As originally appeared in CEOWorld Magazing on October 3, 2022.
The past few years have created significant repercussions for businesses and leaders alike. Different sectors faced different challenges, which amplified an unsettling global pandemic. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Drew Collier, CEO of LGM Financial Services Inc. As Canada’s leading provider of automotive finance and insurance, his organization faced incredible headwinds. He shared how taking an empathetic and purpose-driven approach sparked resilience and engagement.
For Collier, treating people humanely and with respect is essential, whether we are facing a pandemic or not. For him, it is a core value. Early on, when there were dramatic revenue shortfalls due to the reduction in vehicle sales combined with supply chain challenges, he and his leadership team were firmly against laying off staff, even temporarily. Instead, LGM dropped down to a 3-day work week, with everyone sharing in the challenge, including the executive team.
We also spoke about the vital difference between stating your core values as a company and living them. Making grandiose proclamations is easy, and can be a recipe for disappointment when actions do not follow rhetoric. Collier shared how LGM has consistently been a values-based company since its inception 20 years ago. While this did not make decisions any easier, their values provided a navigational compass when it came to determining a path forward.
Whenever decisions needed to be made, the senior executive team consistently referenced their values as a critical input. It shaped the type of options being considered and which ones would ultimately rule the day (like the 3-day work week). This demonstrated that values were not just words on a wall. They were something that would continue to shape their destiny, in good times and in bad.
A strong example of their commitment to a values-based approach is their partnership with the Social Purpose Institute to explore ways to provide a positive social impact that extends far beyond bottom-line returns to shareholders and customers. According to Collier, this is not just a feel-good exercise. A great employee experience creates a great customer experience. He shared, “when you create a great customer experience, you can earn the right to be profitable and grow your business. However, when you achieve those milestones, you have an obligation to give back to your community. It must be a virtuous circle.”
Even with a compelling purpose and set of deeply embedded values, communication is of paramount importance, not only for transparency, but to also bring more skeptical stakeholders on board. As Collier notes, “Continuous communication keeps everyone informed and provides an opportunity to showcase how our purpose and core values directly impact our decisions.”
The medium used to communicate is also very important. Although mass emails can be quick and effective for conveying information, certain types of communication necessitate a more personal touch. Collier emphasizes the importance of “humanizing” your communication as much as possible, especially when navigating a crisis. During the pandemic, he provided weekly video updates so people could see and hear from him directly. “Messages are more powerful when delivered in this way, as it creates more of an emotional connection.”
It’s also important to project a sense of calm during a storm – to honestly appraise a difficult situation and present it transparently to your team. Collier advises that leaders must strike the appropriate emotional temperature, not overly dramatic yet not dispassionate about the realities you are facing.
Understanding the mental health challenges that come with a stressful, fast-changing work environments is vital too. Different employees may face different struggles. Recognizing this, LGM has been proactive in promoting government well-being and relief programs, as well as giving advice on budgeting, saving, and even renegotiating mortgage payments.
LGM did this through an online wellness portal, which included tips on meditation and relaxation. Their HR department individually called each employee early in the pandemic to conduct a wellbeing check-in. Collier knew he was on the right track when his employees later threw him a mass, surprise online birthday party.
It is important to note that a wellness-centred approach must include self-care. Otherwise, as Collier explained, “it is challenging to show up for people on your teams the way you want if you are exhausted.” Putting on your own mask first is not selfish, it is integral to building resilience in yourself and your organization.
We are living in an era where things can shift, literally overnight. There will be unexpected challenges and crisis both now, and in the future. Doubling down on our core values and fostering the mental health of everyone in our organizations is critical to our success.