You learn about people in a crisis. And in the last fortnight I’ve learned things that will stun you.

I’ve led companies during many crises starting with the dark days of the British recession of the early 1990s. None have been as bad as the present COVID-19 situation. Yet every time it’s been the mental resilience and loyalty of my team at the time that has got our company through.

My team today is made up of millennials and this is where the medal for participation is showing its flaws.

The first part of our crisis meeting last week was spent on employees who wanted to:

  • talk about themselves and their feelings first before discussing the survival of the business (feelings over facts)
  • talk about how they intend to do the right thing but if they couldn’t it wouldn’t be down to them (intentions v actions)
  • be spoken to in a specific way with carefully chosen words (semantics)

It took one resilient millennial to tell her colleagues to grow up to get their attention in this critical meeting. It was only when we debated why she said it, could we start putting together a plan.   

What’s happened since then has been sensational.

The ‘grown up’ millennials have shown themselves to be the most resilient and resourceful people I have ever worked with.

They’re quick on the uptake and are flexible thinkers. Our best sales person came in at short notice at 10.00 p.m. on Thursday to run the numbers. Together with the Finance Manager we all assessed the damage, analysed the 'what if' scenarios and made a survival plan.

  • They both immediately offered to take a 20% pay cut.
  • The next morning our Experience Delivery Manager volunteered to revert back from his recently awarded 4-day contract to 5 days at no extra pay.
  • Our User Experience champion came up with a simple, practical yet innovative sitemap in 24 hours so we could launch our new platform 4 months early.   

All the above was done with no fuss. So Friday was a great day for the grown-ups.

In such times of uncertainty, I need 100% certainty from the things I can control, which principally is the people I employ. If we have shared goals and stoicism, they are an asset. If they put themselves first, they’re a liability and a danger to the survival of my business. I need authenticity and candour from them in order to have the right information to make the right decisions first time. My role is to use this information to be creative and unconventional at a speed I’ve never performed at before to save my business.

I’ve been working 7 days a week since this damn thing broke out. So I don’t have time for feelings because I’m concentrating on the facts to make the best decisions. And I make no apology for this.