Roy Disney once said, “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” His words never rang as true as they did for me in 2020.
When Covid-19 broke out in January last year, all strategic plans we had went out the window. How could anyone plan around a year (and counting) of such widespread, global uncertainty? Each of our four manufacturing facilities was shut down at different times of the year. It was chaotic, to say the least.
Some companies thrived as their products and services became essential. Many others stumbled through the year, and some fell and didn’t get up. We survived 2020, and I believe we will do well in 2021. I base my confidence on the set of six core values that my company is founded on.
At times of adversity, compassion is critical to keeping things civilized and conversations flowing. We have always been empathetic to people’s personal situations, but when everyone was deeply affected by Covid-19 and tensions were high, we had to be more compassionate and more flexible than before.
During the past year, we were forced to make some difficult decisions with regards to our workforce and our strategy. Throughout this period of rapid change, we strove to provide honesty and transparency to all our colleagues and partners, even when it was not easy to do so. We had town hall meetings to convey decisions and sent out regular newsletters to our partners. Having been regularly informed of the company’s circumstances, our colleagues and partners were all very understanding, even when the news was not so good.
In crises, it can be hard to remain calm and collected. In fact, it was almost impossible for me until I realized that being “cool” does not simply mean being glamorous and the most captivating one in a crowd; it also means acting calmly and appropriately.
In the case of Covid-19, being cool meant accepting the constantly changing situation and moving on. When companies around the world were taking drastic actions such as layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions, we considered them too. But by staying calm and communicating this to our employees, our team pulled together and delivered great results for the rest of the year.
While we have never been hit by a pandemic of this nature, we drew from our previous experience in dealing with the SARS epidemic in 2003 and innovated a best sanitary practice for the office. We shared this with our colleagues, partners and everyone we knew in hopes that the sooner everyone followed these health measures, the sooner we’d get back on our feet.
Do What’s Right
Personally, this was the most powerful core value in 2020, especially when we were forced to make a lot of tough calls during the year. Whenever we ran into uncertainty and found it difficult to make a decision, which unfortunately was quite often, we always weighed our options against our core values. Many times, doing what’s right kept our thinking focused and our decisions streamlined.
Confucius has been credited with saying, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Drawing from the wisdom of this prominent ancestor of mine, I really wanted my team members to love their jobs by having fun and enjoying them. What this precisely means is that everyone must find meaning in their tasks so that when they’ve accomplished them, they can smile and laugh about it.
An example of this in action was last December. To deliver a product to our customer in a short time frame, our team had to work through Christmas and the weekends. But once they knew the product was going to save lives, they powered through those two months with a passion I never could have asked for or expected.
These six core values of ours led us through the pandemic, but how did we make them count?
First off, it’s important that the entire leadership team buys into each one. This means they first need to know the core values by heart. If the values are too complicated for people to remember, there’s no point. And while knowing them is important, you need to determine whether your leaders also buy into your company’s values.
Secondly, the core values must become a guiding principle for the company. Instead of relying on a complex set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in decision-making, everyone from ownership down should ask themselves whether the decision concerned fits into the company’s core values. These values should weigh more than SOPs.
Finally, it is not simply about constant mentions of core values but about clear applications of them. Leadership should explain to the entire team how decisions were made based on the core values of the company. This may be difficult for some companies, but open communication really works for us.
Experts will tell you that core values are vital to guiding a company through the good times and the bad. It definitely proved true for us. Our six core values not only helped us survive the worst of Covid-19, but they also cast a light on the way forward.
We’ll be kind, open, cool and innovative. We’ll do what’s right and have fun!
By Carl Hung,
President & CEO of Season Group.
Originally published on Forbes on 2 Apr 2021