Government required closures. Temporary shutdowns. Furloughs. Fear. The COVID-19 global pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges to business leaders the world over. As your employees fear the worst, now is the time to not simply manage through crisis. Leadership is required to successfully propel your company forward, through these uncertain times, so that you’re even stronger after the storm.
Successful leadership is a consistent practice, not a quick fix. Leaders cannot simply give one motivational speech company-wide, expecting the masses to feel comforted. Have you developed, and communicated, a plan with your top level management? If you’re not quite sure where to begin, that’s okay, because these waters have rarely been tested before.
If your company’s leadership team has not fully tested their leadership abilities, now is the time. Prepare for the strain, and frustration, that comes from making tough choices. Senior management will need to be understanding and resilient, as there is a steep learning curve that comes with today’s challenges.
There are four key traits that help all leaders manage through crisis.
1. Make Sound Decisions.
The world is changing rapidly and new information is available every day. Leaders should pay attention to viable sources of news and information, analyzing and developing plans based off the information. Allow for flexibility in your plan, but be cautious. If you are not communicating effectively you will appear wishy-washy and unclear. Management that is constantly changing their mind causes uncertainty in their employees, which leads to lower productivity.
– Define Goals. The goal is the priority, not the process. Allow employees the flexibility to achieve a goal without micro-managing each step.
– Allow for Flexibility. You may have to make a trade-off between survival today and success tomorrow. Prioritize successes and know that ‘business as usual’ or ‘that’s not how we do things’ will not be possible now.
– Rely on your Decision Makers. There are people on staff whom others look to for support and guidance. Natural leaders in your business could be key to saving your company’s morale. Look to these people to support and guide. If everything has to come from management, you are missing opportunities for your business.
2. Be Bold.
Weak leaders rely solely on their own decisions. The mark of a great leader is not simply to say “share your ideas” but to listen to those ideas as well. Senior management will be focused on global and national trends right now. This is the time to allow other managers to lead.
– Embrace action, don’t punish mistakes. In uncharted territory, there will be pitfalls and wrong choices. Make this an acceptable part of your current business strategy. You’ll allow your team to develop their critical thinking, analyze their mistakes, and grow stronger in the process.
– Have a list of ‘non-negotiables’. Senior management and business owners should be ruthless in their prioritization of current business plans. Share with your team what is a ‘no-go’. Be transparent. Then allow them the creative space to work within those confines.
“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” Sheryl Sandberg
3. Be reliable.
Nothing is worse in a crisis situation than an emotional leader. If you’re naturally reactionary and prone to judgement first, you could potentially kill your organization. Now more than ever, dive into that reliable role as a leader. Consistent, understanding, careful.
– Set KPIs. By knowing your key performance indicators you are making calculated measurements of success, instead of focusing on your emotional opinion. Take a moment to determine what matters most to your company right now. Meeting budget? Customer service? Saving jobs? Then figure out what factors make that possible. It is important to track this progress every few days, or each week. Make sure your team understands how success is measured, and they can help you reach those goals.
“Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.” Sam Walton
Engagement comes in a variety of forms. Communication while distant is key to ensuring growth and sustainability.
– Over communicate. Consider starting a daily or weekly email to staff, or a message board where they can find information. If you have a large company, consistent communication from leadership is key and prevents the rumor mill from taking hold.
– Practice self care. The mental and physical health of employees is paramount to a company’s success. As people are settling in to their ‘home work stations’ ensure they have the necessary tools to succeed. Likewise, leaders need to practice daily self care in order to effectively manage their teams.
– Share the good… don’t ignore the bad. While bad news feels like it may swallow us whole, it cannot be ignored. Don’t insult your employees intelligence by ignoring the facts. Instead strategically share news with your employees that is a mix of the positive and negative. Authenticity has never been more important.
– Ask for help. Engaging in the support of others is not a sign of weakness; it is instead a sign of strength. Strong leaders know when to ask for support, and often rely on their teams to assist with big decisions.
Crisis management reveals a great deal about current, and future, leaders. If you’re in senior management, be sure to pay attention. You may find future leaders who are rising to today’s challenges. If you are in management, now is the time to turn your role into something more. Take hold of your position. Support your team now, in crisis, and you will have a dedicated team for years to come.
By: Jessica Goldberg
Jessica is the Director of Digital Media for 5 Star Media Group. She is experienced in both customer relations and successful team management. Her passion is helping business leaders understand the power of a strong workforce.
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