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Dave Cote just delivered the War and Peace of books on corporate leadership. The former Honeywell CEO’s Winning Now, Winning Later is such a rich, unusual entry in the genre because instead of running through his favorite management maxims, Cote provides a gripping, on-the-scene account of how he deployed a series of bedrock principles to transform a flailing conglomerate. The lessons come to life because the reader witnesses Cote, over 16 years ending in 2018, relentlessly putting them into practice to meet the biggest challenge in corporate America: balancing the short-term success demanded by investors with sowing the seeds for rewards that will only be harvested years hence, but are essential to achieving greatness.

Current and aspiring CEOs should pay close attention, because for Cote, many of America’s big companies are wrestling with how to invest for the future while still generating the quarterly results investors expect. “Businesses are little more than a collection of processes,” he says in the book. “And in most companies, the processes can go a long way towards becoming more efficient and effective.” For Cote, remaking those processes to get maximum results from people and assets requires achieving two seemingly conflicting things at the same time. It’s that 3D thinking that brought the big breakthroughs at Honeywell.

It’s fulfilling these “we can do both” imperatives that lifts enterprises to their full potential. And the most important is simultaneously achieving what many managers find vexing if not impossible, “making the numbers” while at the same time making the daring bets to ensure those numbers will be far higher five years from now. As his book’s title suggests, Cote swears the idea that CEOs must choose between winning now and winning later is wrong: They must find a way to do both. Thinking short- and long-term works since you need today’s profits to fund tomorrow’s hits. He shows how Honeywell succeeded in constantly improving its most lucrative existing products, from airline components to gas detection devices, to increase quarterly earnings, while simultaneously plowing billions into next-generation projects that took five or six years to harvest, then paid off big.

The book is packed with other examples of taking two actions that seem to butt heads and getting them to march arm in arm. While many companies think they need big inventories to ensure fast delivery to customers, Cote shows how it’s possible to both reduce stocks and lower shipment times by expertly managing the supply chain.

Cote also believes that companies should advance not in giant leaps but small agile steps. “It’s survival of the most flexible,” he writes. “Revolutionary change is not the key to short- or long-term performance. It’s a huge risk. Revolutions move in unintended directions. The best change is gradual change.” His goal is to stay just ahead of the market as opposed to betting heavily on future trends that may not play out, or falling behind so that only demoralizing, disruptive restructurings can save the company.

For Cote, it’s best to spread plant closures and layoffs over a number of years. Another tenet: Making lots of small targeted acquisitions is more profitable, and a lot less dangerous, than chasing the transformational whales. His contrarian thinking extends to personnel matters. Forget the “praise in public, criticize in private” maxim, says Cote. When a business head makes an inadequate plan for building his or her business, the CEO should uncork the likes of “This is unacceptable, go back and fix it”––and explain why––in front of the assembled peers to demonstrate that he’s setting a high standard.

The official publication date for Winning Now, Winning Later is June 30. But Cote gave Fortune an exclusive first look. I also interviewed him extensively to glean further insights. The overriding theme from both the book and these conversations is that this son of a rural New Hampshire gas station owner regards leadership as both highly intellectual, and highly hands-on. How many CEOs take full days, sans appointments, to think big and hatch bold new initiatives?

Yet Cote insists that “the idea you focus on strategy and outsource implementation to great people is wrong.” At Honeywell, he personally interviewed all candidates for the top 300 jobs, and for the first 90 days after making every one of its 100 acquisitions held monthly meetings to review their progress and quarterly reviews for the next year. At the same time, as one lieutenant put it, he showed the tenacity of “a big annoying bear threatening the livestock” in constantly monitoring the numbers to ensure that each business was adding sales faster than people, investing sufficiently while reaching the right balance in product enhancements and long-horizon projects, and generating strong and growing cash flow.

Winning Now, Winning Later opens by describing the deep-seated problems at Honeywell. According to Cote, the “short-termism” that plagued Honeywell is an issue many companies grapple with. The best argument that Cote’s formula can achieve the dual objectives in the book’s title is its spectacular success at Honeywell. From 2002 to 2018, Cote lifted Honeywell’s sales from $22 billion to $40 billion, took operating margins from 8% to 16%, and hiked the stock price fourfold, swelling the market cap from $20 billion to $120 billion, while spending $10 billion resolving environmental issues, including resolving asbestos claims, and fully funding the underwater pension plan. Here are five original concepts and strategies that formed the Cote blueprint.

