Just a few weeks ago the economy was soaring. Unemployment rates were plummeting. Stocks, 401(k)s, and investments were reaching record heights, and business leaders optimistically looked to the future.
Today, uncertainty is soaring. Schools have closed their doors for periods unknown. Businesses are limiting interactions with staff, clients, and vendors. Sporting events, cultural entertainment, and conferences are being cancelled by the hour.
We’re in a crisis.
Leaders are judged by how they lead in times of crisis. True leaders embrace crisis as an opportunity to unify their teams against common enemies and towards common goals.
For leaders who want to thrive during this pandemic here are four tips:
Validation doesn’t mean agreeing or approving. Validation is the recognition and acceptance of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable. Validation creates greater interpersonal connection and a greater sense of belonging.
It’s important to validate the way your team members feel during this pandemic. Be careful not to judge or be cynical. Take time to listen to people’s concerns. Say something like, “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way,” or “It’s understandable to have those concerns.”
When you listen and validate your team they will listen and validate each other. This will set your team up for better communication, response time, and cultural awareness.
2. Develop common goals for the crisis.
In times of crisis, people feel lost. According to behavioral sciences, people are most connected and focused when working together toward worthwhile goals. When goals are achieved, the brain releases large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine, creating feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates people to repeat a specific behavior.
Have a goal-setting session during this crisis. Ask each team member to contribute. Try to set small measurable goals your team can check off daily. Such as:
- Draft and send an email to clients communicating the commitment to their safety during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Outline and execute a plan to successfully participate in social distancing (which may include working remotely for a period).
- Brainstorm and execute a community outreach plan during this crisis. Prioritizing social responsibility, even in small ways, will help create a sense of purpose and community.
Be sure to set goals, communicate them clearly, and check them off.
3. Be decisive.
Governor Mike Dewine of Ohio has emerged as a forerunner in his handling of COVID-19. By making unprecedented decisions to close schools, shut down restaurants, gyms, and gatherings. Many other state officials followed suit and Ohio became the leader in the United States’ response to the pandemic.
Being decisive means taking risks and limiting uncertainty. In a crisis, the brain synapse amygdala fires chemical receptors of fight or flight through the body. If uncertain, the body chooses flight. When certain the body chooses to fight. True leaders approach a problem head-on and create certainty and safety for those who follow them. When decisive in the face of an issue, you equip your team to fight through problems and succeed.
Most businesses cut marketing budgets during a crisis. But it’s during a crisis when people evaluate their buying decisions and are willing to make a change. While everyone else is trying to survive, take a few risks.
Discount a product or service. Call your current client base and see if there is anything you can do for them. Send a basket of goodies to prospects. Utilize technology to set up virtual meetings.
Don’t allow roadblocks to keep you from advancing. Be proactive, not reactive.
These tips, if practiced, will set you up for success in these tumultuous times. There is no question this is an unprecedented crisis. But instead of viewing this from the lens of fear, we can lean into this opportunity to create unity and resiliency within our companies and be a positive force for our community.