On December 31, many of us gathered with family and friends and celebrated the beginning of the new year. A time of new beginnings, fresh starts, and exciting journeys. Then the dark, unforgiving cloud of COVID-19 reared its ugly face and put our nation into a pandemic. PANDEMIC?! That is something we read about in history books, not something that happens in 2020, right?!
Well, I think it is safe to say that we have all been thrown off and put into what many have called a crisis. A crisis is described as big, scary, and unexpected. As leaders, these three definitions are not what you want to address daily. You strive for efficiently running businesses with set plans and happy employees. So what are the next steps? How have you handled the past quarter living in completely different circumstances, many on your team have been working from home or not working at all, your essential employees have been showing up daily following the grind, maybe you had to do mandatory layoffs. What have you done as a leader to ensure you are handling this crisis to the best of your ability??
Do you have a plan? Okay, you can’t say, “Well, I did,” because even though that is true, so did everyone else. The fact of the matter is that you were thrown this mess, and now you must figure it out, all while being forced to think and behave in ways that feel unfamiliar. So, what was the plan? During a crisis, your goal is to reduce loss and keep things operating as normal as possible. Did you communicate that with your staff and let them know the direction your business was taking? Were there unintended consequences of these changes that you needed to work through. How did you or how are you handling these? You cannot expect your business to thrive if you are not willing to develop a plan of action to spring it forward, especially during the tough times.
Have you been providing clarity? Your team needs to hear the what, why, and how to know the directions that they are going. Now more than ever is communication a struggle but a necessity. When you, as a leader, are clear in your direction, your team will rally with you and will take your lead. Creating a culture of clarity within your business leads to confident teams. There has been so much uncertainty the last few months that has made everyone sit on the edge of their seat. When teams have a leader who is calm and clear in their plan and direction, it creates a calming effect to know that their future is in good hands. During this time, overcommunication has become vital. Teams need to know every small detail to be able to cope with the implications that these changes have on their daily routine, job status, the business, and the economy. If you weren’t communicating well before, then this has most likely been a learning curve for you. If you aren’t communicating well now, then you are probably experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety.
There are three rules that Lou Holtz, the only college football coach to lead six different programs to bowl games, outlined during a talk. His rules for success were defined by three fundamental concepts:
No one wants to do the wrong thing, but in a time of crisis, it is crucial to make smart decisions and to do the right thing for your team and your business. The worst thing to happen is that you act out of panic or fear and end up making impromptu decisions that are not good for your company or business. Rarely in life do we have the luxury of having all the information we need to make the best decisions. Use the information you have and make the best guess. Continue to re-evaluate the decision. When or if the decision no longer seems like the best decision, readjust, communicate, and keep moving forward.
During this trying time on everyone, it is essential to let your team know that you are doing everything you can for them and the company. If you are clear in your direction, that creates confidence and that confidence leads to courage. Courage is what you need to be able to lead and maximize your team, business, and personal health. Never stop giving your best effort and maintain a positive attitude. When you stay positive, so does the team. It sets a standard and remember, they are relying on you.
A crisis is big and scary, we addressed that in the very beginning. When you are communicating with your team and providing them clear direction you are showing them that you care about them as people and not just employees. When you show others that you care, great things happen. They respect you and will continue to give you the performance that is needed to make the business thrive. Treat people with sincere consideration and genuine concern. Show it by paying attention, listening, and responding to what people are telling you, as well as considering what is not being said. This could also be in words of appreciation, asking about their family, small gifts sent to their home or their office space, company swag, or some bonus PTO. Whatever you do, make sure your team knows that you care about them as a part of your business, but most importantly, as an individual.
All in all – this has been a challenging period for many leaders. This could be described as a true test of leadership due to the inability to predict what is around the corner. While it is extremely relevant for the current situation, these topics can be applied with any crisis that you encounter during your time as a leader. Leading a team has never been said to be easy, but now with all the uncertainties, it has increased the intensity. A lot of small businesses are shutting down, and larger companies have seen drastic labor and financial shifts. Now more than ever will that strong team culture you worked to build begins to pay off. That trust, communication, and direction that you have provided in the past will intensify, and you can lead your team through this season to end up on the top. We don’t know when this crisis will end, and how things will look when it is done, but your team is relying on you to bring them through this storm. I don’t say this to add more to your already full plate, but your purpose is to set others up to succeed. A leader’s attitude is contagious. Your employees will pick it up and feed off of the way you respond. Keep a positive attitude to maintain the morale of your business. Take the time to develop your plan, communicate it, and then communicate it again to push your team and your business into a safe zone for the remainder of this crisis.