advertisement
advertisement

How to manage your team during turbulent times

Members from Fast Company’s Impact Council share their strategies for adapting to the many business challenges of the moment.

How to manage your team during turbulent times
[Photo: Frans Lemmens/Getty Images]

Today’s fast-changing economic conditions, ongoing supply shortages, and new ways of working have certainly presented leaders with plenty of challenges. But Asutosh Padhi, McKinsey senior partner and managing partner, North America, says executives should see this time as a moment of opportunity. “A moment of great uncertainty is when companies can really differentiate themselves.”

advertisement
advertisement

He adds that leaders can learn lessons from a previous period of upheaval: the 2008 financial crisis. “A lot of companies tighten some spending, like stopping employee travel, for example. That’s helpful, but that’s not an enduring strategy. The first thing companies can do is focus on productivity and growth at the same time as cost-cutting,” he says, adding, “You need to preserve your capacity to do R&D and drive innovation.”

According to Padhi, one of the key differences between that crisis and what we are going through now is that leaders are expected to speak up on social issues. “Today, a CEO is under a microscope more than most CEOs in history,” he says. “There’s a population of employees who want their CEO to have an opinion on societal issues.”

On August 23, members of the Fast Company Impact Council—an invitation-only group of forward-thinking corporate and nonprofit leaders, CEOs, innovators, and founders—gathered for a roundtable discussion on these issues. Here are some of their insights:

advertisement

On making the transition to remote work

“I lead the metaverse and gaming side of my company, and we’re a distributed team. We have some of our meetings in our virtual offices inside Roblox, Fortnite Creative, Decentraland. Most of my team are millennials and Gen Z, so it’s very natural for our team. We only meet in person twice a year and it works for us. It’s very generational. Our team is not the norm, but we are a good example of what’s to come.”
—Cathy Hackl, cofounder and chief metaverse officer, Journey

“There was an interesting split when the pandemic hit. [Companies either took] the path of a surveillance mindset—like monitoring people closely on Zoom—or become more focused on outcomes and be more flexible.”
—David Rock, cofounder and executive director, The Neuroleadership Institute

“I closed down 63 offices and went completely virtual. It is working really well, and people are happy. We have so many more options for hiring and a huge increase in applicants.”
—Paula Schneider, president & CEO, Susan G. Komen

advertisement

“As the economy shifts, making sure that people are employed and their salaries [are] not compromised should be a priority over having physical offices and meeting in person.”
—Laura Walker Lee, founder and managing partner, Madre Ventures

“Our team is distributed and ranges from Gen Z through millennials and Gen X, with some boomers. Our clients are artists and labels in the creative community, and our offices are creative hubs for hybrid work. We are never going back to the ‘way it used to be.’ When we meet, it is intentional and collaborative, and when we are remote, we’re focused on execution of the concepts we imagine together. We love our casual office atmosphere, with snacks, cold brew on tap, and a kegerator with revolving craft beers.”
—Colleen Theis, COO, The Orchard

“I’ve been advising clients to avoid terms like ‘return’ and ‘normal’ in favor of ‘going forward’ and ‘for now.’ Being iterative and fluid is key.”
—Linda Ong, founder and CEO, Cultique

advertisement

On navigating social issues

“A new trend as a consequence of Washington gridlock is that states are becoming regulators. They are increasingly [having an impact] on social issues that have become politicized. U.S. businesses must anticipate the fact that they may have to deal with policies [on a] patchwork basis. It’s social risk on steroids.”
—Barie Carmichael, senior counselor, APCO Worldwide

“Intentional listening and responding in the right way is time-consuming, but it’s part of the job of being a CEO. And it is important.”
—Mark Smucker, president and CEO, The J.M. Smucker Company

“We exponentially increased our credibility and employee engagement by openly taking on the ‘hard’ issues. We got a lot of unsolicited feedback from deep in our organization that it was inspiring to work in a place where we could have very personal and relevant topics.”
—Kevin Dexter, president, North America, Fisher & Paykel

advertisement

“There is a real opportunity for companies to narrow their ESG commitments and then show how it truly drives revenue growth and positive social impact.”
—Anne Clarke Wolff, founder and CEO, Independence Point Advisors

“I’m seeing lots of companies running ‘listening circles’ at scale. It’s a really useful process, a formal way of really listening to people, hearing what they care about, learning from them, seeing which issues to focus on, and finding solutions to issues like burnout.”
—David Rock, cofounder and executive director, The Neuroleadership Institute

“‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ was created by economist Howard Bowen in 1954. It was just a loose social contract and no actual procedures to guide execution. Since then, we’ve created the internet and put a man on the moon. Surely we have the technology and intel to do better and graduate to Corporate Social Accountability.”
—Laura Walker Lee, founder and managing partner, Madre Ventures

advertisement
advertisement

Call for Most Innovative Companies entries! Apply now.

500+ winners will be featured on fastcompany.com. Final deadline: 9/23.