The world turned upside down last month and took with it our hearts and heads, as well as those of our teams and customers.
As I’ve talked with business leaders, some version of these words have often been repeated:
“In times like this, you can clearly see those who step up as leaders.”
And early last month, I personally believe that there were many people who would have raised their hands for promotions, authoritative titles, and corner offices who have since shrunk back into panic, desperate for someone else to show them their way.
I’ve also heard story after story of others who, in the face of the very same challenges, have burst forth to serve, to offer solutions, and to take the lead when it hasn’t been expected of them.
Many of us love reading and discussing leadership and management topics, finding over and over a deeper answer to the question: “What makes someone a good leader?”
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been interested to ask my network about the lessons they’ve been learning along the way. Believe me, I know we have a long way to go to right all of the ships that have threatened to capsize in the past few weeks. But at the risk of seeming too eager to move forward, I’d like to offer you my findings.
I believe these 10 lessons, compiled from organization leaders with whom I personally work and sincerely respect, may be of use to you and your team in the challenging days ahead.
1. Make clear communication a priority.
For your staff, when you’re making decisions on the fly, it’s important to write down what’s being decided. Read it back to the team before you leave the meeting to make sure everyone understands and there aren’t any obvious loose ends. Try to eliminate any potential confusion or concerns that your team may have with the decision as they’re implementing it later.
And when it comes to worrying about what to say to customers and clients, worry more about silence. They get it. They’ll understand. But silence from you will make them feel uncertain of your level of commitment to continuing to serve them. Or worse, it could leave the door open for them to worry that you’ll take their money and run.
Find a way to get in contact with your customers and stay in contact with them until you can begin to deliver the service that they’re used to getting from you.
And when it comes to the communication you get from your customers, see point #6.
2. Create structure as soon as possible.
We all need structure and work best when we have it. Provide as much of it as you can for your team. Find new ways to add structure into the days of employees that are working from home.
3. Promote a coaching culture.
Having a team culture in which personal improvement, self-control, and staying calm is an expectation provides a safe place to create solutions and get work done when things get crazy.
4. Have a mission (a real mission).
Having a clear mission statement allows your team to be adaptable when normal operations become impossible. The same benefit exists for individuals who have a well-designed personal mission statement.
5. Start thinking about giving as soon as possible.
In a crisis situation, it’s natural to first respond selfishly, making sure that you personally have what you need and then that your team has what it needs. As soon as you see things falling into place in these areas, turn your focus outward toward helping others, both individuals and other companies.
6. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
I think I’ve heard this one before somewhere. 😁 It applies even when we’re in crisis mode. It should always be our default setting.
7. Embrace the positive.
Find the silver lining. There’s always something good about every problem, even if the problem is huge and the good is small. Focus on the good. Look for the new opportunities that are now before you.
8. Your reputation is more important than revenue.
This one has been perhaps the most interesting to me personally, and I’ve noticed it in the conversations I’ve had with organization leaders during the initial reactions to this crisis. There is, of course, a strong sentiment of wanting to physically protect staff and customers from getting sick. But in each of those meetings, there’s been an even stronger urge to protect the reputation of the group or organization. And leaders made decisions to do this even at the expense of closing their doors, shutting off their revenue, and, for the time being, losing their customers.
Don’t be blind to the fact that, no matter what is happening with revenue right now, you are building a reputation every single day. And that will be essential to support the revenue later on.
9. Hire resourceful people, then give them resources.
If you’ve already been doing this, it will look like your staff taking initiative to create solutions to the daily problems that come up in a crisis. It will feel like you’re waiting for the poo to hit the fan… but it never does because the talented team you hired and trained is stepping up moment by moment to take care of business.
And if it doesn’t feel that way, make a note at the very top of your post-crisis list to create new processes to hire and develop resourceful people.
10. Express appreciation and gratitude.
Do this until you lose your voice or your keyboard wears out.
I know you’ve learned some important lessons these past few weeks too. Please continue to share them so that we can all become even better as leaders. ❤️