The PEAR approach to leading during crisis

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Most of us in the US are entering what many consider “week 2” of the COVID19 disruption -- working from home, schooling from home, minimizing physical interactions with others. And, let me say that first of all, I hope that you, your family, and your colleagues are well – mentally, physically, spiritually.


We’re all starting to figure “it” out. Maybe. Hopefully. For many of us, it is not just a new work norm, it is also a new household/family norm. For my family, this is week 1 of distance learning (following a week of spring break and a week of no school while the educators adjusted their plans). By 9am Monday morning, I’m hearing: “Is the Wi-Fi broken? It’s so slow.” And, for another child joining her first Zoom call: “Wait. How does this work? Why can’t I hear anything? Can they see me? Can they hear me? Oh, I got it! Oh, the call just ended.” Sound familiar?


We will all be evolving our business and personal approach over the coming weeks. In which case, keep a “pear” on hand and refer to it as you reflect and refresh your business and leadership approach over the coming weeks.


PEAR = People * Environment * Assets * Reputation

Since this COVID19 crisis has begun, one word has been top-of-mind for me: PEAR. No, not the fruit… the acronym. It's an acronym used by a variety of groups (HSE, Emergency Response, Crisis Management and Communications) and is typically used to help frame response to an issue, incident or crisis. It provides structure and priority in responding to an incident or crisis.



Here's how we can apply the PEAR to leadership:


P: Safeguard People.

During or immediately after an incident or accident, my first questions are: Are you okay? Are you hurt or are you safe? As a leader during this COVID19 crisis, these questions shift to: Are your people safe? How do you ensure their safety both physically and emotionally?


Most businesses have already addressed this topic, at least physically. Vast numbers of people have shifted to work-from-home status. Some are still needed in the workplace, whether its manufacturing or logistics or healthcare or groceries, and safeguards have been established. The emotional component of safeguarding people will become more critical as this crisis progresses. Stress and isolation take a toll.


How do you safeguard your people emotionally? Check in with them regularly. Be empathetic and understanding. Offer support. Encourage socializing and sharing. Encourage work. (Expectations are healthy!) Create opportunities for fun engagements – a virtual water-cooler chat, lunch via Houseparty, or happy hour on Zoom video. Make use of your EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for guidance and support (for you and them!).


E: Protect the Environment.

Typically, I think of the Environment as the "big E" environment – the planet, water, land, air, etc. With the COVID19 crisis and its impact on people and our workplaces, I’m shifting this to the "little e” environment, specifically people’s new workplace environment – their home office or kitchen table or card table in a bedroom. People are seeing a dramatic change in their workplace environment AND a whole new set of coworkers – spouse, roommates, children. Do they have what they need to make work-from-home safe and effective? A computer and Wi-Fi, a desk or table to work from, a quiet spot. “A workplace free from distractions.” For many people, that’s a resounding “no!”.


How do you help your employees protect their new workplace environment? Make sure they’ve got the right tools, which could be the “right” keyboard or some noise-cancelling headphones. Respect that their environment has changed and is likely to be different than yours. Adjust your expectations to meet their environment. Say hello to the kids who pop into the video call. Work together to figure out the best meeting times that meet the rhythm and requirements of their day. (Many dual-career couples are jointly juggling meetings and supervising schoolwork, etc.)


A: Protect Assets.

With most incidents, I think physical assets. If you get into a car accident, what happened to your vehicle? Is it safe to drive? In our current crisis and a shifting workforce, those assets are a bit different. Cybersecurity. Confidentiality. Bandwidth – Data, WiFi, Telecommunications. People.


Do you have protocols in place to protect your electronic, intellectual and human assets? Adjust VPN requirements. Review your confidentiality protocols as it relates to documents and conversations. Shift video or audio calls to the :15 versus a straight up :00 on the hour to avoid “traffic”. Batch your emails (disconnecting from your company server or even Wi-Fi while you process, so as to reduce network demand). If people are your greatest asset, how are you protecting them? (See P for Safeguard People)


R: Protect Reputation.


“It takes many good deeds to build a reputation and only one bad one to lose it.” Benjamin Franklin


Your decisions, behaviors, and leadership will determine you and your company’s reputations now and after the COVID19 disruption.


How do you protect your reputation? Make good choices. Practice the golden rule. Be proactive. Be transparent. Plan for struggle. Plan for recovery. Take care of your people (staff, customers, suppliers, service providers) and they'll take care of you.


Keep the humble PEAR in mind and apply it as we progress through this crisis and future incidents.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing business disruptions challenging your leadership and your business? Setup a complementary consultation to discuss your business & leadership challenges and get some ideas that you can implement today.

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