Look at the news and we see leaders of all shapes and sizes talking about what we need to do and how we will operate in order to make it through the pandemic. It’s clear that there are some strong and worthy leaders out there whilst there are some just trump(et)ing noise. A crisis is THE time when you will see who truly shines as a leader in your business. Whether it’s you or members of your team, strong and positive leadership will help your business as we navigate everything COVID-19 is throwing out.
Not all businesses are the same. While the global pandemic crisis rages all around us, it is impacting businesses differently. Some businesses have had to close their doors entirely. Others have slowed considerably. Some are business as usual apart from moving staff to a working from home arrangement. Others are positively booming. (Shares in medical supplies or toilet paper anyone?). How the crisis is impacting your business will directly inform the leadership that your business requires right now. However, one thing that is the same for everyone is that all of your employees will be navigating different pressures: from worrying about loved one’s health, to trying to get refunds on their expensive overseas holiday that was booked for July, to trying to balance the impossibilities of home-schooling. So, while you’re determining your business leadership needs based on your own business circumstance, remember that all of your employees are likely experiencing new and challenging environments even if your business is not. Understanding this is the key to really shining as a leader for your people.
Let’s look at the things you really MUST do to lead your team through this period:
COMMUNICATE. DO IT SOME MORE. AND THEN DO IT AGAIN.
If there is an information void, people will form their own conclusions and fill the gaps with inaccurate and quite often, destructive theories. The best thing you can do is to communicate regularly, honestly and clearly with your team. You need to discuss your concerns with the people who can best support you while keeping your employees focused on moving forward and remaining positive. However, you have to also be honest and real with your people while doing so. Pretending that everything is hunky dory when it clearly isn’t will impact credibility.
As with our tips on managing productivity in teams working from home, there are many ways you can communicate with your team. Team meetings using platforms such as Zoom, conference calls, one on one calls, emails, communication platforms such as Slack, collaboration tools like Trello – the list is endless and you just need to choose the combination that works for your business and do it on a regular basis. It’s not about micro-managing, it’s about remaining connected to your people. You will drive trust and engagement and minimise the gossip and uncertainty that causes reduced productivity, plummeting morale and toxic behaviour.
The content and delivery of a leader’s communications will determine whether or not your team take up what you are putting down. Don’t dilly dally with your message – your team wants to know the direction you will be taking and what will be required of them. You must be consistent. Conflicting messages will cause confusion and quickly destroy trust. Sugar coating your message and treating your employees like children won’t help your cause either. So communicate quickly, clearly and with authenticity and it will show that you are in control and that you can guide everyone through troubled times. Share as much information as you can so that employees feel that they understand the current state of the business and the projections for the future which will remove any anxiety they have around this. And if you’re going to have to reduce employee hours, put it on their radar now. Be open, honest and transparent, while not bogging your employees down with your worries. Leaders shoulder the burden and do so confidently in front of their teams.
Never forget that you are leading people with their personal concerns about their ability to keep their job, feed their themselves and/or their family and keep a roof over their heads. Yes, you are worried about the business and making sure there is a business to lead post Coronavirus as well as your personal circumstances, but your people need to know you care about them and that you are working to get you all through this period. Demonstrate your emotional intelligence and ask them how they are travelling and really listen to the response. Truly listening to someone can be an incredibly powerful action that can have a dramatically positive impact. If possible, provide access to an Employee Assistance Program to support the mental health and wellbeing of all employees.
When a crisis occurs, it will likely evolve as time passes so you need to keep moving so you aren’t working with out of date information. Covid-19 has shown us that things can happen quickly from knowledge about the actual virus to government responses. Updates can occur multiple times a day and you need to find time to process the information and determine what impact that has on your business. Give yourself time to be responsive rather that purely reactive. Work out what your options are and make informed decisions. And don’t forget to communicate your decisions!
And if your business is performing usually or even booming, then communicate to your team that things are good and positive and the business is growing. Make sure your people know the good news story that is your business, so they keep moving with you and harnessing the opportunities in front of you.
GET YOURSELF A STRATEGIC PLAN
What is it you need to achieve? Is it simply making sure you have a business at the end of all of this? Is it keeping as many people employed as possible, minimising financial losses, increasing output to meet demand (toilet paper anyone?). Or is it pivoting your business to capitalise on current opportunities, or maintaining client relationships and strong business development in these challenging times, to ensure your pipeline doesn’t dry up for the next period…… What’s important is that your plan focuses on the long term goal with short term strategies to keep you on the path to getting there.
Whatever it is, work out what you need to try and achieve and then determine what that strategy is based on current and available information. Bring in support if you need it –consultants, accountants, mentors, employees with expert knowledge. Get yourself the best advice and support available to help you and then make sure it is flexible and allows you to be responsive to a changing environment and your business needs. And then guess what? Communicate what is appropriate of these plans to your team so they know what is needed of them and to ensure you have buy in from those who need to get it done.
Leadership is not a popularity contest - you will have to make difficult decisions and you will have to engage in confronting conversations that not everyone will like. But follow the above tips and you are more likely to lead a united team that will respect the tough calls you will have to make. As always, if you require support or advice about how best to lead your team as the coronavirus pandemic progresses, contact the team of HR consultants at HR Staff n’ Stuff as we are here to help when you need us.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!