December 21, 2020
Leadership During Uncertain Times
A poll asking how many people wished 2020 was over would likely result in a landslide of nearly 100%, saying “yes.” But the solution for leaders looking ahead into the new normal and managing employees during these times is challenging and would likely be scattered all over the board. Here are some tips on effectively addressing leadership and communications issues.
Leaders can’t be effective if they don’t first take care of themselves. Like emergency instructions on a commercial airline, one needs to take care of oneself before he/she can help others. Getting enough sleep and also taking care of loved ones brings positive energy and prepares a leader to help others.
Whether in person or virtual, host open sessions to which everyone is invited to participate. Where this isn’t feasible, invite questions via social media, emails, or conference calls. The initial questions early on often center around what’s going on, how we are doing, our strategy, and how I can help.
It’s important to answer any of these questions should they arise but not create an endless list of others to confuse matters or priorities. When there are few or none, the most common responses to employee concerns generally focus on sharing with them things like this is what we know, here’s what we don’t know, and here’s what we’re seeking to find out.
If there are rumors going around, it’s also best to pre-emptively address and defuse them when possible. A common concern today is whether the pandemic will lead to closing the company. Be open and as candid as possible.
Listening more and reflecting on the needs of the team are important in understanding their needs. Get to know what they care about to get into their mindset before taking any action.
What’s most important to the company and to employees? Focus on those primary matters of concern to both and address them. If there’s uncertainty about employee concerns in a large organization, conduct a survey. What’s working? What isn’t? What do employees wish to know more about? In a large organization, what communication channels are most effective and work best?
Start a weekly pandemic newsletter with timely updates on everything from COVID-19 to key developments, changes, the team wins, and challenges. Acknowledge outstanding performance and innovative ideas.
If pandemic-related changes have been made or are ongoing, have leader toolkits made to help managers better transition their teams and answer the most common questions. These should anticipate and answer questions most likely to come up. Some might include what the changes mean to employees, what they need to do differently, and even whether they’ll still have a job.
Employees who know their leaders really care about them are better motivated, loyal, and more engaged. Even if not unanimously agreed to or accepted, any actions the leader takes will be more credible when workers know they had an opportunity to offer their input and that their leaders cared enough to listen.