How Leaders Need To Communicate During This Crisis
As a crisis communicator, I advise that transparent, timely and honest communications will set leaders up for success during a crisis. I want them to get out first, fast and share what they know when they know it. This approach is a recipe for good crisis communications. But, how can leaders be successful when communicating during a slow-moving pandemic, with an added mental health crisis and a major economic disaster?
Here are a few proven tips for success:
1. Be Available. We know you’re busy and that you’re trying to manage multiple irons in the fire but, now is not the time to go AWOL and be noticeably absent. People are already anxious, and they need to know who is leading them during the crisis to help decrease their anxiety. Make yourself available to your team. Schedule regular check-ins if for no other reason but to make sure people are healthy and well and to give them a reason to get out of their pyjamas in the morning. Let them know they can reach out to you at any time (within reason) and follow up with the requests you receive.
2. Be present. I don’t mean in a physical way. You need to be leading by example on the social distancing front. Participating in virtual staff meetings, you might not regularly attend, writing a blog or update, sharing a funny photo of your own “working from home” reality they can relate to – but be visible to them. Use a day a week to check in personally with a phone call to your key team members. Don’t micromanage them. Set up some scheduled times to chat and ask them if they want to “see” you more or less often (and don’t be offended by their responses.)
3. Listen and encourage conversation – and hear what they’re saying. This crisis impacts everyone differently. Some care for elderly parents, others have very young children and have lost their daycare support, some have spouses on the front lines of this crisis. No two situations are identical - but everyone’s situation is important to them. Be sensitive. Keep the lines of communications open and know who in your organization can provide resources that might help them navigate the days ahead. Consider a peer to peer support network within the organization where individuals can chat and share coping ideas and community resources with one another.
Most importantly, make sure your teams or employees know that you’re all in this together. The current social distancing protocols won’t last forever, working from home will not become the norm, and there will be brighter days ahead. They’re counting on you as their leader to lead them through this crisis. Be there for them.
If you're interested in having a conversation about communicating during a crisis feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and let's have a chat.