The COVID crisis of 2020 has created an unprecedented number of challenges for business leaders, including cash flow issues, service interruption, and suppliers and customers trying to get out of their commitments.
Preserving cash is key of course, but there are a number of ways in which switched-on business leaders can deal with the business issues they face.
My co-authors and I began writing Volcano Insurance three years back because we believed that the power of communication and creating better relationships in business would be much more productive for business leaders and be much better for business.
Now, as we publish during the Covid-19 crisis, our messages in Volcano Insurance could not be better timed for the switched-on business leader:
- Take control of your business problems and negotiate to a better position
- Recognise the signs of escalating conflict and be prepared to have difficult conversations in order to resolve it
- Train your people to be able to negotiate successfully and resolve conflict in order to prevent disputes
- When you have a conflict with another party (your customer says they can only pay half of what they owe you and over a much longer time frame) and your positions are at a stalemate, consider how others have found a way forward instead of remaining at an impasse. Read the stories about how leaders in the most extreme disagreements were able to find common ground and some form of win-win, and then
- Put yourself in the other party’s shoes and try to understand their needs (Empathy)
- Challenge yourself to go some way to finding a mutually acceptable way forward
- Think again about those leaders who have really pushed into an uncomfortable territory to find a better solution and challenge yourself again
- Recognise the soft power of Empathy as an enabler of business success. Empathy is “walking in the shoes of another”. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer who says they can only pay half and over a longer period, what is causing them to take this position? Instead of getting annoyed and calling the lawyer, how can you collaborate with the customer to negotiate to a better outcome? If you agree to make changes to the current contract, are there new areas of business or new products you want this customer to buy?
- If you find that despite your best efforts you cannot agree on a way forward with your customer, press the Mediation button as soon as possible. Commercial disputes which can take years to work through the courts, at vast legal cost and the destruction of relationships, can be settled within a number of days. Do not wait until the lawyers have litigated by letter for months on end – push to mediate immediately.