How to have GRACEful conversations during a crisis?” with Harsh Johari

This situation has impacted all of us, no doubt. How we can change our mindset to adapt to this ambiguous situation? Unbox’s quest for answers had us knocking on the doors of three distinguished panelists. In the second webinar of the ‘Unquarantine Your Mind’ series, titled ‘Unquarantine Your Mind – Mindset Shift’ held on 28 May 2020, the focus was on –

  • Positive Psychology for better mind management
  • Leveraging self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence
  • Effective crisis management with a future-focused approach

In a three-blog series, we elucidate the insights given by each one of the panelists.

Our second panelist is Mr Harsh Johari. He is an Executive and Leadership Coach with over 25 years of diverse professional experience across the shipping and financial services. He is also the Ex Senior VP of Goldman Sachs and an Ex-Captain of the Merchant Navy.

  1. What do you think is happening now and what do you see most of us doing?

We are dealing with a situation for which there is no reference point. Be it in our personal life or in the professional world, we have always had some sort of playbook to refer to. And as they say, “well planned is half the work done”. In this case, however, there was never a plan. The biggest struggle that people are facing is to work without a reference point.

  1. What is the one essential skill to navigate this?

Adaptability is the most essential skill. Be it at a personal level or at a professional level, you as an individual, a member of a team or organization need to find ways to adapt yourself to deal with this crisis effectively.

  1. What are your views about leadership styles that are important today?

  • Be vulnerable – it is a great time for leaders to show their human side. This builds more trust and intimacy in people. When you as a leader expose your vulnerable face, help can pour in from all quarters. This also encourages the hesitant team members to reach out and ask for help.
  • Engagement with compassion – Each team member is impacted uniquely, and you need to understand their distinct circumstances. Don’t just stop there; try to see what can be done about it.
  • Speed of decision making – sometimes during a crisis, speed is more important than precision. Take accountability and do not delay taking some critical decisions.

4. How do we manage the key face to face interactions that are now conducted virtually?

A key business challenge in this situation is managing performance appraisal and giving feedback virtually. An efficient way to do this is the GRACE framework –

  • Gratitude – take this opportunity to express gratitude to all your team members because they have stood by you and have gone out of their way to help you and each other.
  • Response – not everybody has responded equally to the crisis. Lot of people have risen to the occasion and shown great leadership abilities. As a leader, be aware of how different team members have reacted and responded to the situation.
  • Accountability – look at how people have stood up and taken ownership in terms of making sure that business continuity and level of productivity is maintained.
  • Community – look at how people have gone beyond their team and impacted the community in a positive manner. This could be done as a personal initiative or leading some of the CSR activities of the company.
  • Empathy – irrespective of the outcome of the conversation, be empathetic. The times are tough, so being empathetic and compassionate is necessary.

5. What should we do now?

This is a good time to revisit the visions of the organization and look at whether and how the current crisis has changed the visions. If it has, then sit with your team, revisit it, and redefine what the new vision would look like. This is relevant in the personal context as well. A lot of our personal priorities have changed owing to the current scenario.


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