What it takes to be a CEO from home during COVID-19

16 Apr 2020

What it takes to be a CEO from home during COVID-19

As the world works increasingly from home, what additional pressures are on the CEO? We talk to Frank Spikker, CEO of ceramic tile maker Royal Mosa, about leadership today.

What does your work situation look like during this pandemic?

I still work a lot from the office. So it's not quite a 100% work from home situation for me.

But like many, we sent all employees home and we turned to digital. Through a good team design, we just let the meetings continue.

For many of our people, this was a huge change from an at the office situation, with a remote setting, children in the background and so on. This requires of our people to develop their own kind of discipline and that has worked out well.

For me personally, that means that I can do some of my meetings here in the office with a few people, in a large space with sufficient distance between us. Other interactions I mainly do through Microsoft Teams with screen sharing.

"What I do notice is that the meetings are a lot more efficient"

This is a very big advantage of digitization. And naturally, we follow the guidelines.

What insight(s) has this COVID-19 situation given you?

Last year, we discussed how we want to change much faster, and by that, we stepped on people’s toes. But in a time of crisis, unfortunately, there is no room to consider every person’s viewpoint when decisiveness and speed are of the essence.

Now, we need to try to make good use of the situation by moving fast. And you deal with different viewpoints, by just saying ‘this is necessary and it is going to happen’.

As a result, we have dramatically stepped up our internal communication setup, Digital Go-to-Market approach, planning cycles and so on.

What do you like and what do you find difficult about the disruption caused by this pandemic?

Everything becomes fluid under pressure, so you have to adapt very quickly during a crisis. Taking really big steps fast, I personally like that very much.

What makes it difficult is that there are people involved internationally.

"We know that this situation may take a while, so we need to anticipate what's to come, because there is a new challenge every day."

On the one hand that is difficult, on the other hand, it makes you more involved, caring and decisive, which is positive.

What advice would you give other CEOs facing the COVID-19 leadership challenge?

What I have noticed to be of the utmost importance is very good personal communication with the different teams. Of course, you can also do this with a webcast, but you should really try to keep in touch with your team on a personal level. And I mean with the whole organization.

For example, people in factories. They need a lot of clarity that you as a leader must provide. And if you do that, people will respond very well if you make that message a good combination of clarity and leadership, so that people see decisions are made and there is a quick adaptation to a new situation.

Also, admit that there are quite a few concerns about the developments to come.

"So, provide clarity, continuously involve people and report something every two days if there is something to report."

It’s like a kind of ‘Royal Mosa update’ about what's going on. Not so much about the crisis in general, but in the context of Royal Mosa and how we deal with this situation. That has worked very well for us.

In addition, I continue to look for opportunities to distinguish the company from competitors. That is about the way in which we communicate to the market, digitization of tools, moving fast when it comes to developing products, etc.

Now is the time to really put that into practice.

Thank you, Frank Spikker, for your compelling insights!

In the next part of this series, we interview Antoine Brouwer, CEO of home retailer FONQ.