It’s hard to be a leader right now. You have people relying on you that are worried about their jobs, scared that they or someone in their family may become ill, or are just incapacitated by the overwhelming sequence of events that have occurred due to the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, you may have some of these same worries and concerns. So, how do you take care of yourself and all the others who are relying on you?
First, take a deep breath and accept the fact that you are human. Now is the time to exhibit some of your humanity along with your leadership in order to build trust between you and the people that work for you. Building trust within your organization will also help you relieve some of your employees’ stress, and maybe even, some of your own.
To establish trust, you must foster open communication by being vulnerable and honest. Your actions must match your words. If you commit to something, you must do it. If you ask an employee to follow a certain protocol then you, too, must be willing to follow that same protocol. Establishing trust also requires use of the Key Principles, as presented in Development Dimensions International leadership training modules. See more information here.
Probably the most important Key Principle to use right now is empathy. You should acknowledge the hardships many employees are facing. You can share your feelings and concerns, as well, just be careful not to overshare. By sharing a bit about how you are coping (or not) you are demonstrating that you are a human being and giving your employees permission to relax and realize they are not alone in all this.
You can’t over communicate at a time like this. An absence of information makes people worry. If I don’t hear from my boss on a regular basis, even if she tells me nothing has changed, I worry that there is something wrong. In a vacuum we tend to allow our minds to make things up. Usually, we go to the “dark” side and make up all kinds of worst-case scenarios. This is how the rumor mill gets started and keeps going. We say to ourselves “If they aren’t telling me anything, everything must be very bad.”
You have a lot on your plate right now so setting aside times for regular communication may not be easy. However, it may be the most important thing you can do to help your organization survive through this crisis. Think about sending short emails to everyone on a regular basis, posting to an internal employee website or recording a brief message that you can upload to YouTube. A video message can be particularly impactful since your employees can see you and connect with your image as well as your message.
Don’t be afraid to be a human being right now. Communicate openly and honestly. Your employees will respect you and work to support you and the business as best they can. You may get more ideas about how to create trust in this story about one leader’s open approach to helping her employees cope.
Need more information or guidance in developing a communication plan? Contact the experts on the Illinois Manufacturing Helpline for a quick response!