How a Leader Responds to Crisis

Jeff Williams

Hello, it’s Jeff Williams, President of Absolute Results.

Now this video is for my trainers who lead Sales Leadership Workshops, and who facilitateworld class events for Absolute Results in over 2000 dealers and 19 countries every year.

Trainers, you coached more than 6,000 sales managers, and 15,000 sales professionals. So I need you all thinking, speaking, and acting like a sales leader. That’s the purpose of this message.

Now today we are going to talk about how a leader responds to crisis.

Let’s start by defining ‘crisis’. Now for today, can we just call it ‘unexpected challenges, with potentially big consequences’. We are going to look at 3 ways to respond to crisis, but let’s start first with something that we should have all learned in Kindergarten, but probably didn’t… and that’s to build margins in your life.

You see, sometimes you stretch yourself to the edge to pursue an opportunity personally or financially, and that’s okay. But if we constantly do life that way, we set ourselves up to fail. 

It’s the same with our health. If we haven’t built up our immune system when we are healthy, a cold can take you out for weeks instead of days. Now in business, you might be a used car manager with a large inventory, and you need to know your credit line, and you stay within itbecause you know things are going to happen out of your control, and you need a buffer. Now once in a while, you might stretch yourself to maximize a really good opportunity, but even then you have a backup plan.

And if you are a general sales manager, you connect with your team daily, walking slowly through the crowd or the showroom, taking a few minutes to connect, so you can build upmargin or buffer in your relationships. Make deposits, so if you need to ask them to stretch, to work an extended hour sale, or go out of their way to overdeliver or go the extra mile for acustomer, it won’t burn them out and they will be keen to help because you’ve built margin.

Secondly, when crisis hits, you need to make a plan to get through the crisis without stopping there. Now let’s first talk about getting through the crisis. How do we make a plan. Here are 5 steps.

Firstly we need to define the problem to the best of our ability; here’s what we see the problem to be. Then we need to evaluate everything under our control. What can we leverage, what can we cut back, what can we eliminate, what can we add.

Then we need to look for opportunities. Is there something right under our eyes that we are missing.

Fourthly, we need to engage our team to create solutions with us. You see, None of us are smarter than all of us. And when our team helps us to create solutions, they own the solutions, even if you have led them on the pathway of some of those decisions or thoughts. It’s still their plan.

Fifthly, we need to act decisively on our plan. Because it takes no courage to think – it only takes courage to act, and Courage is a virtue.

Now thirdly, remember how I said that leaders make a plan to get through the crisis, but they don’t stop there. So true. You see, survivors get through crisis, leaders emerge better. They use a crisis as an opportunity to rethink their processes. Leaders see further than others. My friend John Maxwell would often say “leaders feel things others don’t feel, they see things others don’t see, they believe things others don’t believe, they say things others don’t say, and they do things that others don’t do.

So when crisis comes, leaders re-evaluate their processes. For example, maybe you are a car dealer who realizes that over the next decade, more and more of the purchase experience is going online. And now we have an opportunity where people who don’t normally shop online, might. And those who already do, they want to be part of the future. So we start by reaching out with one or two new online services. It’s a mindset of how we move to the future, just a little ahead of the competition. You don’t need to be miles ahead to win, just yards ahead. And to everyone else, it will seem like miles, why, because you’re ahead.

Now leaders, when you make a plan to get through the crisis, and you act on that plan, you bring hope to your team. And leaders, when you think ahead, and use the crisis to rethink your processes, and you shift, you gain moral authority. A crisis doesn’t make a leader, they reveal a leader. And they give them a chance to gain moral authority. Because you gain moral authoritywhen you have the vision and clarity to see further, and then you act courageously.

So let’s recap, and let’s commit to do a little homework because a true leader spends time every day, preparing.

Firstly: let’s look for areas in our business and our personal life where we don’t have enough margin and make a plan today to begin building up that margin.

Secondly: let’s address our current crisis or challenge by making a plan, defining the challenge to the best of our ability, evaluating all of our options in our control, looking for solutions that might be right in front of us, engaging our team to build solutions, and acting decisively.

Thirdly; let’s think past the crisis, think further. Let’s evaluate our processes and look for ways to innovate and try new things that will move us ahead in the market.

My friends, those are three keys to how a leader responds to crisis, because when we do, crisis can become opportunity.

Let’s lead well!

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Jeff Williams


Jeff Williams is the CEO of Absolute Results and has dedicated the last 20+ years to helping dealerships, OEM’s, and sales people across the globe rethink how they sell cars. His three greatest passions are his family, his business, and his charity work.

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