Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman: Carbon’s Ellen Kullman Podcast Summary

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Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman: Carbon’s Ellen Kullman

To survive a crisis, you have to double down on who you already are as a company. This is something Ellen Kullman knows, having led DuPont through the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and taken the CEO role at 3D-printing unicorn Carbon only weeks before Covid hit.

Through her years as a leader, Ellen has developed four crisis principles that allowed her to lead teams and thrive through pandemic, economic meltdown, and beyond. The key? Practicing the principles in calmer times, before crisis hits. Because as Reid says: there’s no such thing as a crisis playbook. There’s just your playbook.

Crisis management

  • Keep calm, work together, and visualize solutions through deliberate steps to overcome even the most impossible problems—a valuable crisis management lesson for any workplace.
  • During a crisis, companies should stick to their values, make quick and tough decisions, communicate proactively, and plan for the future. These principles can help companies survive and come out stronger after a crisis.

What to do during a crisis

  • During crises, focus on what you can control by understanding your business inside and out. Don’t get stuck in paralysis; use this crash course in perspective to lead and navigate through uncertain times.
  • In a crisis, leaders should take control of what they can, focus on long-term benefits, have a clear outlook, create a hypothesis, gain agreement, regroup, and make necessary changes to chart a path through the crisis and beyond.

In times of crisis

  • In times of crisis, great leaders make bold moves to adjust to the changing world and create a vision for their organization’s success. Simplifying leadership and streamlining operations can lead to clarity and a new path forward.
  • Example: Airbnb implemented policies to refund guests, support hosts financially, and raised funds during the pandemic while cutting back on expenses to survive. In uncertain times, focus on what you can control.

The importance of clear communication during a crisis

  • During a crisis, focus on what you can control, align with partners to scale your target, and prioritize clear and constant communication with your team. Over-communication is a necessary tool for success.
  • During a crisis, communicate clearly and consistently, simplify messages, and inspire teams with a sense of pride in the mission. Look for opportunities to innovate and make a difference using your company’s technology and capabilities.

The Lessons of NASA’s Apollo 13 mission crisis

In 1970, NASA’s Apollo 13 mission faced a life-threatening crisis when an oxygen tank exploded, but the crew and ground control team remained calm and worked together to solve a chain of crises, including a build-up of deadly carbon dioxide.

Historian Amy Shira Teitel studied the mission logs and found that the astronauts and ground control team were professional and focused on solving problems, even as they faced a dangerous situation. Through slow and deliberate steps, they were able to visualize solutions to seemingly impossible problems, offering a lesson in crisis management for any workplace situation.

The world’s going to throw at you the economy; the world’s going to throw at you a lot of things. Now the question is: What do you do about it? What can you do in order to improve your company, your situation, and your business?

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