Defeating short-termism

In 1999, Cote left GE after a 25-year career, then served for two years as chief of TRW before going to Honeywell in February of 2002. Cote coveted the ultimate prize of running GE upon Jack Welch’s retirement, but departed when the legendary CEO said that Cote––then heading the appliance division––wasn’t a finalist. Had Cote gotten the nod instead of Jeff Immelt, it’s likely that GE would be a far more successful company than what it became, by constantly restructuring and shedding businesses it vastly overpaid for. The irony is that at Honeywell, Cote found some of the poor practices that he yearned to fix at GE. And it was by overhauling those crippling methods that Cote got Honeywell roaring while his alma mater sputtered.

Cote recalls that at GE, success was all about “making the quarterly numbers” at all costs. Any given year, the outfit where Cote was working would hire 1,000 people to grow sales. Then in October or November, the managers would discover that they couldn’t hit the targets for the following year without laying off 800 of the folks they just added. “Why, I wondered, hadn’t they thought ahead and only hired 200 people instead of 1,000? We didn’t think we had a choice,” he writes. The layoffs were highly disruptive and required big restructuring costs. For Cote, the better practice was what he did at Honeywell: getting his business heads and staff people to plan for the following year’s personnel and other financial commitments early in the current year, avoiding the need for this wrenching cycle of layoffs and rehiring.

At Honeywell, Cote found a mindset of what he brands “short-termism run horribly amuck.” Managers at the specialty chemicals, aerospace, automotive, and controls conglomerate would offer distributors special discounts at the end of a quarter to boost sales, a practice known as “distribution loading,” that enabled them to hit their targets. The businesses had to quickly inflate inventories to make the deliveries, but the shipping department often couldn’t keep up, creating bottlenecks and delays that antagonized customers. And businesses, wrongly guessing in advance what distributors would want, often filled warehouses with product their customers didn’t want.

Often, 25% of the revenues from aerospace, controls, and specialty chemicals businesses would come in the last week of the quarter. Instead of buying at regular prices in the early weeks, customers waited Honeywell out until the last few days, and in managers’ desperation to ramp up sales, the deals would get better as the quarter drew to a close.

To keep hitting the mark, the business heads would resort to more gimmicks such as selling good businesses to book quick profits, or securing one-time cash payments from suppliers in exchange for guaranteed future business. That locked Honeywell into deals with single vendors that forced them to overpay for components or services over long periods. To his horror, Cote learned as much as 20% of Honeywell’s reported earnings were coming from those one-time items known as “specials”: One plant manager in Louisiana even cut down trees in the forest adjoining the factory and sold the lumber to make the numbers––and received a performance reward for getting it done.

In aerospace, managers would compete for new contracts for wheels and brakes by providing the first hundred “ship sets” of those components for free. That’s standard practice in the industry. The difference was that Honeywell was capitalizing the cost of the ship sets and amortizing it over 20 years. “They did it,” says Cote, “because investors are much less alarmed by things that don’t go in the income statement.”

That wasn’t the only case of super-aggressive bookkeeping. Honeywell would capitalize R&D so that it spent the research dollars now, but spread the reported costs into the future. As a result, Honeywell’s reported profits kept rising faster than its cash flow, signaling that its facade of profitability was about to crumble. For the decade prior to Cote’s arrival, Honeywell was generating just 69¢ for every dollar in earnings, a sure sign of trouble.

It didn’t take long for trouble to strike. After Cote had served just a few months, the finance department revealed that earnings for the second half of 2002 would fall 20% below Honeywell’s forecast to Wall Street. “‘What the hell was going on?’ I asked,” writes Cote. “Their response, ‘Well, the financial goals we were trying to meet were never realistic to begin with.’” The finance chiefs brushed off managers’ complaints, telling them to “Just get it done.” Honeywell’s stock price dropped 25%, and an enraged Cote told everyone to drop the tricks––no more aggressive accounting, no more capitalizing R&D and ship sets, no more distribution loading, and no more “make the numbers” meetings hosted by the finance staff that drove all of those dysfunctional decisions.

