10 Business Leaders on What They Learned From the Pandemic

Top executives share insights on managing during a crisis, from communicating with employees to mastering the art of the Zoom meeting

Ann Mukherjee Chairman and CEO, Pernod Ricard North America

In this time of ambiguity, you have to be open to learning. Because if you don’t learn, you don’t know how to adapt…. Being transparent, being inquisitive are good ingredients. One thing we talk about is mental fatigue. I talk about the brain as muscle. I’m pushing my people to say: Take a break. Put in a lunch hour. Cut yourself at five o’clock.

Christopher Reynolds
Chief Administrative Officer, Manufacturing & Corporate Resources, Toyota Motor North America

There’s no such thing as too much communication… It’s important for me to see you, for you to see me and that you’re ok and I’m ok and we’re getting business done. There’s a value to that that actually trumps my usual “Do we really need to have this meeting?”

Sabina Menschel
President and Chief Operating Officer, investigations firm Nardello & Co.

What struck me is that all of us are really looking for anchors and safe harbors during this time…. Until this time, though, I didn’t really see the company—or a company, an employer—as necessarily filling that role for people. But people are looking for us to fill that role. Every day, I try to call three to six people, just to check in, just to say hi, see how they’re doing. I wouldn’t necessarily have done that before.

Anu Aiyengar
Co-Head of Global Mergers & Acquisitions, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

How to maintain culture and connectivity on Zoom is something you have to learn. If you ask open-ended questions, you don’t have the same way of looking at each other to figure out who’s going to speak… Don’t just say, ‘So how are all of you doing?’ Instead, pick the more talkative people first. Then the introverts know it’s coming to them soon. Managers have to be inclusive and take extra care to make sure all voices are heard.

Luke Schoenfelder
CEO, Latchable Inc., maker of Latch smart-home systems

We took decisive early action to close our office and go remote before the major wave in New York. It bought our folks mental-preparation time. But I wish we had done a better job of sticking with community building with weekly all-hands or town halls. I worry culture will start to fray.

Jes Staley
CEO, Barclays PLC

The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past…It is absolutely remarkable that we have over 70,000 people working remotely and keeping a very complicated £1.4 trillion balance sheet bank functioning…people are doing it from their kitchens.

George Iacobescu
Executive Chairman, Canary Wharf Group

[On working from home:] It’s definitely overrated…The temptations of staying home and listening to music and going in the garden and going shopping, and cooking or reading an interesting book suddenly—they eat into the working time.

Ernest Garcia
CEO and co-founder, used-car retailer Carvana Co.

In any business you get used to operating at a certain cadence, and then all of the sudden when the world around you is changing as fast as it was, you have to kind of pick up your feet way faster and make changes much, much more quickly.

Ethan Agarwal
CEO, fitness app Aaptiv

Acknowledgments have to be much louder. Giving someone credit at an-all hands in person is much different than on Zoom. Leaders have a responsibility to ensure that success and achievements are especially acknowledged in a time like this.

Deidre Anderson
CEO, United Inner City Services, a non-profit focusing on early-childhood education

I’ve always thought leadership meant I was right there and frankly, I think I get on my staff’s nerves sometimes. I probably had some control issues myself and wondered what they were doing when they weren’t at the office, but the productivity has been off the roof, so I need to just trust them. If they say they’re working at home, they’re working at home.


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