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Communication, Collaboration Vital as Exchange Confronted Early Days of COVID-19

Open communication lines and a willingness to consider every option were crucial as the Exchange confronted the early days of the COVID-19 crisis in the Pacific.

Scott Bonner, the Exchange’s regional vice president for Korea and Hawaii, discussed leadership principles during the crisis Oct. 22 in a virtual gathering hosted by the Exchange’s Able, Believe, Lead, Empower (ABLE) special emphasis group.

The discussion took place in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The Exchange remained operational during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because of a willingness to consider every possibility, said Scott Bonner, the Exchange’s regional vice president for Korea and Hawaii.

Bonner said he had never felt the pull of leadership stronger than in February when he flew in a Blackhawk helicopter from Camp Humphreys to Camp Walker in Daegu, Korea.

“The city was shut down. Camp Walker was shut down. But the Exchange stayed open,” Bonner said. “An associate came up to me and said, ‘Are we going to be OK?’ I told them that the team is working to do everything it can to protect our associates, our customers and the Exchange.”

The associate replied, “I trust you,” Bonner remembered.

Collaboration was key, Bonner said. The Exchange’s efforts to protect associates and customers spanned multiple regions and directorates and required urgency.

“We had to figure out how to feed children who were on reduced-price or free meals, so we went into action,” Bonner said. “Can we use the schools? If we do, what kind of mitigation efforts are required?”

At the Exchange, sometimes the simplest solution was the best one, he said.

“We quickly closed dining rooms and went to a takeout model,” Bonner said. “And when we allowed in-room dining, how do we make sure customers observe social distancing and remain safe?”

One answer was plastic barriers between tables.

“The simplicity of the idea was almost comical,” Bonner said.

The Exchange remained operational because of a willingness to consider every possibility, Bonner said.

“We will serve our customers, no matter the challenge,” he said. “The Exchange will find a way.”

Bonner took a moment to thank associates for their dedication to the Exchange and praised its inclusive workforce.

“As someone who has a son with Type I diabetes and a grandson who is autistic, I know there are no limits to what they can accomplish,” he said. “Everyone is special. Everyone matters.”

Karen Stack, the Exchange’s executive vice president of Logistics and the executive champion of ABLE, said every associate is empowered to provide leadership.

“Our personal stories help build the patchwork of Exchange history,” she said. “Organizations need to ensure that they are enabling all of their workers to reach their full potential. Scott emulates what is expected of good leadership from all of us.”

Missed the program? No problem! You can view it here.

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