Whether it’s fears about COVID-19, a pending hurricane, or other potentially disastrous situation, your workers need you to keep them calm, confident, and productive. Are you ready?
Talk and fears of a potential pandemic are everywhere. Regardless of what ultimately happens, you can take a leadership role now to help reassure employees and keep your organization functioning without interruptions or lost productivity. How can you be the leader your company needs and the trusted source of guidance your employees want during stressful times?
The most important thing you can do is model behaviors for others. If you project fear and worry, that filters down through the organization. You need to look and act confident and in control of the situation. You don’t need to have all of the answers, but you should to able to get information people need and refer them to reliable sources.
Some other tips:
- Be decisive and flexible. You need to be able to quickly weigh the pros and cons of a situation and make fast decisions. Realize that there won’t always be time to do a lot of research or contemplation. Know in advance how/where you will get accurate, trustworthy information quickly. When the crisis has passed, take time to analyze and discuss what happened with others so that you can identify problems or glitches and determine what you could do differently in the future.
- Be prepared to control the chaos. Take charge early on to prevent panic from spreading. Make this a top priority because chaos and rumors are harder to stop once they get started. Identify any individuals who are causing or contributing to panic, and separate them from the group. Give them an opportunity to talk about their fears and to calm down. Engage thought leaders in the organization to help ease fears and dispel rumors and misinformation.
- Exercise caution. While you have to make quick decisions, do so with the facts. Make sure you maintain an up-to-date list of valid sources of facts and information on various crisis situations (e.g., pandemic, flood, hurricane, power outage, active shooter, etc.). Be prepared to gather information quickly and make decisions based on facts and not emotions.
- Stay upbeat. While you don’t want to be unrealistically optimistic, you want to inspire people and give them hope. Watch your language; avoid words such as hopeless, ridiculous, confusing, nightmare, or impossible. If you need a break to cry or scream, do it privately. Consider little things you can do to make people feel better and focus on the possible. For instance, offer free snacks/treats or bring in therapy dogs to provide comfort.
It is important to plan, prepare, and work together as a team. Staying confident, up-to-date on new developments, and on track will enable you to make informed, common-sense decisions while keeping your staff safe and positively engaged.