Producing both long- and short-term profits

Although the “make the numbers or bust” mindset was hammering Honeywell, Cote still believed that achieving regular quarterly gains in earnings––reaping a healthy crop today, no gimmicks allowed––was essential to success. At the same time, Honeywell would need to start investing now in new products, services, and processes, as well as international expansion, to secure its future, by planting seeds for tomorrow.

“We would have to win today and set ourselves up for tomorrow,” he says. “I realized we could do both at the same time. Short- and long-term goals are more tightly intertwined than they appeared. Short-term results would validate that we were on the right long-term path.” What’s more, he added to me in an interview, each goal reinforces rather than contradicts the other.

To get there, Cote vowed to follow three principles. The first was “Scrub accounting and business practices down to what’s real.” Second came “Invest in the future but not excessively” followed by “Grow sales while keeping fixed costs constant.” The theme was to plow current earnings into the long-horizon projects such as next-gen aircraft cockpits and new molecules for refrigeration that Honeywell was shortchanging, but not invest too much.

Honeywell would maintain sufficient quarterly earnings to demonstrate consistent progress. By expanding sales while holding the fixed costs, consisting primarily of labor, constant, Honeywell could generate the savings to keep raising its spending on both big, multiyear systems and enhancements to existing products and services and still generate the short-term returns investors expected. Those practices would get the flywheel spinning, and a “virtuous cycle” would take hold, which would allow Honeywell to generate even more cash to invest, which would lead to further performance gains.

Growing sales without growing fixed costs

Cote’s plan for restraining costs came in two parts. First, he immediately demanded that the four big overhead functions, finance, human resources, legal, and IT, representing about one-fifth of fixed expenses, hold their annual dollar outlays at 2003 levels, forever. “The goal was to double sales, so that overhead would fall by 50% as a share of revenues,” he told me in an interview. As it turned out, the costs of the four functions actually fell by 30% or $1 billion over 15 years, so that spending rose more like 30¢ for each dollar gain in revenues. “We used part of the savings to improve IT for all four functions, so that we needed fewer managers,” says Cote. “For every 10 managers who retired or left, we only had to replace about seven.”

In line with his conviction to achieve two seemingly conflicting things at the same time, he also demanded that the four functions demonstrate better service to their internal Honeywell customers, as determined by anonymous surveys. Cote also taught the Honeywell brass to take on broader roles, so that he could run the company with far fewer leaders. The leadership ranks over 16 years shrank from 740 to 650 even as sales almost doubled. “I did it for two reasons,” says Cote, “to save costs, but most important, because leaders create work for other leaders, and instead of focusing on markets and customers, focus on satisfying each other.”

The second initiative was an epic campaign to boost productivity in manufacturing. “If you can grow output much faster than you add costs, including for payroll and floor space,” says Cote, “you’re bound to generate the savings that both fuel new investment, and increase quarterly earnings.” In 2005, Cote dispatched a team to study Toyota’s celebrated Toyota Production System, at the automaker’s plant in Georgetown, Ky. Over the next decade, Honeywell gradually rolled out its Honeywell Operating System or HOS, largely based on the TPS practices of engaging workers to recommend and implement improvements in their factory-floor tasks that save costs and improve quality.

The initiative was so successful that Honeywell over that period increased its sales per employee by two-thirds. HOS also enabled Honeywell to keep shrinking factory space as it made more and more product. By 2018, Honeywell was producing far bigger volumes in only 70% of the plant footprint it was using in 2002.

Early in Cote’s tenure, Honeywell was manufacturing sensors in 37 small plants. Cote asked the managers to do a “white paper” exercise imagining the ideal footprint if manufacturing could be redesigned from scratch. The answer was more like 12 factories that each produced much bigger volumes. In a classic Cote “go slow to go fast” maneuver, the sensors unit spent 10 years making that blueprint a reality by packing all production into a dozen plants. “We did it laying off just a few workers a year so that we didn’t disrupt customer service,” writes Cote. “It was part of our philosophy of constant restructuring.”

