WWT CEO Jim Kavanaugh’s 5 Big Leadership Tips During COVID

From key executive messaging during COVID-19 to not raising health insurance, World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh gives his best leadership advice during uncertain times in his Best of Breed Virtual Series keynote today.


WWT’s Jim Kavanaugh Advise To Leaders During Uncertain Times

World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh knows a thing or two about leadership having led WWT for more than three decades and countless IT transformations.

Through Kavanaugh’s leadership, WWT is now a $13 billion solution provider with 7,000 employees that successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic while at the same time helping countless customers stay afloat during the crisis. He ranked among the top ten highest-rated CEOs in America in terms of leadership during the pandemic, according to a Glassdoor analysis of employee rating in 2020.

During The Channel Company’s Best of Breed (BoB) Virtual Series today, Kavanaugh spoke about being a successful leader during uncertain times.

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“There’s no better time to talk about this topic considering we’re right in the middle of a global pandemic and we’re right in the middle of significant social unrest,” said Kavanaugh. “I also believe when you look at leadership, leadership really shines or basically exposes itself in very challenging times like this. So in times of challenging situations like this, it’s more important than ever that leaders step up.”

CRN breaks down Kavanaugh’s five most important thought leadership advice during his keynote speech at the BoB Virtual Series today.

Continue To Invest And Don’t Raise Health Insurance

One of our communications [to employees] is that we will continue to invest in all of these different things. That’s investing in our employees, their safety, their wellbeing, sick leave, unpaid time off – all the things that become very critical during a global pandemic like the one we’re dealing with.

Another thing we’ve communicated is that we have not raised our healthcare insurance in 18 years. We’ve communicated that again. It’s so important especially in times like this, in a crisis, that you continue to support your employees in every way possible and they see it and they feel it.

Demonstrate That You Truly Care; If You Don’t, Employees See Through That

You need to listen. You need to take the time to listen to your employees. You need to get your executive team to cascade that down. So a heightened level of listening. A heightened level in expedited learning in regards to what’s going on.

Then really coming up with what your messaging is. Think through very thoughtfully what that messaging is and then be very consistent with it. Then you need to act on things that you need to act on based on the learnings that you’re having in a real time iterative basis.

Some of the things that we stepped in and leaned into very early was the No. 1 focus here at World Wide Technology was the safety and well-being of our employees. We made that very clear from the early days of COVID and everything that we were dealing with.

The other thing that’s very important and needs to be done very sincerely and authentically is you as a leader need to demonstrate that you truly care. If you don’t, your employees will see through that. That’s incredibly important.

Messaging Is Key Around ‘Survive And Thrive’

The key messaging that I wanted to communicate to our team is that we will survive and thrive. And our people and culture are the key to our success prior to COVID and the challenges that we’re currently dealing with, they’re a big part of the success today and the success we’ve had in 2020, and they will key to our success as we move forward.

Other things that are very important to get people to understand that the virus here is both creating challenges around physical and mental well-being. So the health side of things, but also the economic side. So it creates another level and multiple dimensions of challenge that companies are dealing with and leaders are dealing with and needing to make sure you convey that to your employees.

Also for them to understand that this is truly a marathon. It’s not a sprint. When going in the very beginning to make sure they know that this is going to be a long haul and we need to prepared for that long haul, but then always underpinning that their safety and wellbeing is always priority one for us here at World Wide Technology.

‘We Wanted To Give Back’

As we listened to our employees, we wanted to give back and continue to give back related to COVID. People that are challenged with COVID and diversity programs. So we put a $1 million matching program together. These are some of the programs that our employees are engaged with and we’re working with them to drive those engagements into actual jobs working here at World Wide Technology, along with funding those efforts. It’s been incredibly well-received.

The other key piece is the business side, especially during a global pandemic, to make sure your employees also understand it’s very important for their financial wellbeing and their own employment, because people who are losing their jobs today, there’s another level of stress and anxiety. So making sure they understand how important it is that we keep the business going and that World Wide was recognized as an essential business.

Heighten Focus, Messaging And Reinforcement

If I left you with anything, I would say the heightened focus to lead in uncertain times is really about getting better and accelerating your listening, accelerating your learning because you have to learn very quickly. Then you need to figure out, and very thoughtfully figure out, your messaging. And you need to continue to reinforce that because people are continuing to deal with very challenging times, and they want to feel that somebody knows where they’re going and what they’re doing. The other piece is acting on those things.

The last, and definitely what I believe is the most important, is employees want to know that you care. In our case, we’ve made it very clear that our No. 1 priority was the safety and wellbeing of our employees. It is today and will always be.