Three Lessons From The Military That Can Help Business Leaders Battle The COVID-19 Crisis
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The world is facing an unprecedented challenge. It’s something really terribly that we, all around the world, are experiencing. Aside from the human loss, the economy is struggling, and many individuals and businesses are fighting for survival. Negative news continues to dominate media, and it’s easy to get lost and to fall in to despair. It is tragic, but one thing that history has taught us is that humankind has a unique ability to overcome even the hardest trials and bounce back even stronger than before.
So, how do you as a business leader or entrepreneur stay levelheaded and navigate through the storm, and come out stronger on the other side? Well, I believe there are some tactics that can be learned from the military in this regard. Based on my special forces military training and active duty with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) peacekeeping forces during the Kosovo crisis, there are three major approaches that are well suited to be used in this situation we are currently experiencing with the COVID-19 crisis, which I’ve shared below:
1. CONTROL THE SITUATION In a battle, regardless of its size, one must strive to control the situation, and always aim to be the one to take initiative. Our six-man strong special operations unit were always ready to act instantly and keep taking initiative during a mission, but it also meant that we spent enormous amount of time planning not only for the specific mission in general, but for every eventuality. We were also prepared and confident enough that we could change our plans during the mission if the mission required it.
So, how can we use the same methods as an entrepreneur or as a business leader in the age of COVID-19? First, this is not the time to sit idle and have a wait-and-see approach. Crisis requires action. But how do you take actions based on uncertain data, and with market variables that are constantly changing? It’s not enough to prepare and plan for one scenario. You need to have a plan in place for multiple probable and possible outcomes.
For example, will the lockdown continue for one week, one month, or more? How might you reimagine your business in a market that is on lockdown? How do you secure your supply chain? How do you keep a healthy cash flow and protect your employees? All these questions must be addressed with a clear and decisive short-term plan that accounts for more than one scenario. I may not know what your specific business challenge is, but what I do know is that the only way forward is anticipating multiple scenarios, and taking immediate action.
2. CONCENTRATE YOUR FORCES Special operation teams consist of team members with clear roles and specialties: team leader, medic, communication specialist, sniper, etc. In my role as a sniper, I spent countless hours sharpening my skill on the range, hitting targets up to 1200 meters, and practicing with great patience to infiltrate enemy territories to find the best location for me and my spotter to observe the enemy. While we were all highly specialized, we also spent time practicing each other’s specialties. Each team member was skilled and ready to take on a new task at any time. This meant we had enormous flexibility during our missions, and it also allowed the commanding officers to direct the teams and troops where they were most needed, doing the job that was required.
The COVID-19 situation requires that prepare your mindset, your strategy, and your actions to execute effectively, and be ready to shift when the situation requires it. Start focusing your and your teams’ efforts on the most critical tasks- the tasks that will help you survive this crisis. At the same time, be ready and willing to redirect your resources to where the battle requires it. This is also a good time let your teams and employees move from their regular routines and let them contribute and support whichever task or area that needs the most focus right now.
3. WIN THIS BATTLE, STAY IN THE FIGHT While we always took on one mission at a time, we also knew that we had to be ready both mentally and physically for the next one, once we were back in camp or even on the way back from the current mission. We had to make sure that we had enough resources for a prolonged mission, and the tools to execute the mission even if the mission objectives changed. In business, this means equipping your team with enough resources to survive today and thrive tomorrow.
The COVID-19 situation will come to an end, although when and how is still, at this moment, unsure. Of course, your first business objective must be to survive the “battle,” but make sure you have a clear strategy and action plan for when the COVID-19 situation ebbs out. For example, we have seen many companies cut employees directly, but I am instructing my managers to really fight to keep their teams. Your employees are your resources that will help you win the upcoming battles. So, find creative ways to keep your employees in your organization. It will pay off once the crisis is over, and lead to more loyal employees, a faster turnaround period, and a leg up on your competition.
COURAGE, POWER AND RESILIENCE
In closing, I want to leave you with a motto from my unit that I still try to live by in my civilian life: Courage, Power, and Resilience. The next few months will not be easy. So, strap on your boots, get your tools, and take action. Put clear, action-oriented, short-term plans in place. Make sure you are the one in control, and the one that takes initiative.
Focus your own and your teams’ efforts where they are the most needed, and be flexible enough to redeploy your team when you need to. Be agile, and accept the situation, so you can keep a positive mindset, and see this crisis all the way through. Make sure you have plans and strategies in place for when this battle is over.
Situations like COVID-19, like any battle, will come and go. Before you know it, the world economy and mankind will bounce back. The big question will be: did you do what is necessary to make it through?