How To Lead In A Time Of Crisis

Leading in a Time of Crisis

6 July 2020
What your employees expect from you

The COVID-19 crisis is a case study in uncertainty. We can only guesstimate how it will affect the economy or a particular organisation. Some may struggle to survive, and employees worry about their health and well-being as well as their job security.

What do your employees need from you? How can you reassure them? Here are some suggestions:

Information and updates

Above all, keep your employees in the loop about the latest developments. They need to hear regularly from their immediate team leaders or managers, and not just the C-level executives. Plus, don’t worry about overcommunicating – more information is better than less in this case. Explain the choices you’ve made and be prepared to answer questions honestly and with integrity. Be transparent, confident and consistent.

Essential communication

The best leaders care about their employees as people first and as employees second. The tone in communication is an essential differentiator. It should carefully balance seriousness, positivity and realism. If it’s not possible to meet face-to-face, communicate via all means possible. Videos, particularly live rather than recorded, are the next best thing to real-life communication.

Clarify priorities

Don’t overburden your employees. Just because they’re working from home, it doesn’t automatically mean they are available 24/7. First things first: you need to let your employees know what tasks are urgent and what can wait. Clear priorities help your team to focus more on what matters most and prevent them from worrying too much about issues that can be dealt with later.

Community engagement

You can help your employees feel safe by strengthening community values. Make mental well-being a focus within health and safety, e.g. by establishing times when employees can virtually meet for a team quiz or yoga session. Disclose any available employee resources, such as mental health support, to address people’s stress. Remind your employees of the importance of team spirit and encourage them to support one another.

What you should expect from yourself

Your team expects you to provide strong support and guidance. Now is a good time to reflect upon your leadership style and refine your skills. The following tips for crisis management can help with inspiration:

Lead from the front

Be visible, decisive and demonstrate confidence by making sound decisions based upon facts. At the same time, be approachable and humble. If you lack the expertise for a particular issue, don´t shy away from delegating this responsibility to an expert or a more qualified member of your team.

Control your team’s workload

Always communicate to your team on what is currently happening and why you are asking them to focus on a particular task. What was once deemed simple information at the beginning of the crisis is now vital to ensure business continuity. Be sure to create a feedback loop on the type and amount of work to be done. Is it too much or too little? Does someone in the team have a better idea for the use of time?

Don´t micromanage

When employees work from home, their leaders may feel a lack of control and tend to micromanage. We emphasised earlier the importance of staying in touch with your employees. However, constant control and the monitoring everything they’re doing is counterproductive and demotivating. Step back and let your employees do what they do best: their jobs.

Educate yourself

Get into online learning and improve your leadership skills. The Harvard Business School offers a free lesson called Become a More Resilient Leader in Turbulent Times. In this fascinating 35-minute lesson, historian Nancy Koehn focuses on the legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton. She highlights how he managed crises, which actions he took, and which skills all leaders need to guide themselves and others through challenging situations.