as possible as events continued to unfold. Now, having gained abit of breathing room, they are cautiously making near-term andlong-term plans based on the new reality.
In the end, that is a leader’s job. He or she should not assumethe role if they are not able to quickly think on their feet.
But what has been particularly telling about the Covid- 19 crisis is that it is fundamentally a public health crisis rather than aneconomic one. In many cases, CRE leaders are operating outside of their wheelhouses as they seek to both guide their companies and ensure the health of their employees, clients andtenants.
“Our first priority is making sure we’re keeping our team members safe,” Zikakis says. To that end, the company has outsourcedcounseling sources for its people if they choose to use them. Heretoo, Capstone’s foresight came in handy. For several years, thecompany has maintained a nutritionist to assist employees withhealthy lifestyles, focusing not just on what they eat, but also onmindfulness, Zikakis says.
As the pandemic raged on, Capstone quickly established a newroutine for its operations, one marked by frequent video conferences and additional strategies to ensure efficient remote work.
However, amid these unusual times, exceptions are made toaccommodate the unique practice of sheltering-in-place—even ina routine business meeting. One of the first virtual meetings thatthe company held was with its accounting department, whichkicked off with participants introducing their pets to their co-workers. Cats, dogs and birds were all in attendance, which wasmore than okay with Zikakis. “Anything that helps,” he says.
Leaders, in short, are now creating a new tool box as they navigate this challenge that few ever envisioned happening.
That said, the fundamental principles of good leadershipremain the same no matter how strange the circumstances are.Clear communication with a team. Compassion. The ability toadmit when you don’t know something. Surrounding yourselfwith experts. Authenticity and passion. Leaders continue to relyon these core fundamentals as they adapt to the Covid- 19 crisis.
STRONG INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
Since Covid- 19 began its march across the US, Toby Bozzuto,
president and CEO of Bozzuto, has remained in constant com-
munication with the company’s nearly 3,000 employees. He
continuously sends video addresses to employees via email, rec-
ognizing how important it is that employees understand his
thought process and directly hear what is on his mind. The vid-
eos and various communications additionally serve to instill
confidence among the professionals that the company will pre-
vail against the crisis. “You don’t want to be on a ship that is sink-
ing and have the captain running around screaming that we’re
all doomed,” he says.
Mindful of the anxiety that their staff must be feeling, goodleaders are currently relaying a vast range of relevant information: short-term company-wide steps, long-term industry outlooks, contingency planning, updated revenue reports, revisedbudgets and new statistics.
And with employees well-informed, leaders are able in turn tosignal to the outside world that their company is on top of things.
JLL has been bombarded with client calls since the start of thenovel coronavirus, according to Claudia Steeb, managing director of capital markets at the company. “Everybody’s calling, looking for advice, asking ‘what should I do, what should I do.’” Shesuggests the company has been able to field this mammoth waveof inquiries thanks to its own strong, internal communicationnetwork.
“We’re doing our best to prepare our people so that they know
what our company’s position is,” she says. Regular briefings also
do wonders for employee confidence, Steeb says, echoing
Bozzuto. “One of our senior leaders today was speaking and he
said ‘We will get through this. We’ve been here before, we’ve
gone through these tough times, we’ve gone through the times
where you don’t know where your next deal is coming from,
what’s going to happen, but you maintain your calm, and we will
get through this together.’”
The absolute essential ingredient to these communications,
both internal and external, is transparency, says Camille Renshaw,
CEO and Co-founder of B+E.
In times like these it can be a difficult balance to maintain a
calming presence, while not hiding any truth from your people,
she says. But give your listeners some credit, she adds. “People are
universally aware that no one knows when or how this pandemic
To that end, Renshaw has been striving to offer sober, realistic,
risk-averse advice to clients and shareholders. She continues to
communicate with clients concerning current investment strate-
gies, worst case scenarios and preparation for such scenarios,
while offering optimism.
“People rely on us to help with their financial health and projections and decision making. So, that’s what we tried to focus onin our client communications,” Renshaw says.
Also key, according to Zikakis, is to first, personally establishand clarify your goals, prior to communicating with staff or clients. “The worst thing you can do is not have a clear understanding of what it is you’re trying to achieve with the people withinyour organization.”
These days, every email that Steeb sends out and every call shemakes includes an inquiry concerning the recipient’s well-being.It’s not just lip service, she says. Especially in times like these, youhave to acknowledge what is most important to people, she says.“The key thing is, listen and as you do, be a giver, not a taker. Notonly do you have to listen, but you have to have empathy whenyou listen and when talking with people.”
“YOU DON’T WANT TO BE ON A SHIP
THAT IS SINKING AND HAVE THE CAPTAIN
RUNNING AROUND SCREAMING THAT
WE’RE ALL DOOMED.”
President and CEO of Bozzuto