Cote notes he reached his expense targets while still increasing the number of workers in manufacturing. “We started with around 60,000 in 2002,” he said in an interview. “And we hired about 20,000 or 30%-plus over 15 years. The key was that we doubled the size of the company, so the revenues grew much faster than payroll.”

Those cost-savings plans freed the cash for both short- and long-cycle investments. For Cote, the bigger challenge by far was finding the right mega-bets that would swell earnings anywhere from two to six years hence. “We were already getting lots of enhancements on existing products because people wanted to make their numbers for the quarter,” he says. “HOS enabled us to make those improvements a lot faster, but the big one was the seed planting.” He writes that prior to his arrival, Honeywell was spreading investment dollars across a broad spectrum of projects without carefully assessing their potential profitability, hoping that the more bets you made, the more would win. Cote moved to advancing fewer huge platforms that played to Honeywell’s greatest strengths, especially in aerospace, and that promised the biggest payoff.

One major hit was HFO, a new form of fluorine for industrial refrigeration. HFO was a breakthrough molecule that Honeywell developed in a quest to reduce the global warming caused by previous fluorine molecules. “That was really touch and go,” Cote told me. “It took five years, and there were two or three times when we thought it wouldn’t work.” HFO raises global warming 20% less than carbon dioxide and 1,500 times less than the previous molecule, and it has mushroomed into a highly profitable $1 billion business.

Another haymaker: Experion Orion Console, a monitoring system for oil refineries. “It’s like a jetliner cockpit for refineries,” says Cote. “It collects and processes huge amounts of data from the facility, and controls all the flows to ensure the highest possible productivity and safety.” It was Darius Adamczyk, whom Cote mentored and succeeded him as CEO, who shepherded the Experion Orion. Overall, says Cote, Honeywell now captures three-quarters of the big aerospace projects it competes for, up from half in 2002. And by the way, today’s hits are much bigger than yesterday’s.

Overall, says Cote, Honeywell’s strongest growth engine was the payoff from long-horizon projects. Of the extra $18 billion in sales generated from 2002 to 2018, $6.5 billion came from acquisitions, and the remaining $11.5 from its own products. And three-quarters of that organic growth flowed from Cote’s seed planting.

Why it’s good to criticize in public

In Winning Now, Winning Later, Cote relates that in large meetings, he’d listen to the presentations and encourage everyone to talk. And when the open discussion ended, he’d request opinions on how to proceed from everyone in the room. He always asked the lowest level managers to speak first, and as they talked, he’d show no hint of agreeing or disagreeing. “If their bosses spoke first, the lower level folks would be tempted to just parrot what their bosses said,” Cote told me. “I’d never interrupt and wouldn’t express my opinion until the very end.”

For Cote, teamwork consisted not of the usual groupthink but ensuring that everyone in the room cited facts and expressed opinions. Then Cote, as leader, would make a decision and explain his reasoning. Cote wasn’t looking for widespread buy-in. “Consensus was not the goal. A good decision was the goal,” he says. However, Cote always explained his rationale, to guide the organization on how the leader wanted them to think about problems and let the people who disagree understand that he weighed their arguments and respected their viewpoint. Cote says his goal was to be right at the end of the meeting, which might be different from what he thought at the beginning. And the only way to get as close as possible to “right” was to keep participants from knowing what he thought and getting facts and opinions from everybody.

Once again, Cote thinks it’s constructive to call out a leader who presents a weak business plan so that all present understands what the boss accepts. “Organizations need to learn what is acceptable and what is not,” he told me. “If a business head presents a plan that’s not well thought through, or gives me a great story instead of results, I’ll call them to task. Everyone around the table needs to hear that the work product is not acceptable.”

His technique isn’t to personalize the problem. “I won’t call them an idiot,” says Cote. Instead, he’ll ask the executive to start over and come back with a much better proposal. “The leader will walk out thinking, ‘That wasn’t a good meeting,’” says Cote. “But it creates a good dynamic. It builds respect for you when you tell them what’s wrong. They may panic, but they’ll come back with something a hell of a lot better.” Cote adds that he would always suggest ways the executive could improve his or her plan. “I’d always say, ‘Here are four or five things you need to think about,’” he recalls. “I worked for bosses who’d give you no idea what was wrong and just say, ‘Do better.’ When your people respond to positive suggestions, their business gets better.”

