Today, there are far too many stories about leaders whose greed and quest for power are so strong that they succumb to unethical ploys to achieve results. Ramalinga Raju, founder and chairman of Satyam Computer Services, was one of those leaders.
In January 2009, Raju penned his resignation letter to the board of directors, writing: "It is with deep regret, and tremendous burden that I am carrying on my conscience, that I would like to bring the following facts to your notice." The letter exposed that for eight years, he had cooked the books to the tune of more than $1.5 billion.
Instantaneously slammed into calamity, tending to the more than 50,000 wounded employees, retaining customers, and finding the strength to gain revenue, collect on invoices, and deliver projects were foremost in our minds. We turned to learning, because halting learning with the blind excuse that everyone will be busy picking up the shattered bits is not acceptable. Most organizations underestimate the value and necessity of learning during a crisis.
Amidst the negative press - The Economist's cover story "India's Enron" and the BusinessWeek cover of Raju with the headline "From Icon to I Con" - we knew we had to grab that tiger by the tail and prevent it from completely devouring everything and everyone. Tainted, disgraced, beleaguered, and scam-hit, leaders had never encountered anything like this before, and they didn't know how to handle it. Employee morale was at an all-time low, no one knew who to trust, and feelings of betrayal left a sour aftertaste. Times like these are when learning professionals must convert emotions into actions and leverage learning to stabilize the organization.
Long before any crisis begins, develop a plan that highlights exactly how to lead through learning by guiding behaviors and teaching critical skills. The plan must concentrate on coaching leaders, enhancing empathic listening skills, and providing guidelines for leading. It should also bring people together, raise employee morale, and teach the critical crisis-management, technical, financial, physical, and behavioral skills to keep the doors open and the lights on.
It is critical that the plan include ways to avoid negative components creeping into the organizational culture, which only delays recovery. Lastly, learning should happen in real time so that it does nothing to interrupt the process of recovery. With plan in hand, demonstrate that learning is imperative to revitalization.