CONSTANT + CANDID COMMUNICATION
Acknowledge the crisis early and communicate often. In times of uncertainty, transparency and frequency of communication are both paramount. Share information with your team they may not otherwise have, particularly if that information is critical to how you will manage through the crisis. I recommend some form of communication with your entire team daily. I personally like email so I can organize information by role and provide new information and/or actions needed.
TEMPERATURE CHECK OFTEN
As a leader, you must understand where the heads and hearts of your team members
are at all times. In crises, feelings can (and will) change rapidly. Making informed decisions requires staying informed, and not just about the crisis itself: you should be aware of what’s going on in people’s personal lives and their different points of view (and pain points). I recommend a mix of formal and information communication channels, including polls, emails, webinars, and phone/text. Offering options for open forums including the entire team as well as private channels, both personal and anonymous, ensures everyone has a means to provide honest feedback regardless of communication preferences.
Form a cross functional task force with representation from every position at your company:I asked everyone on my team who was interested to be a part of a COVID-19 task force. Together we shared feedback from clients, weighed available information, and made important decisions with regard to our daily operations. During a crisis, the consequences of decisions are huge (not least, thepotential to lose income). The more you include others in the process, the better everyone will feel about even the most challenging of situations and decisions. Having a task force also helps create ambassadors within the organization who can help provide transparency and information. In a crisis, knowledge is power, and the more accurate information-sharing, the better.
EMPATHIZE + EDUCATE
Spend time trying to put yourself in the shoes of each of your team members. Let them know that you have heard and understand their concerns. Even if you don’t have all the answers, acknowledging how team members feel goes a long way. Share as much fact-based information as possible. Consult with experts and other industry leaders. Let your team know what you know as well as what you don’t know. Serve as a trusted resource for your team during times of need; stay on top of local, state, and federal policies, medical facts, employment law and any other topic that can impact team members.
CREATE POSITIVE OUTCOMES
The sooner you identify and acknowledge a crisis, the sooner you can begin contingency planning. Then, by the time the crisis crescendos, you will be in a position to share positive news and hope. Rather than being a victim of a crisis, be an innovator with a sustainable business plan that can be executed even in a worst-case scenario. While a crisis is likely to hamper your business significantly, empower yourself and your team to minimize downside and focusing on new upside. Assign people specific assignments. Keeping your team busy and goal oriented will lift everyone’s spirits.