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Covid-19 and reputation: A new reality for business

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Covid-19 and reputation: A new reality for business 3

 

By Alberto Lopez Valenzuela, Founder and CEO, alva, and author of The Connecting Leader

While there is much talk of the world “returning to normality” with the worst of Covid-19 now hopefully behind us, it seems unlikely that society will allow businesses to simply revert to how they behaved before.

Having been plunged into uncertainty by Coronavirus, businesses have been rapidly rethinking their stakeholder management priorities, conscious that the corporate reputation rulebook is being rewritten. Some are already showing they have learnt from these valuable lessons as the Black Lives Matter crisis unfolds.

My assessment is that we’re now in the middle of a second distinct phase of the changes initiated by Covid-19, and will sooner or later be moving into a third, fourth and final phase. And after that, a new reality will emerge.

Each of these phases has seen the needs of different stakeholder groups come to the fore, prompting corresponding corporate responses.

Shock and survival

Roughly corresponding with the second half of March and most of April, the early Shock Phase involved an outpouring of altruism from businesses in all sectors, committed to doing the right thing, whatever the cost.

The stakeholder groups that were the focus of this charitable period were society at large, the local communities surrounding a given business, and key workers, especially those in healthcare. Empathy and solidarity were the order of the day; resources were redirected into healthcare, to support the vulnerable with donations, and to allow payment holidays.

In late May, businesses moved into the Existential Phase. Here, the stakeholders most in focus were company employees, as decisions had to be made about whether furloughed staff could be retained, and how best to ensure job security.

In making pragmatic decisions for their survival, the importance of each company’s people – and who could and could not do be done without – had to be weighed up. This evolved into a focus on employee health and wellbeing, as firms attempted to ensure that staff were protected, safe and comfortable as they moved to reopen their businesses.

Recovery, then letting our hair downCovid-19 and reputation: A new reality for business 4

Around late June, we’re likely to enter the Recovery Phase, with businesses turning their attention to the chance to reopen and recoup some of the losses experienced during the worst of the crisis.

This will mean a refocus on financial stakeholders – companies will seek to assuage shareholder concerns on their viability. Decisions over whether to pay out dividends or channel cashflow back into the business will become front-page news, while firms will also look to project an image of ‘business as usual’, ahead of this actually having been realised. Shareholders’ needs have come under scrutiny, and their dominance as the primary stakeholders in business decisions has been seriously questioned.

Sooner or later, we’ll enter the Pent-up Demand Phase. After suffering the deprivations of lockdown, demand for pre-Covid luxuries will soar. People are likely to feel they deserve that big night out, the rush of retail therapy, or a long-awaited holiday abroad. And as financial hardships will mean many consumers’ spending power is reduced, companies will need to be especially creative as they jockey for position to be the beneficiaries of this wave of spending.

We might repeat the above cycle, or parts of it, more than once.

But in time, we will get to the New Reality, a post-pandemic take on capitalism that may well rewrite the rules of business as usual. Through the phases of business response to Covid-19, it was demonstrated that companies were generally able to rebalance their stakeholder focus as events shifted.

The virus has proved that the business world is able to step away from hierarchical shareholder-centric capitalism in which financial stakeholders are always the top priority, and move towards a model in which stakeholder prioritisation is fluid and based upon shifting needs.

This more stakeholder-focused model would mean businesses positioning themselves as part of society, with equal responsibilities to employees, customers, the community and their shareholders, rather than solely as a conduit for channelling profits to investors.

It would build on the growing emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, and we may begin to see increased finance streams being redirected into fair employee pay, community programmes and enhanced customer service.

The trade-off for shareholders on the receiving end of reduced dividends is simple, and very attractive – a stake in more robust businesses that are better able to survive whatever the future brings.

If so, the Coronavirus may ultimately be remembered as the catalyst for the realisation of a fairer, more enlightened form of capitalism that allows society and the planet as a whole to thrive.

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Can a leader’s level of enthusiasm and optimism really impact the bottom line?

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Can a leader’s level of enthusiasm and optimism really impact the bottom line? 5

By Mark E. Brouker, Captain, United States Navy, founder of Brouker Leadership Solutions

Can a leader’s level of enthusiasm and optimism really impact the bottom line? We hear of the leader’s ability to influence others in powerful ways in politics, academia, sports, among other areas. However, in business, profitability is where the rubber meets the road.  How impactful is the leader’s level of enthusiasm and optimism in creating a healthy bottom line?

One of the truly remarkable and rewarding tours of duty I had during my Navy career was with a small group of highly motivated doctors and pharmacists from all three services – Army, Navy, and Air Force. These professionals were all hand-picked to join a newly-formed team which was directed to reduce the escalating cost of prescription medications provided for all Department of Defense (DoD) active duty (Army, Navy and Air Force) and family members. Our task was made more challenging because we were to reduce costs without decreasing quality of care. At that time, there were over eight million men, women, and children eligible for prescription medications throughout DoD. The annual cost was over five billion dollars and climbing fast.

Our boss, Dan, was a brilliant, hard-working, and extremely passionate leader who was highly respected by all. Dan cared for us and we cared for him. We were a tight group. We treated each other as family. Dan’s passion was contagious, and he quickly established a culture of caring, hard work and trust. We were poised for success. Because I was senior to other members of the team, Dan selected me to be his deputy.

