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What do you do when the chips are down?

Hack No. 8. Do What You Say You Will Do. When the KPMG Annual CEO Report showed many CEOs thought they would need to take their foot off their sustainability efforts given looming recessions and growing inflation, it shows a shift in values. I have a lot of empathy for CEOs. They have so much coming at them today. But this means they may be changing their view on the commitments they have made. If that’s the case, it’s a Moment of Truth for these leaders. A test moment. And it poses the age old question. ‘What do you do when the chips are down?’ ‘What do you do when times get tough – revert to type or take a new path?’ It's a tough one.

CEO decisions resonate across a firm and influence you, the frontline leader. If the CEOs need to change course on commitments so important for people and our planet, what should you (the frontline leader) do when faced with a similar challenging moment? It may not be ESG. Just a commitment you made. Your circumstances changed and therefore it’s tough to live up to the commitment. You've discovered it's tough to execute.

The answer, though simple, is the challenge. It’s exactly these times that show your leadership, but also can enable a break-through solution to happen. It’s these times when all eyes are on you. Will you cave or bring courage? Woah. That in itself is another tough situation to face. But, you must find a way to face it.

Contrary to the KPMG survey where despite their increasing understanding of the importance of ESG to financial performance, half of the executives surveyed considered putting off their ESG efforts. A third of those surveyed had already done so” - there are signs of hope.

Not everyone is doing that.

CEO of the global manufacturer Flex Revathi Advaithi said it best In an interview with the World Economic Forum when referring to three sets of goals: #growth, #productivity, and #sustainability. Revathi shared a key word that must underpin our actions as leaders during these times. “…doing all of this and still honor our sustainability goals”.

That word alone in this context is a force of change, but the sentence should be re-read for the magnitude of it's meaning. To me, it means old solutions can’t cut it and new ones need to be unearthed. We must honor our commitments which means we must look for ways to do that. A stark contrast to 50% of the CEOs surveyed by KPMG, looking at old solutions of cost-cutting our way into the future.

I don’t think I’ve heard the word honor in a business context in quite some time, but maybe, it’s time to return it to our vernacular. It stood out like a lighthouse when Revathi used it.

Honoring commitments means you can’t just blow them off at the first sign of push back – be that from others, or from forces outside your control. As a leader, your job is to hold up the roof and look for solutions. It’s during these moments of truth when that counts most.

So how do you do that? One way is to draw on the power of your people. Another? Go beyond your usual borders – ask questions of people at the fringe of your influence. Go even further and go beyond the walls of your organization. There are usually many people facing similar issues. Find them. And, go to your own personal board – if you don’t have one, construct it now. People you can trust to talk to about your predicament. Because this is a predicament. It should not be taken lightly.

Delivering on commitments is not just about numbers, it’s about commitments to people. And how you manage those, how you lead through them. It is a sign of your leadership. We have to ask, our we honoring them?

From the book Manage to Engage. How Great Managers Create Remarkable Results. The post-pandemic how-to guide for engaging in the new world of work.

This is another #HackingitwithHackett - the Q4 Challenge. Post-sized Hacks to help leaders better engage, enable and energize their teams, and improve their operational results - before year end.

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