Steven's Blog

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Sanguine Leadership

The COVID-19 panic that has enveloped Japan and other countries in the world is primarily driven by sensationalism in media reporting giving people around the world a skewed perception of a personal health risk, which in Japan and the U.S. alike, is in reality exceedingly remote. Yet the real health risk is largely illusory.

My wife told me of a news report of a passenger on a Tokyo commuter train who hit the emergency stop button. When railway staff came to investigate, the passenger told them there was a guy in the carriage without a surgical mask who was coughing.

In a company in Tokyo, a snap decision was made to immediately close the office and send all staff home after an employee fell ill and was hospitalized. Test results came back two days later—a simple case of pneumonia. All relieved, the office was promptly re-opened, but I wonder what will happen the next time someone sneezes.

It takes courage to maintain sangfroid even as others around you in your company, community, government, and the media might be hyperventilating and reacting rashly out of irrational fear. If you lead a business now, your sangfroid is your most important asset. If you don’t maintain your own cool composure under pressure, how can you possibly expect your staff to do so?

If you lead a business now, your sangfroid is your most important asset. Click To Tweet

The other day, the CEO of the Japan office of a major non-Japanese company told me he was reluctant to close his company’s Tokyo office and have everyone work from home, as many of his peers have already done, because he thinks it sends a terrible message to the owners and staff of the company’s dealerships, whom he is encouraging to stay open! I think he is absolutely right, and told him so.

There is opportunity in crisis. One executive commented to me that collaboration among departments, now more than ever essential to the success of all, is better that it had ever been during the best of times, even though the same kind of collaboration had been important before.

And that’s not all. With imperfect communication and many people working from home or otherwise preoccupied with pressing problems, lower-level staff are now more often taking the initiative to make decisions independently to achieve a business result rather than waiting for direction and approval from above before acting—even though they had been just as empowered to do so before.

She recognized that there are aspects of this time of crisis that she hopes to retain long after the crisis has ended. And rest assured, it will end. She is smart to be thinking that way, and you would be too.

In the business you lead, what you are do doing to separate fact from fiction and maintain your sangfroid? Where do you see opportunity for your business as the priorities of your customers shift? What capabilities has your organization developed thanks to this crisis that you hope to retain?

I’d love to know your thoughts. Drop me a line if you care to share them.


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