In managing through a downturn, plan how you’ll spring back stronger

During the financial crisis, Cote focused just as much on ensuring that Honeywell could roar back in the recovery as on lowering costs to preserve investment and profits. “An economist said that you’ll most likely come out of a downturn the inverse of the way you went in,” he relates in the book. “That made a tremendous amount of sense to me. If your sales fall 20% in the first six months of the recession, they’ll probably jump by 20%-plus to the same level when the economy bounces back.” Cote orchestrated his response to ensure that Honeywell could handle a huge surge in orders to capitalize during the inevitable recovery.

Cote laid off 3,000 workers, moving up reductions already planned. But for the rest of the 125,000-person workforce, he deployed furloughs to keep everyone employed at the same time his rivals were axing a big chunk of their workforces. Employees were furloughed without pay for four weeks a year. That move saved $200 million, but it wasn’t enough. Cote also reduced the 401(k) match by 50%, used HOS to keep trimming operating costs, and forced management to take some of the pain by scrapping bonuses for 2009. “We performed in line with our peers, with two big differences,” he writes. “We didn’t cut our long-term investment plans, and for the most part, we didn’t cut people. Recessions don’t have to destroy your foundation. It’s best to keep calm while everyone else is panicking.”

Cote pushed ahead with two key acquisitions: One of them, the purchase of bar code scanning specialist Metrologic, landed its leader Adamczyk. He also made special deals with suppliers to ensure that Honeywell got first priority on supplies in the recovery. “If airline hours decline 6%, you go down three levels in the supply chain for parts, and the suppliers cut their capacity by 50%,” he said in an interview. “Then when flights pick up, this avalanche of orders pours in, and you can’t get supplies.” Cote’s solution: Make advance payments to vendors in exchange for a commitment to serve Honeywell first when good times return, and guarantee big future volumes providing the suppliers give Honeywell first dibs.

The strategy proved a winner when sales took off in 2011 and 2012. His workers were ready to go, while rivals struggled to quickly rebuild their workforces and keep pace with orders, and stood in line behind Honeywell for supplies. Over those two years, its sales of aerospace parts soared 30% above pre-crisis levels, largely because the ever-agile Honeywell stole orders from its flat-footed competitors.

Believe it or not, this review only scratches the surface of this book, brimming with original strategies that actually worked. Cote swears that part of being a successful CEO is being a good teacher. Now, readers from around the globe can absorb his lessons.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune:

  • Why black-owned businesses were hit the hardest by the pandemic
  • George Floyd protests force Britain to reckon with its role in slavery, leading some companies to pay reparations
  • This influential crypto CEO warns that hyperinflation will be “the next big problem”
  • Looking to invest in companies that care about equality? This NAACP-backed ETF may be the answer
  • 6 reasons Boeing’s financial picture may be brighter than most assume

Business Achievement Awards


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The workplace is changed. As parts of the world begin to loosen coronavirus-related restrictions, organizations are emerging from COVID-induced hibernation. These transitions back to work are gradual. Uncertainty will remain for months as threats of renewed waves of coronavirus persist. We are anticipating a new normal — but what we need is a new now.

The radical change of these times demands empathic leadership to keep teams engaged, cohesive and forward-focused. Leaders must demonstrate a spirit of purpose and optimism to reinforce the idea that an uncertain future has the potential to be a better future. Here are nine steps for leading your team into an unknowable future.

1. Envision what success looks like and move toward it. 

In its recovery guide for organizations, Deloitte encourages leaders to imagine what post-recovery success looks like. Once you’ve clarified goals, reverse-engineer the next steps for quick and effective action. Envisioning what success entails frees up thinking about the present and can help teams identify quick wins.

As preparation for returning to work, leaders have an opportunity to review their organization’s operating models, expectations, standards, values and strengths. Reflect on what worked well during the recent period of isolation and let teams decide what they need to start, stop or continue doing to achieve goals.

