Whether it is a pandemic, an uncertain economy, or another catastrophe, the duty of the leader remains the same: Lead those who follow. And that is the responsibility of any leader in your company, whether that is the owner, a manager, or a team leader.
When everything is well and normal, leaders can sometimes slip to the background. Team methods and workflows can become so automated that a leader — at least the owner — may not need to directly oversee them.
But when a crisis strikes, often with little warning, the responsibility of the leader skyrockets. Because at those moments, the leader is looked to for comfort and stability, in addition to their normal routine management duties. So, how do you lead in a crisis?
Present Confidence and Honesty to Your Employees
Your employees will follow you. If you are nervous and panicky, they will be too. But, if in the middle of a crisis, you sit down and look at the state of your company, determine a plan to weather the emergency situation, and communicate that to your employees, they will respond with similar levelheadedness. Employees want to know somebody has constructed a plan to make it through the crisis so that they don’t have to.
And be honest. Technicians can tell when the call volume has plummeted. Accountants are already seeing your checkbook. Being transparent with your employees about the health of your company will prevent their imaginations from running wild, wreaking havoc to company morale. They are already talking amongst themselves about whether hours will be cut or people laid off. By portraying a confident honesty, even when news isn’t especially positive, your employees will know they can trust you, and will know you will do everything in your power to take care of them.
Identify Your Company’s Official (and Unofficial) Leaders
Leadership trickles down. Your employees look to you, but they will also be looking to the people you’ve placed in direct supervision over them. Be sure to train your managers on portraying the same confident honesty that you do. These are the people who will be interacting with your employees on a daily basis, and their reactions to a crisis will be a predictor of how those under them will react.
Your company also has unofficial leaders. The technician, for example, who does not have a formal leadership position, but is nonetheless the social leader of the group. His or her personality is the one that dominates during team gatherings. Pay attention to them. Those people are leaders as well, whether they realize it or not. If you can ensure those unofficial leaders remain calm and collected, other employees will catch on to the same feeling.
Continue Growing Company Culture
In times of crisis, especially one such as the COVID-19 situation, regular routines can be interrupted. Frequent team meetings do not occur any more. Company parties are either less frequent or altogether impossible. But your company culture should not suffer for this. During these times as well, leaders should actively seek to highlight exceptional work performance, express gratitude, and encourage personal growth and learning in employees.
Leading in a Digital Age
The digital age offers contractors numerous ways to lead effectively. Communication may be relegated to phone, email, and video chat, but leaders can demonstrate the importance of effective communication by prioritizing team updates. They can grow and impact company culture by being the first to share a lighthearted video in a group email. They can actively seek out web-based educational programs to pass along to employees or utilize themselves.
It is during times of crisis that people show what they truly value. If a leader handles a significant crisis with stress and incompetence, employees will remember it. But if a leader handles the crisis by displaying confidence and honesty, employees will remember that just as long.
Challenging times, if handled well, build team comradery and loyalty like nothing else will.
Pay attention to how you act during crises, because it is during them that you will show your employees, in stunning clarity, exactly how much you care about them.