a short-term situation.
Master the art of saying “NO.” In times of crisis, you will have more people coming at you than normal. It is natural to want to be empathetic and compassionate. It is human to want to help everyone. Make sure you don’t get pulled into directions that do not align with your vision and mission. Stay on track.
9. Are you in the process of deconstructing your business model? Are you trying to create a new business model canvas?
Yes, we are constantly evaluating and reevaluating all areas of the business. Through continuous improvement plans, we make sure we ask the right questions to the right people, inclusive of all areas of the company from operations to marketing and finance to sales and beyond. We really listen to our people. We include them and thank them for it. We make sure we respond and let them know they have been heard and take appropriate action. We learn, we grow. and we change. We’re better today than we were yesterday.
And finally, make sure you stick to the relationship basics. I like to say, “No matter how much technology has changed the way we do business, until people change, it’s not really going to change.” This means master the fundamentals of good communication skills. Get to know your people, learn how to relate, learn how to build trust, learn how to inspire, demonstrate competence, make good decisions fast, learn how to equip and lead others to be the best they can be.