Lessons from those who have already been through it

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Over the last week or so I’ve received a mountain of feedback from friends, colleagues, clients and business leaders in China about what they’ve learnt about themselves, their teams and their companies over the past 8 weeks, while they’ve been in lockdown. You’ll have seen some of their more personal observations in my daily China Bites, but I’m also interested in the business lessons which are very relevant to us right now as we contemplate our own period of lockdown. In particular, the answers to the question “what have you learnt now which you wished you’d known from the start?” are particularly valuable.

To help make sense of all the responses, I’ve organised all the information received into five key areas:

  1. Start with yourself – you need to be centred and in a state of calm, and ready to react based on evidence and data. Work on this first. Confidence and courage demonstrated by leaders is crucial in a crisis, so you must be able to push fear aside and get focused.
  2. Focus on your people – don’t assume that they all think and react like you. Show compassion, have empathy, and put support in place for them when they need it. Let them know that you care and that you’re all in the same boat.
  3. Communicate effectively – think carefully before you communicate, whether verbally or in writing. Everything you say will have an impact, positively or negatively, so get it right every time.
  4. Channel nervous energy into productivity – be goal focused not activity orientated. Be flexible and allow your team to work around their own personal challenges. Focus on the results not the process. Let go and trust your people to deliver.
  5. Get creative – don’t waste this opportunity to drive significant change through your organisation. Don’t set yourself too many limits. Be open, listen to all suggestions, optimise and keep on improving during the process. Learn by doing.

Most people believe that, when the current crisis is over, there will be a huge rebound. Now is the time to pause, assess, anticipate and act decisively so that you’re ready for this. 

I hope the above provides some ideas and direction to help you get started. I’ll be sharing more relevant stories and lessons from those who have already been through it and are starting to plan for the future. In addition to helping us get through this, it will give us some clues as to when we can expect China’s economy to recover.

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