If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know that most of the time, the wisest answer most leaders can give to most questions about our global situation is a simple, “I don’t know.” No one knows how long the COVID-19 crisis will last. No one knows when we’ll get a vaccine. No one knows for sure exactly how it transits—in fact, just as soon as we think we know something for absolute sure, we hear of an exception. It's a hard time for almost everyone right now. It can feel overwhelming. Not just to members of the team but to the leader, whether it’s the family leader, the business leader, the school leader, or the church leader.
If you are reading this, it means that you are likely one of the many leaders who are adjusting to the situation and courageously cutting a path through the uncharted wilderness. Shawn Lovejoy, a man who has led asa successful real-estate developer and megachurch pastor, is leading a fast-growing coaching and consulting organization called CourageToLead.com. He says that whether we are in crisis or not, people are always our greatest resource. People are not robots, they are human beings who have fears, concerns, and emotions. This time we are in is heightening all of those for the people on your team.
That’s true. I am sure you already realize that by the contacts you have with your team members. At least I hope you do! During a crisis, leaders must be in close contact with their team members, communicating constantly, consistently, and compassionately. What does that look like?
Effective leaders in a crisis, communicate…
1. Confidence: Especially in a crisis, people take their emotional cues from the leaders. You must maintain poise and composure. Through everything you say and do, you are influencing them and giving them direction. You must communicate through words and deeds, “I have faith that we are going to be okay. It’s likely not going to be overnight, but we’re going to be okay. We will get through this.”
2. Hope and Encouragement: The coronavirus is highly contagious, but do you know what is equally contagious? HOPE. People need to know that the flame of hope inside of you burns brightly and is not flickering. What’s your basis for hope? Well, I am a person of faith, so I always share my hope in the care and wisdom of God. Then I let them know I have hope founded in the way I believe in them and the team. I share that I always believe in a better future---we get to have a hand in making it be so. And I have no doubt there will be a solution. Hope. It’s irrepressible in me. Your team needs it from you. Speak and live hope.
Make hope very personal with the way you encourage. The word encourage means to transmit courage to another. Send notes, texts, make phone calls. Send a short video from your phone. Make it your goal to leave them feeling more hopeful and stronger because they heard from you.
3. Personal Care and Investment: Of course they know that you care for the company. But what about them individually. No one ever likes to feel like a tiny drop in an ocean of others, unnoticed personally. They need to know you are paying attention to them and you care about what’s happening to them. Calling to see how they are doing and if they have a need you can meet will be remembered long after the crisis is over.
4. Consistent Connection. During a crisis, your people really need to hear from you. When you think you are over-connecting, you are probably getting it about right. You are a life-giver, and they need to hear from you regularly. You will come through the crisis a stronger team if connections happen frequently.
Be dependable with your connections. Set a rhythm for your contacts. Nothing else is predictable right now and knowing they can count on you will help them find a new normal.
5. Information: I know---we already said the wisest thing we can say in most areas about the virus itself is “I don’t know.” But there are things you DO know. And people want to hear what you know, even if it’s just a repeat of yesterday. You can expound on what you have already said. You can remind them of resources available or tell them good things you have read or heard about how others are coping.
6. Opportunity for Input: You don’t have to have all the input. Invite them to help you find answers. Have them help think through what we need to do as we move through the crisis. See what ideas they have for innovation and growth for the future. Your team will undoubtably have to pivot in one way or another. Let them help you figure it out.
7. Their Real Self: People need to know the real you. While you must communicate confidence, don’t present a person who never has struggles. Tell them about what’s going on in your family, what’s going on in your head. Let them know what you are learning about yourself, about the future, etc., during this time.
8. Positivity and Optimism: You may be the only uplifting voice they hear in a day. Give them solid doses so they can have some to give away.
A leader who leads in these ways will have a team that makes it through the crisis in good shape, ready to tackle the challenges in front of them and lead well themselves.