2. Embrace trust. 

“Trust is the glue of life,” says The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Steven Covey. “It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” 

Related: How the Coronavirus Has Changed the Future of Work

Leaders must transition their organizations from a state of treading water to moving toward a restored future. Enable your teams to succeed by embracing trust. Like many business leaders, you’ve likely built a substantial reserve of trust from your teams through your navigation of the coronavirus crisis’s early stages. Now is the time to build on that foundation with acts that unite your team.  

3. Make productivity sustainable.

Today’s distributed workforce demands new thinking about organizing work. Establish clear boundaries to ensure sustainable working hours and productivity. Teams must discuss office hours, share tips on time-tracking and set clear expectations about responding to emails. 

One benefit to organizations from the pandemic is the reduction of the number of meetings. Despite a traditional argument that face-to-face meetings are necessary, businesses didn’t grind to a halt when meetings ceased as a result of the pandemic. Going forward, meeting organizers should define the purpose, the necessary attendees and the amount of time every meeting requires.  

4. Document your recovery playbook.

Resuming work requires answers to questions such as where to begin, how to keep employees and customers safe and healthy, when to communicate and what the next steps are. PricewaterhouseCoopers developed a guide to returning to the workplace (PDF) with additional questions for leaders to address. 

Related: 7 Tips for Managing Workplace Disruption and Maximizing Remote Workers

Whether it be leading and communicating change, prioritizing the health and well-being of team members, operating with additional demands or encouraging empathy, leaders should initiate discussions in the workplace around these critical areas as they develop plans to keep their people and businesses moving through a recovery. As an example, Tesla’s leaders designed a return to work playbook outlining the company’s plan to provide a safe and healthy work environment for its employees.

5. Prioritize your people over yourself. 

Organizations want their leaders to exhibit vulnerability and empathy. On a national level, the leaders who have most effectively dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated clear and consistent messaging, compassion, and solidarity with their constituents. Most of these leaders are female, from Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel implementing testing from the get-go and Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan implementing significant measures at the first sign of illness to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern locking down the whole country with swift and decisive action. And in a press event, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg spoke directly to her nation’s children, answering their questions about the coronavirus and letting them know it was okay to feel scared. 

Leadership demands an emotional connection with your people. When leaders prioritize their people ahead of themselves, they elevate others and foster team well-being.

6. Practice empathy.

Expecting all employees to resume a so-called normal work life isn’t realistic. The COVID-19 crisis impacted everybody, leaving a stain on the fabric of your organization. Be mindful of the ongoing health concerns employees have for friends and family, the challenges of juggling childcare and homeschooling or the stress of navigating the crisis’s financial impact. Empathy will serve you well as a leader and provide your team an extra measure of grace as they return to the office.

7. Provide access to support for emotional wellness.

When employees do begin to return to the workplace, they’ll be dealing with various emotions. People may experience feelings of loss, sadness and grief — emotions that will inevitably impact the way they work and how teams perform.

Related: How Leaders Can Help Prevent Emotional Exhaustion at Work

Leaders must help employees work through these emotions by providing access to support resources such as the Lifeworks-offered Employee Assistance Program and help them navigate sensitive and mental health conversations in the workplace.

8. Re-open with a people-first culture in place.

As you re-open and reset your business, put your employee’s needs at the forefront. That means more than creating a physically safe workplace. According to a Harvard Business Review article on returning to work, here’s what leaders should do:

  • Outline the conditions to re-open safely to bring people back to offices.
  • Define how many people can return over a staggered period while ensuring connection with people continuing at home.
  • Continue delivering honest, transparent communication with all people while highlighting the organization’s vision, values and core focus.
  • Appreciate, recognize, and celebrate inspiring people within the organization and how they make a difference. 
  • Be mindful of people’s different circumstances and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of individual needs.
  • Begin conversations with your people about what the future looks like through reconnecting with a purpose to stimulate innovation and new growth.
  • Remain connected with people who have exited the organization to enable potential hires as new opportunities emerge.

9. Listen to your employees as you reset.

Remote working has exposed the costs and efficiencies of expanding a virtual working infrastructure. For many people, remote work eliminated commute time, allowing them more quality time with family — many employees won’t want to give that up. 

