We are experiencing unprecedented times. Never before have we seen a pandemic of this global scale. Everyone around the world, has been affected by COVID-19 in some way. Whether you’re in Italy under full quarantine or in the US being socially distant, the world has come to a grinding halt. A halt that has been reflected not only in the US Stock market, but in our own backyards. Hundreds of local community members are out of work or underworked because of this crisis. And small businesses everywhere are struggling.
So what can you as a leader do in such a time? It’s hard to know how to respond to something that’s never happened before. But there are a few key steps you can take no matter what the crisis is that will help give hope to your company.
First, don’t stay silent. You may not know all the answers, but you have to communicate with your staff. Let them know that you are aware of and addressing the issue. Even if you don’t have a solution, let them know that you are working on one. In times like this, people tend to retreat into their own minds and things can spiral out of hand quite quickly. You have to stay out of your own head in order to communicate calmly and coolly with them. You don’t have to hide bad news, but you have to deliver that news in a collected manner. Most importantly, your communication needs to come on a regular and ongoing basis to make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands how you’re approaching the crisis.
Second, put people first. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you’ve taken the human element into account. People are people, they get scared, they get anxious, and they get emotional. Make sure that you’re taking care of their needs, both mental and physical, more than just your company’s needs. If you have to reduce a team member’s hours or furlough someone, do it with compassion and understanding. Share your thinking and let them know the reasons. Use an abundance of caution if necessary to make sure that each of your team members is safe, secure, and sane. As we’re all now seeing, self-isolating can take quite the toll on us since we are naturally social creatures.
What it really comes down to is that your employees look to you for guidance and leadership, especially in times of crisis. Whether you feel up to the task or not, you have to be the constant in the chaos. You have to help calm their fears and ease their anxieties. You have to be there for them. Be the leader they need you to be.
Stay safe and stay strong. I’ll see you on the other side.