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HOW TO ADAPT TO COVID-19 Leadership, crisis management and business continuity

Articles & Insights Jun 22 2020

Witt O’Brien’s values the insights of renowned industry experts as society faces the outfall of the COVID-19 pandemic. We invited Dr. Steve Goldman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Senior Lecturer, to discuss leadership, crisis management and business continuity during this most uncertain time. This blog entry highlights the interview on a podcast series entitled PandemicBuzz launched by Witt O’Brien’s Devin Sirmenis, Managing Director Corporate Resilience.

Positive attributes for companies to adapt

Since the pandemic started experts have learned that the most effective executive leaders share three common attributes:

  1. Accepting today’s reality
  2. Strong, positive leadership
  3. Excellent, consistent communication

In order to successfully navigate through this pandemic, companies need to first accept the fact that this is a crisis and it’s not going to end any time soon. Secondly, leadership must ensure they have a positive, steady hand that will help provide comfort while employees endure less than ideal circumstances. Finally, it’s imperative that open communication channels are established and that continual updates are provided to staff.

Some employees may have adapted to their new normal faster than their peers, but it goes without saying everyone is affected in different ways. While some thrive in a work from home environment and flexible schedule, others struggle with time management and/or the lack of human interaction. Consistent leadership communication will unite employees and create a sense of community; a community that understands the situational complexities and how to look after one another – from balancing workloads to general well-being.

Words are important in site-readiness planning

What’s the difference between the terms ‘clean’, ‘sanitize’ and ‘disinfect’? Cleaning indicates that you are moving germs around. Sanitizing is removing germs. Disinfecting is killing germs. Your employees are going to want you to fully disinfect the workplace. Disinfecting protocols must be shared prior to employees returning to work. Agreements on company versus landlord responsibilities should be made prior to opening facilities. Bottom line: employees are not returning to work until they’re sure it’s safe to do so. Make the workplace look good as well as being good, show that you care as well as fully, caring.

Working from home is here to stay

It goes without saying, working from home is here to stay. Whether in small percentages or in wholesale adoption, companies will need to adjust how they conduct business. They will need to find additional ways to maintain positive employee and customer experiences. Social distancing may not be liked or appreciated by all, however it’s absolutely necessary at this time and will be part of the new normal. If face-to-face interactions are less prevalent, what creative ways will emerge to sustain and enhance value in relationships?


Please listen to all our PandemicBuzz episodes on one of your favorite platforms:

Apple Podcasts



Witt O’Brien’s looks forward to the opportunity to guide our clients. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your company’s approach to managing this crisis, need support to do so, or if you would like to brainstorm next steps.

Devin Sirmenis, Managing Director, Corporate Resilience
Devin Sirmenis, Managing Director, Corporate Resilience

Devin Sirmenis is a risk and crisis specialist focused on corporate resilience and has served clients for 20 years as a trusted advisor. Devin works with executive leadership at Fortune 500 firms to assess and develop their crisis management programs, train crisis leaders, and stress test the ability to manage an enterprise threatening crisis through simulations. Prior to joining Witt O'Brien's, he led consultant programs at Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton and Perot Systems Government Services. Devin pairs his years of client experience with continuing education and has completed Harvard Kennedy School's Crisis Leadership Program and holds a Change Management Advanced Practitioner certification from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.