When will things get back to normal? Is our organization financially stable? Is my job secure? These are questions many of us are wrestling with. As a leader, people look to you for reassurance, but it’s not always easy to stay positive when the future feels unpredictable. Thankfully, showing up authentically, admitting what you don’t know, and leading with compassion are practices you can employ right now to build trust and help your team stay calm when leading during a crisis. Here are some best practices:
Make people your priority
Compassionate management is a leadership style characterized by putting people and their needs first. What that might look like in practice is:
- Press pause on a meeting agenda to simply let everyone on your team share a personal high or low. This practice helps people feel seen and heard, and creates a deeper sense of connection between team members.
- Put your own humanity on display — for example, admitting that you are feeling run down and then taking a PTO day to refocus lets people know you are tending to your own mental health — and gives them permission to do the same.
- Model some “new-normal” behaviors: Let your kid or your dog be in the background of a low-stakes internal meeting. Choose to laugh at inevitable interruptions when the lines between work and home life blur. Teams feel at ease when they see leaders “normalizing” situations that may be making them nervous.
- Continue to appreciate your virtual team. Celebrate small and big successes and encourage your team members to recognize each other.
Don’t avoid tough topics
It’s natural for people to feel nervous about job loss during an economic downturn. You may not have all the answers, but you can still address the topic openly and let your team know you’re doing all you can to plan ahead and advocate for your group. Promise to keep them informed, and make sure they hear any “news from the top” directly from you.
Talk purpose and values — often
Now more than ever, your team needs something to rally around. Discussing your company’s core values unifies the team and gives them tangible ways to respond to the crisis at hand. Ask:
- How do we see our core values on display right now?
- How do our values inform the ways we show up for each other and our customers?
- What value-based decisions can we make now to stay positive and productive?
Begin planning ahead
As conversations about reopening the country ramp up, it’s a good time to begin looking forward with your team. Your employees need to hear you talk about long-term business goals so they can see themselves as part of your organization’s future.
Leading during times of uncertainty presents unique challenges. Your ability to support and reassure your teams now will help them navigate the emotional ups and downs — and encourage increased engagement, connection, and productivity. For more on this topic, read Leading Through Uncertainty: Lessons in Change Leadership.
Trudie is a consultant with over 20 years of experience in internal communications, employee engagement, and leadership. She is a creative writer and strategic thinker — driven to help people and organizations thrive. She has received two Platinum MarCom awards for her feature articles in BioSupply Trends Quarterly Magazine.