An emerging piece of any professional rental manager’s value proposition is the professional organization’s ability to operate in an environment with a high degree of uncertainty. Coupled with the many other layered demands of successful rental management, this crisis component can be physically daunting and emotionally exhausting. The character of our organizations is revealed more rapidly in a crisis than at any other time, and as such, the stakes are high.
While each crisis is unique, there are a few principles in an ambiguous environment that can be the bedrocks of a path forward for your stakeholders. In a situation where so much is unknown—whether that’s a natural disaster, global contagion, financial conflagration, or simply man-made problems—it’s useful to have a simple, understandable, and uncomplicated group of guideposts to help move the team forward together.
In any crisis, trust is the coin of the realm—to be heard, you must first be trusted. Research by the Kellogg School of Management suggests that to build trust organizations need to relentlessly share four main attributes; experience, expertise, empathy, and consistency. Check your content in every direction—internal and external—for each of these things. Make it personal to your team as well in every interaction they have with a stakeholder.
Sharing just a few principles within your organization and with your customers is key; sharing more than a few becomes tedious to execute and confusing to communicate. For example, during our recent series of named storms our team worked to simply be three things both to each other and our customers—quickly accessible, consistent across platforms, and candid in our guidance.
- We share status updates across media platforms at regular planned intervals.
- We work to be clear and simple in our challenges within our office teams.
- We do not propose, in a crisis, to always agree with our customers; we do, however, as a core belief, propose to make every last effort to understand their perspective.
- We focus on what we are and don’t try to be things we are not; we aren’t a law firm, a medical provider, or elected officials. We can guide you to those things, of course, but we are a hospitality company–that’s what we do best.
- It is the role of senior leadership, in a time when many concerns are uniquely personal, to ensure that each and every voice is heard across the organization. Take some extra time in all communications and forums to make these avenues clear. Doing so builds trust.
As a leader within an organization, there will always be hunger for clarity where none exists–that vacuum is why leadership prevails. In these moments of self-doubt, it’s useful just to have a bedrock compass of action; for example, in our current COVID challenges we simply say to ourselves that 1) we’re going to do what’s right and 2) we’re going to do the best we can.
That’s all we can do, if we’re honest, but it’s enough to get through the day.
Managing time horizons is also key–the higher the uncertainty, the closer at hand the time horizons that can be managed. It’s key to have a destination–a planted flag in the future–but to be credible that flag has to be both achievable and realistic and that means sometimes it’s enough to have it planted next week, rather than six months out. If nothing else, move to a future goal and share that goal in every direction. Military professionals call this commander’s intent.
Make sure you have a team (better yet a nerve center) that is empowered to make day-to-day decisions and make sure they understand the *small* number of decisions that senior leadership reserves the right to make. This team will make mistakes; watch how well the team surfaces and corrects them. Monitoring this ability is a key job of leadership. Resist entirely the urge to make the majority of decisions. Make sure the credit goes to the front-line and the blame goes to the top.
In any crisis, anything that’s longer than one page is too long and this article is no different–work the goals and processes, empower your team, believe in your people, and lead yourself as you would your team. Work fast, work honest, and maintain your perspective–fast forward in your mind by one year and ask yourself how well you did.
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.