Communication is a vital element of running any business, let alone when executives are faced with the prospect of managing a crisis. Speaking to the Leaders Council, Emma Bradley-Bond, founder and managing director of home rehabilitation provider Community Rehabilitation Management [CRM], highlights the importance of communication and close collaboration, while the Commons Public Accounts Committee takes aim at the government for failing to sufficiently plan for the economic impact of a pandemic situation.
Leadership in Focus
Opening up to Leaders Council interviewer Matthew O’Neill about her personal leadership model in running her organisation, Bradley-Bond said: “I consider my leadership style to be fair and conscientious. I ensure that I work with colleagues and support workers very closely and keep the communication channels open. I talk a lot about nursing procedures and my clients’ basic care needs to keep everybody updated, I work closely with all members of my care team and I know everyone who works for CRM quite well as a result.”
Continuing to discuss some of the influences behind that style, Bradley-Bond explained: “I have wanted to work as a nurse since the age of three. I spent a lot of time in A&E as a child as a result of numerous accidents having broken bones many times and seeing nurses in action made me want to do it myself. Since joining the profession, I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
“My influences are mainly my previous employers. When I was treated how I wish to be treated by those people, I have tried to transfer those positive elements of leadership over to my own leadership style. As a result of learning from others and maintaining that close communication and working relationship with my staff, we do have good retention as a result. Some people at CRM have worked with us for over 20 years.”
It is Bradley-Bond’s close-knit relationship with her staff which has been key in helping the organisation tackle the challenges posed by Covid-19, which have brought about real disruption to its day-to-day operations.
Bradley-Bond elaborated: “The pandemic has affected all aspects of keeping clients and staff safe. We have been working from home largely, and sourcing personal protective equipment when we have needed it has been a significant challenge.
“Keeping in contact and communicating during the transition to home working was vital because the move was not an easy one. Our electronic hub system could not support four of us working from home at any one time, and it took seven weeks for us to resolve IT issues to support home working. Close collaboration during that period was extremely important as we looked to get over that hurdle.”
Bradley-Bond also expects the ‘new normal’ to bring wholesale changes to the way that her company operates for the foreseeable future, particularly with regard to the levels of safe contact staff can have with clients.
“We support clients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries who are dependent on the in-person support we provide. Since we cannot interact with them as normal, my role has now moved over to planning for their next steps and goals, be that in moving into rehabilitation or simply planning a holiday.
“The fact people have had to be isolated has meant that our caseload has decreased during lockdown, but we do expect this to pick up as we emerge.”
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has criticised the government for what it calls an “astonishing” failure to plan for the economic effect of a pandemic situation, adding that Westminster’s response to the Covid-19 crisis was rushed.
The committee warned that the economic effects of the pandemic could be long-term and was critical of the Treasury for waiting until March to introduce economic support initatives.
The government has said that it regularly tested its pandemic plans which allowed for a quick response.
The committee urged the government to “ensure it doesn’t repeat its mistakes again” should a “second spike” or “another novel disease outbreak” come to pass.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee’s criticism comes after official figures showed that the economy shrank by a greater margin than anticipated in January and March, having contracted by 2.2 per cent.
The body of MPs said: "We are astonished by the government's failure to consider in advance how it might deal with the economic impacts of a pandemic."
The report acknowledged that the government took part in a pandemic simulation exercise in 2016 called Exercise Cygnus, but said that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy had no knowledge that the exercise took place.
The committee added: "It is astounding that the government did not think about the potential impact on the economy."
The committee added that although the first official case of Covid-19 in the UK was confirmed on January 31, the Treasury did not announce plans for “significant funding” to support businesses and people until the March 11 Budget and “it did not become clear to the Treasury until the following week that a furlough scheme would be needed”.
The committee continued: "The lack of prior thinking on the types of schemes that may be required led to a delay in implementation because the government needed to design the schemes from scratch, particularly in relation to the self-employed scheme where it lacked sufficient, reliable information on who the recipients should be, causing unnecessary uncertainty for businesses and individuals."
Its report said that more transparency in the government’s decision making was required and said that ministers had been slow to take action on issues including the UK test and trace system, recommending that the Cabinet Office review its crisis command procedures to “ensure longer-term decision making” in future.
Other areas of the government’s response in line for criticism included the procurement of personal protective equipment [PPE], where the committee highlighted “fundamental flaws” both in procuring and distributing key equipment.
The report said on the matter: "Despite a pandemic being identified as the government's top non-malicious risk, it failed to stock up in advance."
The report also set out the task that the country will not face in ensuring that long-term school closures do not bring “long-term or irreversible effects” upon the wellbeing of children and young people and their “future health and education”.
Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee said: "Pandemic planning is the bread and butter of government risk planning, but we learn it was treated solely as a health issue, with no planning for the economic impacts.
"This meant that the economic strategy was of necessity rushed and reactive, initially a one-size-fits-all response that's leaving people - and whole sectors of the economy - behind."
A government spokesperson said in the wake of the report: "As the public would expect, we regularly test our pandemic plans, allowing us to rapidly respond to this unprecedented crisis and protect the NHS.
"It was clear that coronavirus would affect all areas of the country, that's why we immediately put in place an unprecedented initial economic support package for jobs and business worth £160 billion."
Leadership in History
This day in 1943 saw fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini step down as head of the armed forces and the government in Italy. Victor Emmanuel assumed control of the army in his place while Pietro Badoglio took over as prime minister.
The resignation of Mussolini, Adolf Hitler's junior partner, was a major blow to the Axis powers during the Second World War, having come shortly after the Allied invasion of Sicily.