The past few days have been busy. I’m in Israel on a trip with several people, and while we’ve enjoyed our time touring this great country, we’ve been impacted like the rest of the world by the Covid-19 virus. Everywhere you go, it’s the subject of conversations and concerns; it is quite literally the focus of the world right now.
It’s challenging as a leader when something like this happens because there are so many ways it impacts how you lead. There are financial decisions because of the way concerns are impacting the markets. There are logistical decisions because of the changing health and travel advisories. (Trust me on that—getting home from Israel is suddenly a different proposition!)
But more than anything else, there are difficult decisions to be made right now, decisions that will impact more than bottom lines or travel plans. As leaders, some of the decisions we are facing right now have the capacity to impact the lives and health of countless people. These aren’t decisions to be made lightly.
In fact, our team just made one such decision. After speaking with several global leaders and monitoring the impact of the virus physically and mentally on people world-wide, our team just yesterday made the difficult decision to reschedule our Spring International Maxwell Certification event. This is one of our annual coaching certification events attended by thousands of men and women who want to become John Maxwell Team coaches.
This decision will have significant impact on finances, schedules, and plans, but is the RIGHT thing to do. Over the past several days, our CEO Mark Cole has met with me and briefed me on what he was learning, and we were in constant conversation about what we needed to do. In every discussion, Mark kept bringing us back to the question, “What’s best for our people?”
Sometimes in leadership you have to make decisions that are challenging and difficult. But in all those decisions, leaders need to think, as Mark did, “What’s best for our people?” Simon Sinek, in his book The Infinite Game, talks about the need for leaders to put people ahead of profits; to care more about the long view than the short term.
Over the past several days, I’ve watched and offered counsel as Mark has worked his way to this massive decision, and here’s what I’ve observed and want to pass on to you should you find yourself in his shoes soon:
- He was in constant communication with his team. We’ve been in Israel for the past few weeks for a series of trips, and despite our busy schedule and the seven-hour time difference, Mark has intentionally carved out time to talk with our leadership team about the virus and its impact.
- He delegated responsibility to other leaders. In times of crisis, many leaders want to shrink the circle of information and responsibility, but it was expanding his circle that was essential for Mark in keeping the big picture in mind. By empowering members of our leadership team to monitor the news, watch market trends, and seek advice from other business leaders, he was able to have accurate, up-to-the-minute information synthesized and presented to him daily, which allowed him to see the Big Picture with clear eyes.
- He was deliberate with his thinking. Mark sought out several of his mentors, many of whom lead businesses that are being impacted by Covid-19. He listened to their challenges and thought processes, and he learned from them. I sat down with him each night as a sounding board and gave him space to process everything he was learning. He didn’t rush to a decision simply because there was stress—he lived with the tension until he could get enough information and perspective to make the right decision.
- He put the people first. I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating that when it comes to making difficult decisions, the impact on people must be top of mind for any leader. Not just your shareholders or employees, but the people you may never see—the spouses, children, and communities that will be affected based on your choice. Every choice you make as a leader has an effect that radiates outward; that effect can be as gentle as a ripple, or as devastating as a bomb blast, depending on how much consideration you’ve given to the people it will touch.
Our company has people as its highest value—we are people of value who value people and add value to them. We have already worked with everyone who was scheduled for our March event and provided them a solution for the disruption. We’re adding value in new and creative ways thanks to technology and the efforts of our incredible team. It’s not what we’d planned, and it’s not easy, but it’s what is RIGHT.
Leader, whatever challenges come your way over the next few weeks, keep people at the center of your thinking. In times of uncertainty, when you’re not sure what to do, if you’ll make any difficult decision with people in mind, you’ll find you come out better in the end.