We suffered one heck of a roundhouse kick with COVID-19.
Health concerns aside, business owners and employees were bracing for impact from day to day, and many times hour by hour as news developed, mandates went into place, and lockdowns took effect.
Fast forward to today, and even though some things seemed to have settled, many businesses still face uncertainties about the future as cases begin to rise and some states go back to imposing restrictions.
One of the positive outcomes of chaos is that it teaches us how to face obstacles head-on by making critical decisions on-the-fly, and it teaches us to do whatever is necessary to stay in the fight and win by our own measures and definitions.
After speaking with several CEOs and senior executives who have led their companies not only through COVID but through other times of chaos, below are some of the strategies and tactics they have learned to use to keep everyone in a healthy frame of mind.
- Many stressed the importance of communicating with their people every day, even if there was nothing significant to report. Whether it was through Zoom or a simple email, they let everyone know how things were going at the company. To maintain a sense of comfort and normalcy, some shared sales updates, projections, bits of good news, and reinforced the importance of an all-hands-on-deck approach to survive. Most importantly, all said daily messages were closed on notes of optimism.
- Most felt it was important not to dwell on this crisis. After relevant facts were shared, life moved on to business as usual. The more a crisis is talked about, the more it preys on everyone’s mind. Busyness in times of chaos is a welcome distraction, and it serves to keep everyone focused. Also, (and this is huge) it is important to maintain a sense of humor.
- During a national crisis that poses a threat to people’s health and well-being, it’s essential to be as flexible as possible with your employees. With so many schools switching to virtual learning, parents need to juggle their work responsibilities while making sure their kids are successfully adapting to a different way of learning. When a crisis like this extends into people’s personal lives, employers need to understand that something needs to give, and often it will be work-related engagement and performance.
- It’s also important to maintain a “business as usual” culture even though your people may be working from home. Communicate expectations, hold people accountable, don’t cancel meetings, and do the same things you’ve always done. In times of stress, people find comfort in what feels normal and familiar.
- One business owner stated the COVID crisis has brought him closer to his people because his way of keeping morale as healthy as possible was to have one-on-one conversations with each of his employees. He wanted to understand their worries and concerns and what he could do to help. He understood that just being a good listener was all many people wanted even though so much of what was going on was out of his control. As he said, “These conversations and moments of bonding would never have happened if we didn’t have to deal with COVID. The positive outcome of all this is that I have a better relationship with my people.”
Many CEOs believe that the most effective thing they can do as a leader, whether in good times or bad, is to meet with their employees regularly. In fact, some spend upwards of 70 percent of their time doing this to build relationships and maintain a healthy culture and stay in the know of what is happening at the front lines.
If you typically hang out in your office, now is the time to get out of your chair to walk your floor and chat with anyone still coming in each day. Also, start to schedule phone calls and video chats with those still working from home. Ask people if there is anything you can do for them. They will appreciate these gestures more than you can imagine.
A good friend of mine said he got a call from the owner of the company he works for and said he made it clear he’s not calling about business. He was simply calling to ask how he was doing. He said it was the nicest thing he’s ever seen the owner do.