Dealing with risks beyond your control

Some risks you cannot manage, but you still have to deal with them. COVID-19 poses the biggest risk many businesses have faced since WW2. 

Whilst it is being managed at a national level, individual business leaders are having to respond to its effects.

While working alongside north west based CEOs, I have found that there are a number of core issues that, if tackled with the right mindset, at the right time and in the right way, can provide a roadmap for survival and recovery.

E + R = O

In other words, the Event (in this case, COVID-19) plus our Response to it, will dictate the Outcome. 

The pandemic has happened. We cannot control that, nor the national and global response. However, we can control our response. We need to decide on the desired outcome and design our response to make that happen.

Many of the companies I work with are striving to emerge from the crisis stronger than before. Their response to COVID-19 follows three stages: Survival, Reset, and Relaunch.

Decide on the desired outcome, and make that happen


The Survival phase is crisis management, our immediate fight or flight response, and CEOs and MDs need a command style that exercises a high-level grip on those matters delegated to their senior teams.  Most organisations are now past this phase.


The Reset phase requires crisis leadership. There is a subtle but crucial change from management to leadership. 

Good leadership involves caring deeply about people, creating a compelling sense of purpose, and over communicating. The CEO must manage their own mindset ensuring it is positive, and seeking opportunities. This simple reframe will bring you and your team lots of extra energy.  

Next, they require a cohesive leadership team, focused around a short-term purpose, namely creating clarity, overcommunicating that clarity, and then reinforcing that clarity.  

And yes. Clarity is important. As Alastair Campbell says, once you’re bored of saying it, people will just be starting to hear you!


Most of my member businesses have set up a Plan Ahead team, to think about the challenges ahead when restrictions are eased.

From this point, the CEO needs to become more outward looking, learning from trusted peers and trusted advisors. The CEO’s job is not to have all the answers but to have all the questions.

In this Relaunch position the CEO is thinking about how they and their business will emerge from the crisis stronger.  This involves understanding emerging trends, realigning and re-imagining the business, and creating robust plans as to how this will be done.

Hindsight is a powerful teacher, and what is being seen today reflects past evidence: that if you are in the business of thriving, not just surviving, mindset and leadership trumps what you do, hands down. 

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