How to turn a crisis into an x-ray of your company’s DNA

Companies are a lot like people: the start of a new year is a perfect time to make new resolutions and reflect on the experience of the past period. The year 2020 has certainly given us much to reflect upon, and much to resolve. As we look ahead, we would do well to remember the importance of communication in our organization’s “DNA”—that elusive and vital essence that defines who we are and why we do what we do.

Communication is key

At NGL, we often see that when the going gets tough, a company’s DNA and culture are tested. Corporate culture is non-negotiable: it’s the foundation of everything a company does. The leader’s task is to create the shared value and meaning that inform the organization’s course and its actions. In these efforts, communication is key. With large-scale vaccination programs now underway and the prospect of businesses reopening, it’s time to take a look at some of underlying questions that will help point the way.

  • Wat is, in essence, our company’s role?
  • What evidence can we offer to support this?
  • What is the common ground, the purpose, the dream and the reason the staff put their time and energy into their jobs and their contribution to the company?
  • How diverse and inclusive is the route forward in these challenging times?
  • What values are most relevant to us in this digital(-only) world?
  • How do the teams experience the use of digital solutions in exploring these questions?

Reflecting on these questions is not a “nice-to-do.” It’s imperative that you and your team address these matters. We can speak from experience: it’s a prerequisite for success.

The Covid X-ray

2020 has been a pressure cooker in which crisis leadership and digital technology have had to come to terms with a new, harsh reality—and with each other. Some businesses went all-digital, while others continued to encourage their people to come in to the office, even against government restrictions. Some leaders have embraced online communication as the “new normal,” while others shiver in horror at the sight of so many unmanned office desks.

The diversity in corporate responses to the crisis shows that a company’s DNA and culture determine, in large part, how it will react to sudden threats and changing circumstances. In a sense, the coronavirus pandemic has been a massive X-ray that suddenly revealed what went on under companies’ well-groomed exteriors.

Since every crisis is a stress test, leaders are now presented with an opportunity to clarify and capitalize on their company’s culture. The challenge is to align the personal and collective objectives involved, safeguard the organization’s authenticity, boost its diversity, and balance team staffing.

Ready, set…

This is an excellent moment to review your company’s purpose, mission and vision. To be able to seize this opportunity, organizations need leaders with a built-in scanner in order to take grounded decisions and actions. Leaders with the guts to tackle the questions that the Covid X-ray has exposed about their company’s culture—and to engage the personnel in the process of finding the right answers.

Exploring such questions sounds like an excellent new year’s resolution for 2021. A crisis may never be opportune, but it does always contain an opportunity for unexpected improvement. Let’s get to work!


By Jacqueline Smit, Executive Coach NGL International
21 January 2021

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