The one thing that is certain right now is that we are living through an unprecedented time. As leaders this is particularly challenging because we can’t necessarily draw from past experiences to help solve our current problems. In addition, employees look to leaders for guidance, assurance and for how they should behave. For example, if the senior leaders are anxious and stressed out, many employees interpret that to mean that they should be anxious and stressed out too. Or, if the senior leaders are too quiet and not sharing very much information, this means that something really bad is probably going to happen. Therefore, how leaders navigate the Coronavirus pandemic is a true test of their character, strengths and abilities. The pandemic in addition to the economic recession and social unrest, has impacted employees at work and at home.To make matters worse, all facets of day-to-day business operations remain somewhat uncertain. This extraordinarily difficult era requires leaders at all levels in the organization to demonstrate the value of excellent leadership, both of themselves and others.
How to Lead Your Team Through a Crisis
During complex and challenging times riddled with uncertainty, you may need to draw on a different category of solutions – some you may be familiar with and some you will need to learn and adopt. All the while, you will be leading a team that looks up to you for guidance and direction. Here are some crucial attributes to adopt in order to push through both crisis and uncertainty with your team:
Manage The Marathon
As you seek to offer the best leadership through the mess and impending uncertainties, you must brace for a grueling marathon, not a sprint. There’s no quick remedy for restoring ordinary business operations, morale, and productivity. As such, you must prepare your team for a more protracted process going forward. As a leader, you also have to be dynamic. This way, you can quickly adapt and reconstruct your day-to-day activities to address the uncertainties. Enhance your communication, always providing accurate updates on the state of the industry, the business and key stakeholders. Now is the time to over-communicate. Don’t cancel one on one meetings or your usual weekly team meetings just because people may be working remotely. You may also need to check in more often with co-workers and team members to see how they are doing and what they may need from you.
In order to “be the calm” in the storm and set the right example for your team, you need to first make sure that you are calm and centered. Check your head space, body language, tone of voice, and choice of words before communicating with your team. Place yourself at the center of any adopted approach your organization is going to take by leading by example. Remain as calm as possible when responding to questions or concerns. Respond to your employees with empathy and a commitment to helping the situation. Make them aware that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe and employed during these hard times. As you communicate your strategies or solutions, be as honest and transparent as possible. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you don’t have an answer yet but you are working on it. This demonstrates both courage and fortitude. Keeping people informed along the way and at times having to give some bad news is always better than keeping your employees in the dark. Lastly, maintain your authenticity and don’t fail to seek assistance or admit that you cannot offer a particular solution at a certain moment in time.
Prioritize Your People
Remember that your employees are people first and employees second. Your employees are human beings who may be struggling mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. With so much uncertainty about the future, your employees are most likely anxious and stressed. In times of difficulty and stress, people find comfort in community with others. We are social beings that seek comfort and connection. Therefore, whenever possible, leverage every resource at your disposal to keep your team connected. You may need to invest in better technology or schedule more frequent virtual group interactions whether they be Q&A sessions with senior leaders, themed happy hours, or times to collaborate on next steps. Now is not the time for your people to feel like an afterthought or a commodity. Do everything you can to help them feel valued and appreciated. Your role as a leader is to balance reality with optimism. Be realistic with what is going on around you but optimistic in your team’s ability to succeed. As a leader you can let your team know that you have a working plan for the next 30, 60, or 90 days. The plan may change slightly but your commitment to be prepared for what is to come will not.
Stick to the Company Values, Vision, and Mission
In times of uncertainty and stress it can be easy to get distracted or overwhelmed. That is why it is so important to go back to your roots. Leaders help inspire their teams to rally around a shared goal or objective. If your vision is to be the number one location in all KPIs for the company, remind your team of that. The vision doesn’t have to change but how or when you get there may look a little different. No matter the situation, keep your team grounded in the Mission, Vision and Values of the organization. This will help them stay motivated to keep plugging away at their job duties because they know they are part of something bigger. If your company values are Integrity, Teamwork, Respect and Superior Customer Service, how can you make sure you and your team are living those values every day, even while working remotely? i To help inspire your staff during difficult times, remember what your values are and the overall purpose of the organization. Whether you are helping to manufacture PPE, delivering household products to families, or implementing IT solutions, the work your organization is doing matters. Most importantly, your actions as a leader will contribute to your team’s perception of you and determine how the business will perform in the future. By staying true to your Mission, Vision and Values, your team will take pride in the fact that their employer had a positive impact in their lives.
Embrace Innovation and Adapt to Changes
Now more than ever it is critical for leaders to be able to adapt. The businesses that will succeed are the ones that have the ability to pivot and respond to changes quickly while closely monitoring outcomes. The current times have come with unique safety guidelines and requirements that have led to massive behavioral changes. 80% of US parents are both working remotely while also handling child care and education. At the same time, businesses have been forced to adopt social distancing requirements and embrace technology to migrate to digital. While companies worldwide may have experienced significant hardships, this unique time has also facilitated innovation. New establishments, trades, and products continue to emerge, and the trend seems to grow by the day.The rapidly evolving business environment that we are in will require leaders to play the entrepreneurial card of quickly adapting to changes. This presents leaders with the opportunity to discover and try new things, level up to beat their competition, and better prepare for future uncertainties. While the role of a leader comes with loads of responsibilities, it also comes with a great ability to drive positive outcomes for employees, customers and the business as a whole. Now is not the time to step down or back away from your role as a leader. Instead, try to view this difficult time as a unique opportunity to learn, grow, and improve your leadership abilities to make a lasting difference. You won’t always have the answers or know exactly what to do. You may need to try the next best thing and then iterate. My hope is that the above tips will help lighten your load, boost your team’s morale, and help you achieve your business goals.