During times of crisis or uncertainty, your employees count on your empathy and ability to help them cope with current events and ultimately get through to a brighter tomorrow. Unsupported team members are at high-risk for being unmotivated, withdrawn, on edge, or even physically absent. On the flip side, a well-guided team will unify, adapt, rise to the occasion, and put the company in the best possible position for the future.
To effectively lead under these circumstances, you need a communication plan tailored to your team’s communication style and preferences.
Let’s dig into that.
When the world has been upended, some of your employees may panic. Unfortunately, panic is contagious, and its spread can spark rumors, kill productivity, and lead to low team morale. Fortunately, you can keep everyone calm and the situation under control by implementing a communication plan that does these four things:
Let’s look at each in turn.
To prevent rumors from flying, you need to provide timely and honest information to your employees. In the absence of information, people form their own conclusions, and stress multiplies. Sharing information continually helps build trust and diminishes their fear of the unknown. It’s okay to express the seriousness of the situation and to admit when you’re not sure about something. Even letting your team know you’re not sure of a decision yet is perfectly fine. Your team will appreciate your transparency.
For best results, make sure that crisis-related messaging is consistent across the entire firm -- and not different from team to team. This is a great time to use collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and video conferencing to vary the way you distribute messages and encourage input. At Omnia, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in cross-company communication through the use of channels and polls on Teams. It’s also been a great way to keep a constant pulse on engagement across the teams while everyone is currently so distributed.
While open communication at a company-wide level goes a long way to build trust, you should also reach out to team members individually. Allow individuals to express their emotions, frustrations, and fears in a safe, judgment-free environment.
Don’t be afraid to share your emotions, too. Being warm, personable, and vulnerable shows the employee that you “get it” and builds a sense of camaraderie. While time constraints are understandable, try to reach out multiple times -- especially during prolonged periods of uncertainty.
A crisis often causes confusion, so your employees may not know what they should be doing. To guide them, give them clear instructions on how to support your customers -- and each other.
Remember, since the future is full of question marks, your guidance needs to be concrete and focused on the short-term. Finally, your team needs a continuous source of support to navigate these tough times. So, make sure you follow up often and are easily accessible to answer their questions.
During times of crisis, team unity is critical. A tight-knit group will be more committed to each other -- and the company. To promote unity, speak to the collective talent and strength of your organization. And, while you shouldn’t make any promises about how the firm will ultimately fare, tell stories about how it has adapted and overcome in the past.
To keep spirits high, remain ever hopeful, and assure your team that you’re in it with them for the long haul. You should also empower your group. Ask them to tap into their strengths. Encourage them to do their best work given the circumstances. And, remind them that they play an important role during these challenging times. Find ways to share what people are doing to learn and apply new skills, and spotlight the impact these are having on your customers and the business.
Your employees have different communication styles and preferences. To ensure that they get the information and support that they need, it’s important to be aware of them. Then, you can tailor your approach to each team member.
For example, some of your employees may be extremely analytical. They’re more focused on facts, processes, and numbers than interpersonal relationships. In these cases, you should paint the picture of the situation in a linear manner with supporting statistics, if possible. They will value timetables and firm commitments of when actions will occur or additional communication will come. Conversely, your more relationship-oriented employees will care more about the impacts of those statistics on actual human lives and may appreciate a video conference over an email or phone call. This group will also value being able to verbally process the messages they are hearing with their colleagues. In the end, you’re providing the same information, just presented differently.
Further, some of your employees thrive in a fast-paced, swiftly changing setting and can handle getting the whole story all at once. Yet, other team members process information more methodically and need to focus on each detail separately. What’s important is that you factor in these varieties of styles and adjust your delivery depending on who you’re speaking with to ensure they get the information that they need.
If you’re not sure about your employees’ communication styles, an Omnia behavioral assessment can help! Assessments are short and simple to take yet can reveal behavioral insights you might not have known, even after working with someone for weeks and months. Assessment results will enable you to communicate with and manage each team member more effectively. You’ll unlock how they work best so you can fully utilize their strengths. It’s quick and easy to get started!
When circumstances are difficult or ambiguous, strong leadership and effective communication are even more critical. Your employees will rely on you to support, encourage, and guide them. If you provide consistent, tailored communication with empathy woven throughout, your team will come together, support each other more, and can bravely face what’s to come.