FlyTitle: Bartleby

Managers earn their money in a crisis

管理者在危机中彰显价值【新冠报道】

经济学人双语版-拥抱逆境 Embracing the suck

WHEN THINGS are going well, it is pretty easy being a business leader. The economy is booming, orders are rolling in and there are no tricky decisions to make about staff or budgets. It is still possible to screw things up, but a rising tide tends to lift all yachts.

顺风顺水之时,做个商业领袖很容易。经济形势大好,订单滚滚而来,员工或预算方面也没有难做的决定。虽然还是有可能出问题,但水涨船高,险滩易过。

It is in a crisis that corporate helmsmen show their mettle. Employees will be uncertain and will look to the leader for direction. Sometimes, as with the covid-19 pandemic, the problem will be something few bosses can reasonably have anticipated. Now they are expected to chart a steady course in days.

企业掌舵人的能耐是在危机中展现的。无所适从的员工会指望领头人指明方向。有时候会出现没有几个老板会合理预见到的麻烦,新冠肺炎大流行就是如此。现在,人们期望他们在几天之内就指出一条阳关大道。

In the political arena the obvious examples of successful crisis leadership are Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Both were somewhat erratic decision-makers. But they made up for it by being excellent communicators. Their styles diverged, but the public had little difficulty in understanding their core message. Roosevelt made clear that he was willing to try any combination of new ideas in an attempt to end the depression; Churchill was unambiguous about the need for Britain to resist Nazi Germany, whatever the cost.

在政界,成功展现了危机领导力的突出例子是罗斯福和丘吉尔。这两位在制定决策时都有些让人捉摸不定,但好在都非常善于沟通。他们虽风格迥异,但公众可以毫不费力地理解他们传达的核心信息。罗斯福明确表示,为结束大萧条,他愿意尝试各种新想法的组合。丘吉尔毫不含糊地指出,英国要不惜一切代价抵抗纳粹德国。

Corporate leaders should resist the temptation to give Churchillian speeches. But they have something to learn from the calm authority of Roosevelt’s “fireside chats”. As chief executive you have to communicate a message to two different audiences: your workforce and your customers. That message should demonstrate that the company has a plan to deal with the virus. This may involve staff working from home (to prevent the spread of infection) or changes in the supply chain (to maintain production). Both staff and customers will also need reassuring that the company has sufficient financial resources to survive the economic downturn.

企业领导者应忍住想发表丘吉尔式演讲的念头。但他们可以从罗斯福“炉边谈话”那种平静的权威中学到一二。作为CEO,需要向两类不同的受众传达信息:员工和客户。这条信息应表明公司已有应对病毒的计划,这可能涉及让员工在家工作(以防病毒传播)或调整供应链(以维持生产)。员工和客户还需要知道公司拥有足够的财务资源扛过经济衰退期,这样他们才能安心。

Jefferies, an investment bank, has just provided a fine example. In a joint letter, the chief executive, Rich Handler, and the president, Brian Friedman, stressed that “topmost on our minds is the safety of our employees and our clients” before adding that the firm “is flush with capital at both the operating business level and our parent company”. Other firms may not be so lucky. But silence on such matters would be dangerous.

投资银行杰富瑞(Jefferies)刚刚提供了一个好的示例。CEO里奇·汉德勒(Rich Handler)和总裁布莱恩·弗里德曼(Brian Friedman)在一封联名信中强调,“在我们心中,员工和客户的安全是最重要的”,然后补充说,公司“在运营层面和母公司方面都资金充足”。其他公司可能没那么幸运。但是,在此类问题上保持沉默是危险的。

For the broader strategy, tips can be gleaned from the National Defence University (NDU), an American military college. In 2006 it produced a useful—and prescient—report called “Weathering the Storm: Leading Your Organisation Through a Pandemic”. It advised leaders to analyse the tasks required for an organisation to continue operating and prioritise them. To ensure essential functions can be performed, employees should be trained in different disciplines. That way they can cover for colleagues who become sick.

至于更广泛的策略,可以向美国国防大学(NDU)取经。2006年,NDU撰写了一份有用的(且颇有先见之明的)报告,名为《经受考验:带领组织渡过大流行病》(Weathering the Storm: Leading Your Organisation Through a Pandemic)。这份报告建议领导者分析维持组织运营所需完成的任务,并确定优先顺序。为了确保基本职能的正常执行,员工应接受跨部门培训。这样,如果有同事感染,其他人就可以顶上。

It helps to have done this in advance, of course. But even firms that dithered can—besides making amends now—adopt the right tone. How you handle crisis communication is, the NDU says, “critical”. It can matter as much as having the right message.

能提前做好准备当然有利。但即使是慢了一步的公司也可以在亡羊补牢的同时采用正确的调门。NDU的报告称,开展危机沟通的方式“至关紧要”,可能与传达正确的信息同等重要。

This point is amplified by Shawn Engbrecht, a former US Army ranger who now runs a personal-protection company. He has written a highly entertaining, if idiosyncratic, book entitled “Invisible Leadership”. “As a leader,” he cautions, “you can promise everything to the many until you are unable to deliver even a little to the few.” In the end, “Failure to tell the truth rapidly erodes trust and confidence in higher command.”

曾是美国陆军突击队员、现在经营一家私人保镖公司的肖恩·恩格布雷希特(Shawn Engbrecht)强调了这一点。他写过一本很有趣、有点另类的书《隐形领导力》(Invisible Leadership)。他在书中警告说:“领导者可以向很多人夸下海口,直到某天无法对哪怕很少人兑现一点点。”最终,“不说实话会迅速削弱下级对上级的信任和信心。”

In a crisis, Mr Engbrecht advocates “embracing the suck”. This means accepting where you are at a given moment: “Wishing, hoping and praying the problem away does not work so don’t waste your time with coulda, shoulda or woulda.” In short, no sugarcoating. If everyone on staff realises there is a problem, they will not be reassured by an executive blithely promising that it may go away.

在危机中,恩格布雷希特主张“拥抱烂事”。也就是说,接受你在特定时刻的处境:“许愿、盼望或祈祷问题会消失是没有用的,因此不要浪费时间去悔不当初。”简而言之,不要掩饰问题。如果每个员工都意识到有麻烦,那么不论高管如何语调轻快地打包票一切都会好起来,他们都不会安心。

A good manager must take time to listen to staff concerns and answer their questions. That may require a bit of patience. In Mr Engbrecht’s words, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear”. Mass meetings may not be appropriate at a time of a highly infectious disease. But an online town-hall gathering would be salutary.

一个好的管理者必须花时间倾听员工的疑虑,并回答他们的问题。这可能需要一点耐心。用恩格布雷希特的话说,就是“你越安静,听到的越多”。在一种高传染性的疾病大流行之际,可能不适宜召开大规模会议,但在线举行全员大会还是有益的。

Have a clear message, keep calm and be transparent: all obvious stuff, crisis or no crisis. Another kind of leadership may be more painful. Executives at airlines like Qantas and United have agreed to take pay cuts (or forgo their salaries entirely) until the pandemic passes. Good leaders show they face at least some of the same dangers as their troops.

准备好清晰的信息,保持冷静和透明。这些都是明摆着的选择,不管有没有危机。另一类领导者可能更痛苦些。澳航和美联航等航空公司的高管已同意减薪或完全放弃薪水直至疫情结束。好的领导者会展现出自己是和下属共患难,哪怕只是一部分。