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The Seven C’s: A Checklist for Leaders

By Keith Hadley - April 2020

Thoughts from the Field

My favorite novelist, Patrick O’Brian, of Master & Commander fame writes about a perfect storm of uncontrollable misfortunes that befall Captain Jack Aubrey and his brave crew in his fifth book, Desolation Island. A powerful enemy, an even more powerful storm, freezing temperatures, fog, iceberg, massive leak, no rudder, scurvy, short-rations and a divided crew creates wonderful reading. Much less exciting to actually live through this! Recently, my colleague, James Felton, and I were listening to a CEO of a highly disrupted company. To encourage him, we started summarizing the best insights we’d heard so far – and embarrassingly realized they all started with the letter C. Well, it’s a short list that would make Captain Aubrey proud.


In uncertain times, and especially now, our people crave CLARITY. Simple, direct statements from you about what you are investigating, prioritizing and doing. Focus your teams around an 8-12 week Rally Cry – or Thematic Goal –with necessary actions and objectives to guide them through. Take steps to build COHESION with your executive team – combat any tendency toward self-interest and playing it safe. Instead, trust each other to speak freely, have healthy debate (conflict) about important issues, commit to big decisions, hold each other accountable and focus on shared results of the unified whole. Cohesion isn’t accidental; it is intentional.


Because most of us are now working remotely, people need CONNECTION like never before. In your next Zoom call or Google Hangout, be human. Show your dog. Let your kids wander through. There are limits, of course, but recognizing our shared human experience, the disruption of limited space with working spouses and home learning kids can be more refreshing than distracting. While much focus needs to be on revenue protection, service levels and supply chains, be sure to genuinely care for your people by connecting with them where they are – right now.


What are you doing to COMMUNICATE the clarity you do have? We’ve seen teams do a morning “check-in” plus evening “check-out” Zoom call, 10-15 minutes each. Some leaders are doing a daily email update to staff with a few simple bullet points. One CEO is holding a 45-minute, all-hands Zoom call weekly – Tuesday evening for APAC teams and Wednesday morning for US and EMEA teams – just to update and refocus. If you’re the CEO, expect the rest of the C-Suite and VPs to hold daily and weekly next level check-ins and to hold their leaders accountable for doing the same. Maybe amp up your one-on-ones. Seem over-the-top? Maybe so, but few leaders fall prey to communicating too much. Keep communication simple – answer this: What have we learned? What are we prioritizing? What do we need folks to work on today? How can we help?


One leader asked us how to show optimism while not appearing to trivialize the gravity of the crisis. This is a time for COURAGE and CONFIDENCE. Ask your teams for grace … let’s face it, we’re making this up as we go along! So is everyone else. In the face of these extreme factors, have the courage to make bold decisions and project confidence in the face of obstacles. If you’re clear and cohesive as a team, then you’ll be able to adjust the sails and continue improvising solutions based on new factors.


Finally, be CREATIVE! It is truly inspiring to see how quickly this crisis brings out people’s best, not their worst. We’ve heard of hard-hit companies taking 10-20 percent pay cuts across the board in order to stave off lay-offs. We’ve seen musicians like Drew Holcomb give concerts via Instagram in their kitchens. Distilleries have been set up to produce hand sanitizers. Think about how you can retool and do something special for your people, your customers and your community.


Spoiler alert: Captain Aubrey was able to rally his crew, land on a remote island, find green stuff to remedy scurvy, rebuild the rudder and navigate back home – with Clarity, Cohesion, Connection, Communication, Courage, Confidence and Creativity. As a Seven C’s leader, you’ll do the same.


Have an idea or question?  Give us a shout at Table Group Consulting.