You may need to look for new workspaces, renovate current spaces and shift your thinking about how teams collaborate in a shared office. Listening to your people with the purpose of understanding will be crucial in resetting work environments.

Business Achievement Awards


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


It’s a tough time to be a leader. COVID-19 has created what Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, calls a “generic atmosphere of stress.” A lot of workers are telecommuting for the first time, worrying about the health of their loved ones and wondering what effects the coronavirus will have on the economy and their jobs.

We’ve all been anticipating a recession for a while now. If you’ve prepared by setting aside some cash reserves, great. If you haven’t, that’s OK, too. There’s still time to make the right decisions to get you through this crisis.

So how will you guide your team through this critical time? First, take a deep breath. I’ve advised hundreds of businesses over the years and know you can do this. Companies have survived tough times before, such as during 9/11 and the Great Recession, but you will need strong leadership and a calm, compassionate heart to do it.

Related: 3 Survival Traits for Any Leader

How to lead during difficult times

Remember that your employees are probably afraid and stressed out; you may see tears and hear all sorts of personal things. It’s your job — and your privilege — to help your people manage their difficult emotions. Here’s how:

1. Provide structure to encourage collaboration and prevent loneliness.

Working from home has its perks, but it also means losing the structure that office life provides. This loss can feel especially acute when your team is forced to become remote overnight. To keep employees engaged, figure out ways to create a remote environment that encourages collaboration and connection, which 21 percent of remote workers have concerns regarding. For instance, consider scheduling a weekly video call with your team to touch base on projects and check-in to see how everyone is doing. This can go a long way toward helping your employees stay motivated and social.

Ask your team to contribute ideas for what would best work for them. Would they prefer a virtual happy hour or a weekly breakfast chat? Do they have suggestions for any tools that would make remote work easier? Whatever you settle on, you’ll want to make sure your team is connecting on a personal basis as well as discussing work matters. Your goal is to be a leader, not just a boss, and to provide emotional support during difficult times.

2. Give your team the guidance and tools they need to do their work remotely.

When prepared for properly, remote work can increase productivity, according to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. But if your employees have been thrust into remote work, they may find themselves working from their kitchen tables, dealing with screaming kids and needy pets. You may need to provide additional tools and guidance to help them succeed in their new work environment. Coach your employees on how to set up a workspace and ask them whether they have the tools they need to do their jobs well from home. For example, tools like Slack, Asana, and Dropbox can keep projects organized and advancing even when everyone is physically apart.

Related: 198 Free Tools to Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

3. Communicate what you know about the timeline.

While public health experts and economists say the path to normalcy will not be quick, this situation is almost certainly temporary. Make sure your employees know that they’ll be back in a collaborative work environment eventually. Regularly update employees with what you know and tie your decision to return to the office to a specific event, such as when schools open back up. Doing so will reassure your employees that you are monitoring the situation and intend for business to resume as normal as soon as it’s safe.

4. Be transparent about the health of your business.

Transparency can help employees feel empowered and reassured during an uncertain situation. For example, according to a PayScale report, more than 80 percent of employees would be OK with below-market pay if they knew why it was necessary.

Your employees are probably nervous about their jobs, so be an open book about your company’s financial health and the steps you’re taking to ensure success in the future. The more you can tell your employees, the better they’ll feel, freeing them up to focus on work and preventing any negative knee-jerk reactions. You also need to admit when you don’t have the answers. Enlist your employees to help solve roadblocks.

5. Be honest about your employment outlook.

Don’t make promises you can’t back up. Now is probably not the time to tell your employees that everyone will still be on the team once this crisis blows over. If you need a reality check, consider that more than 700,000 American workers lost their jobs in March alone. Even former big success stories like Bird have had to trim its workforce: The electric scooter rental company recently laid off 30 percent of its workers via a live conference call.

While you can’t promise job safety to everyone, you can promise that you will be the best possible leader and do everything in your power to get the company safely through this storm.

Related: 4 Tips To Keep Your Business Afloat in a Downturn

COVID-19 has thrust business leaders everywhere into tough times, but know that we’re in this together. Summon your courage and compassion, think long-term, and support your employees, and you’ll surely survive to the other side of this storm.

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