Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Rethink Talent and Leadership

Startups and scaleups worldwide are facing a make-or-break moment with coronavirus, a health crisis with vast and unprecedented economic consequences. Each entrepreneur is in a unique situation, whether they’re well-funded, planning their next funding round or struggling through the uncertainty.

As a result, founders are turning to their VCs and mentors for support and conversations are, unsurprisingly, centred around cash. In the UK, while £81m has gone to startups that haven’t received investment previously, there’s been a 31 percent decrease in deal numbers compared to the same period last year—so it’s a pressing issue.

But cash alone only presents half the story. As startups seek advice on how to weather the storm and find positives in the situation, the conversation broadens. To survive this period of instability, growing businesses should look toward the key cornerstones of success: talent and leadership. After all, the best founders never waste a crisis and now is a good time for them to refocus.

The vision could be great, the founders innovative and cash readily available, but without strong leadership and world-class talent, businesses can’t continue to thrive in this climate. How to look after and manage teams during this time, as well as understanding what staff cuts to make and how, are important considerations that startups are looking to VCs for support and advice on.

A conservative approach. 

Any business plans that organisations had in place ahead of the pandemic are now likely to be irrelevant. Businesses need to start from scratch with a clear view of their burn rate and shouldn’t be afraid to rip up the rule book and abandon existing plans. Startups already doing this have looked to renegotiate their office rents, contracts with providers and suspended online advertising, for example.

Reducing such costs is sensible in a challenging fundraising environment. Deals have slowed down and the Pitchbook European VC Valuation Report points toward a decrease in early seed rounds. New investments certainly have stopped and great companies always get funding, but many investors are focusing on how to support their existing portfolio. The crisis isn’t over yet and, with further outbreaks still possible, now is the time to be conservative. Continue reading

The Real Leadership Challenge Of 2020? Creating Cultures Where Everyone Feels They Belong

We’re midway through 2020, and suffice to say, the year hasn’t gotten off to a great start. But as we look ahead to the next two quarters, leaders across every sector know that while the immediate crises may have abated, the tough work remains to be done.

Now, leaders are not only tasked with trying to stabilize their operations and drive growth, but they also know that in whatever form they seek to rebuild their organization’s culture, it must be with a committed effort toward diversity, inclusion and equality.

It shouldn’t take social movements like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter to awaken a collective consciousness around long and justly held grievances or systemic biases, and reactionary responses or promises that pay lip service to the problem as opposed to doing the hard work to forge sustainable and systemic solutions don’t help.

Let’s face it: Despite millions of dollars and years of effort to address diversity and inclusion, most organizations haven’t moved the dial far or fast enough. What’s needed is a different approach. So, as we head back to the drawing board, we’d be well served to change course on a few fronts:

1.   Stop Framing The Issue As A Problem

For too long, we have framed the issue of diversity and inclusion as an intractable problem, debating whether quotas are right or targets are fair. Instead, we need to reframe it as a catalytic, powerful solution, focusing on the competitive advantage our organizations stand to gain if they were made up of truly diverse workforces.

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Mark Cuban: This is the new interview question employers will ask job-hunters after the pandemic

Mark Cuban has some advice for the millions of Americans who are out of work amid the coronavirus pandemic: collect unemployment, don’t stop applying for jobs and make use of whatever down-time you might have to brush up on the skills that might impress your future employer.

a close up of Mark Cuban: Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, speaks at the WSJTECH live conference in Laguna Beach, California, October 21, 2019.

 

The first question every interviewer is going to ask you is: ‘What did you learn during the pandemic of 2020? What skills did you add during the pandemic of 2020?'” Cuban said in an interview with Dallas’ local CBS affiliate on Sunday.

The billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks was asked what his advice would be for those who are unemployed and job-hunting. Just under 20 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits as of last week, according to the government.

“If I was 24 or 25 … living with five roommates, how would I be dealing with this and what would I tell myself?” Cuban wondered.

“Keep on adding to your skill-set, no matter what it is,” the “Shark Tank” star told CBS. “I don’t care if you’re a welder, or you want to learn how to [computer] program, you want to learn about artificial intelligence, whatever it is.” Continue reading

The Digitization Imperative

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Seven Ways Leaders Can Prepare for Post-Pandemic Times

by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Avoid knee-jerk reactions when creating a plan for the future.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” This opening line from Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities captures the contradictory times we live in. It also describes how organisations may react to the coronavirus pandemic in very different ways.

Take fictional Company A. When the pandemic occurred, fear permeated its top echelons. For years, its leadership had bought back shares to improve its financial metrics and warrant fat bonuses for executives. This reduced its financial leeway, prompting the CEO and the CFO to go on a major cost-cutting spree, including the cancellation of all training and development activities. They also used the turbulent economic environment as an excuse to lay off many employees they didn’t like, without any explanation. In light of these actions, a doomsday atmosphere prevailed.

At fictional Company B, senior executives reacted very differently. Granted, with the lessons learned from the last recession, they had created strong financial reserves, which enabled them not to lay off anyone. Instead, they eliminated overtime hours, put in place sabbatical programmes and made use of government support schemes. They instituted a salary freeze and downsized their own remuneration. Knowing that recessions offered exceptional opportunities to pick up high-quality talent, they kept their eyes open. They would not fall into the trap of having a shortage of people with key skills. Although it would have been easy to cut training, top management decided to keep key elements of it to better prepare its workforce for the future. Continue reading