Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be running a series of ‘Top 5 Tips’ articles to help you navigate the changing times. We thought we’d start with a top line view of the things you need in place right now, as a leader, to help your business shape up and thrive as the situation we’re all in changes.

1. Sharpen your Purpose

Right now, you need to be absolutely clear about your ‘why’? Why do you do what you do, what motivates you to deliver your business’s services, what do you and your customers gain from it, emotionally as well as practically?

We’ve had lots of approaches from businesses looking to adapt their core offer to get them through the next few weeks and months. In many cases, they’re doing so pro bono, often with a view to supporting NHS workers.

If you’re doing this too, be absolutely sure it’s something that’s needed (not just a scrabble to adapt and keep your brand in view), that you are the right people to deliver it, and that it has some kind of legacy that’s relevant to your business in the longer term.

Right now you might not be able to draw in cash to the degree you’d planned, but everything you do will be part of your brand’s story – does it fit or, better, enhance the flow of that narrative?

And if you can adapt your service to support people, out of the kindness of your heart, we salute you.

2. Your People Need You

You’ve spent years developing a corporate culture, everyone in the team knows it and lives by it, it has enhanced productivity and profits: congratulations!

So how do you keep it up?

Now’s the time that genuine culture will rise above slapdash. If you’ve developed it with your people, found ways to articulate it that bring it to life within and outside the organisation, created a robust values system that underpins every aspect of your work – now is the time it could just save your bacon.

And your energies must go into supporting that. Keep as much contact going with your team members as possible, even if they are furloughed or stood down. Keep their focus on the future, keep their energy up, ensure they feel part of it. For those who are juggling their workload round family and adapted delivery, support them as far as possible, reward their input, honour their other commitments.

This, now, is where leadership driven by culture can and must thrive. This must come from you.

3. Learn, and Apply Learning

If you are a hard-working optimist, a believer in thriving not just surviving; if you’re someone who knows that happiness takes effort, a proponent of “the harder you work the luckier you are” philosophy – this will stand you in good stead to steer your business through Covid’s rough seas.

A Growth Mindset hinges on learning to grow your mental capacity, on learning from failure or difficulty, on applying the learning to future planning.

This situation is tough – and everyone’s experiences of it are wildly different. Whole industries sit frustrated at home, unable to work; others are stretched to breaking point in attempting to deliver enough of their business to meet demand. Some people are alone and enclosed, with nothing but screen-delivered interaction; some wildly juggling the demands of spouses, children and animals whilst keeping the conversations going with colleagues and clients.

That variety in itself could cause long term issues: it’s essential we observe what’s around us, empathise and adapt, that we learn as we go and plan for the future. Cultivate your Growth Mindset and help those around you to do so, too.

4. Filter out the Noise, Focus on the Facts

Your choices over the next few days and weeks will be heavily influenced by other people’s choices. More than ever we are part of a complex ecosystem, the driver of which is out of our hands. The decisions within it, however, are immediately impactful.

So now is the time to be an information sponge, and to learn how to connect facts, draw conclusions, cancel out the noise and fine-tune your senses for what’s important and what’s real.

We could all spend a lot of time immersed in the news and social media, thrown this way and that by differing opinions and conflicting facts. You cannot control the sea, but you can control the ship – so train your focus to take in only what allows you to do so confidently.

5. Drop your Guard

I have observed a level of honesty thriving between business owners and leaders that isn’t normally possible. One of the most popular TED talks ever is Brene Brown’s wonderful ‘Vulnerability’ piece – 47m views on YouTube and counting. And now, vulnerability is possible in ways that were almost impossible to imagine just weeks ago.

I’ve been hosting Zoom chats for agency founders, and stripped of the normal defences we’re having deep conversations about supporting our clients and teams, what the future looks like, our own energy levels. We’re getting to know each other as humans, not LinkedIn characters or pitch rivals; we’re dropping our guard and it’s great.

I’m also in a CEO peer-to-peer mentoring group and the differing experiences we share are invaluable for each other – useful perspective, helpful sounding boards for ideas and worries, fantastic resource as we adapt, re-budget, start to plan ahead.

Let’s lean on each other. No-one is judging anyone now by scale, growth or ego; we’re all in it together and we can come out of it better for the experience.