Excerpt Courtesy of Charlie Katz, Authority Magazine:
Be resilient and be adaptable during difficult times. As leaders, we always need to be open to changing our course as the environment changes and that requires a certain amount of humility, self-reflection, internalization, and requires you be adaptable and embrace change.
As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Clark.
Dan Clark is the Chief Executive Officer of IBH. He has over 25 years of progressive leadership experience managing fast-growing national and international businesses, including digital health, therapeutics, population health, wellness, behavioral health, disability, and employee assistance programs. He has led multi-billion dollar P&Ls, large health plans, started two healthcare companies of his own and run both start-up and PE-backed firms as a CEO. IBH is one of the nation’s largest digitally-enabled mental healthcare providers, and a leader in crisis support services and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Clark joined IBH as CEO in June 2019, where he leads IBH’s strategic direction and organization growth plan.
Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today and I think as a society we will come out of this situation learning a lot about ourselves and our company, including our resilience and adaptability. Our work, how we deliver it and how the majority of people predominantly receive it has changed to overnight. Leading people through uncertainty and change has required us to not only be transparent about our plans and how we will adapt, but also empathizing with and supporting our own employees as they help our members manage through unprecedented times, when they themselves may be anxious as well. help people manage their way through difficult times. Uncertainty creates anxiety for all and it is important to be informed and have a plan so your team has someone to look to for stability and certainty. It’s okay to not have all of the answers, but we need to be clear with communication to our teams, ask the right questions, let them know we are on the path to get the right answers, how we are adapting and what steps we are taking.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
To have a vision, to lead with honesty and authenticity and conviction. A leader needs to be visible, communicate and inspire those around you who are looking to you for guidance and stability. A leader needs to understand that people are the most valuable asset to any organization and not just myopically focus on the financial and operational tactics, but listen, communicate and inspire. When you do so, teams will rally behind you and carry you through the challenges.”
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Be transparent. Uncertainty creates anxiety, so share what you know, what you don’t, what the plan is, and how your company is progressing against it.
2. Have a plan and have the information you need and be willing to course-correct early. The further ahead you can see an obstacle, the more time you’ll have to avoid a collision that could hurt the company.
3. Be authentic and clearly relay expectations. It’s okay to not have all of the answers, but share your plan with your team on how you will get those answers. It would be disingenuine in times of extreme uncertainty and unpredictability to assume or pretend you know it all. Share what’s known, what’s not, what the plan is, how we’ll adapt if things happen we don’t expect, and share how the company is doing against those plans. Invite questions, be open to ideas and be confident, but real.
4. Communicate. Let your team know what you know, what you are doing, and what you expect the impact of any situation to be and how you plan to adapt and recover. Most importantly, talk to your team as the people they are and listen to their concerns. Use their feedback to inform your plans. People are a company’s greatest asset.
5. Be adaptable and resilient. Understand that there will always be roadblocks along the way and realize you will probably have to change course. Listen to your team, talk to people you trust, and put plans into action by taking small steps to create larger impacts and lasting change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be the Change you wish to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi has always spoken to me. This quote for me not only resonates with the responsibility we have as a business to be a vehicle for change and improve the quality healthcare we are entrusted to deliver, but also it also applies to each aspect in our daily lives. If there is a problem, we have a responsibility to be that change we want to see and help drive that transformation. It’s important we put action behind our words and not only talk about the problems, but do something to change them.