The idea of creating a small team to bend the cost curve for the entire DoD pharmacy benefit was novel – it had never been tried before. While the team shared a genuine passion for this noble and ambitious undertaking, early wins were few and far between.

After the 6-month honeymoon period ended, enthusiasm was slowly replaced with frustration.  Every morning we’d meet with Dan to share the progress or, more accurately, lack of progress with our respective projects. It was slow and insidious at first, but sarcasm, frustration and pessimism crept into the meetings. A few of the more vocal naysayers would spew their negative venom and Dan and I would make meager attempts to mitigate the damage, or in times of weakness simply join in. These meetings frequently went much longer than scheduled, drained everyone of energy, and were generally recognized to be a waste of time. In short, neither Dan nor I led these meetings. We attended them. One could feel the energy, passion and trust dissipate like air leaking from a balloon.

Mark E. Brouker

Mark E. Brouker

It was clear that Dan and I needed to change our attitudes. We candidly discussed the culture of pessimism that we were creating and, more importantly, how it was sucking trust and the creative juices from the team. Over a handshake, we agreed to help each other curb our negativity and celebrate small victories that were indeed happening. We’d address the challenges, but not mire in them. We agreed to not let anyone hijack the meeting with their negativity.

We were more careful in the words we chose – we rid ourselves of cynical remarks. We were careful with our body language. No scowling or worried looks. Above all, we focused on staying positive. We’d invest a few minutes before meetings to reflect on past successes, however minor, and mention them at the beginning of the meeting. We’d then address the challenges, and close each meeting with a reminder, once again, of past successes.

Frustration and pessimism were slowly replaced with enthusiasm and optimism. Wins starting coming. More wins followed. Within 2 years, our small team was saving DoD over $100 million annually with no reduction in quality. Our small team was recognized within the industry as a center of excellence. Our success was nothing less than stunning.

How did this happen? It turns out that Dan’s and my behaviors had a much more profound impact on our team members than we could have ever imagined. In fact, studies have shown that the leader’s level of enthusiasm and optimism directly impacts their team members level of enthusiasm and optimism. Why is this the case? A study by Gallup found that employees who are supervised by highly enthusiastic leaders are 59 percent more likely to be enthusiastic than those supervised by unenthusiastic leaders.[1] In other words, the leader’s behaviors, in this case optimism and enthusiasm, are contagious. Further, studies have indeed shown that businesses led by enthusiastic and optimistic leaders were significantly more profitable than those led by apathetic and pessimistic leaders. [2] [3]

Can a leader’s level of enthusiasm and optimism really impact the bottom line? Unquestionably the answer is yes. The leader’s ability to influence in politics, academia, sports and yes, profitability in business, is profound. Those businesses led by leaders who understand, respect, and embrace the strong correlation between the leader’s level of enthusiasm and optimism as it relates to performance and profits – and most importantly practice these behaviors – are at a distinct competitive advantage.

Be a great leader – lead with enthusiasm and optimism.

Mark E. Brouker, Captain, United States Navy (retired), Pharm.D., MBA, FACHE, BCPS, is founder of Brouker Leadership Solutions, and author of Lessons From The Navy: How To Earn Trust, Lead Teams, And Achieve Organizational Excellence. For more information visit http://www.broukerleadershipsolutions.com/.

[1] Gallup, “State of the American Workplace, 2017.” Accessed February 12,2020.

[2] Michael Bush, A Great Place to Work for All (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2018), 26

[3] Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1999), 40

 

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JPMorgan to launch UK consumer bank within months

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JPMorgan to launch UK consumer bank within months 6

LONDON (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co will launch a digital consumer bank in Britain under its Chase brand within months, the U.S. banking giant said on Wednesday.

The bank said the new business had already recruited 400 people and would offer a range of products, including current accounts.

The UK venture will be led by Sanoke Viswanathan, who has been named chief executive. Viswanathan was previously chief administrative officer for JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank.

The digital bank will be headquartered in London’s Canary Wharf financial district, with customers supported from a new call centre in Edinburgh.

Reports about a likely tilt by JPMorgan at the UK consumer market have been circulating for around a year, but the bank had publicly disclosed few details.

“The UK has a vibrant and highly competitive consumer banking marketplace, which is why we’ve designed the bank from scratch to specifically meet the needs of customers here,” said Gordon Smith, CEO of consumer and community banking for JPMorgan.

(Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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European regulator clears Boeing 737 MAX airliner for return to service

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European regulator clears Boeing 737 MAX airliner for return to service 7

(Reuters) – Boeing Co’s modified 737 MAX airliner is safe to return to service in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Wednesday, lifting a 22-month flight ban after two crashes of the jet which caused 346 deaths.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said it had “every confidence” that the plane was safe following an independent European review of changes ranging from cockpit software to maintenance checks and pilot training.

“Let me be quite clear that this journey does not end here,” Ky said in a statement.

“We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service.”

Regulators around the world grounded the MAX in March 2019, after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet five months after one flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. A total of 346 passengers and crew members were killed in the two crashes.

The United States lifted its ban in November, followed by Brazil and Canada. China, which was first to ban the plane after the second crash, and which represents a quarter of MAX sales, has not said when it will act.

Relatives of some crash victims have strongly criticised the move the clear Boeing’s best-selling airplane.

EASA represents 31 mainly EU nations, excluding Britain which formally left the bloc this month. Britain is expected to issue its own separate approval on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Rachit Vats; editing by Jason Neely)

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