A recent Gallup poll confirms that employees are afraid in the era of COVID-19 and do not trust their leaders. That should set off alarm bells throughout every organization. Without visionary leadership integrity and a selfless commitment to supporting your associates with honesty and transparency, morale and productivity declines. To remain credible, you have to inspire and reassure them. You have to relieve fear of the unknown with clear communication. If you don’t then mark my words. Competitors will lure away your best team members and pipeline recruits, further weakening organizational DNA. But if employees respect and trust their leaders, they will follow them into battle against any challenge, competitor, or obstacle. That’s why I laid important steps to ensure you thrive as that kind of leader in today’s uncertain world. I outlined these four points specifically around the kinds of unique difficulties faced in 2020 by talented, experienced leaders like yourself.
1) Vanquish Fear of the Unknown
Gallup found that more than 60 percent of employees in the United States do not think their boss has spelled out a clear COVID-19 plan of action. Nearly one out four employees reported that they do not always practice social distancing, and 60 percent admitted they do not consistently follow those recommended protocols. Meanwhile, nations and cities that have flattened the curve report that social distancing measures are critical to that medical and economic success. Make sure your employees use every available tool and strategy to keep them healthy. Don’t hide what you know or sugar coat the truth. Follow and enforce best practices, providing guidance and resources needed to follow those safety procedures. When people know what is expected and can follow an intelligent plan, they’ll stop being afraid.
2) Project Clear Vision and a Roadmap to Success
One of the most interesting revelations from the Gallup survey was that the majority of employees feel quite prepared to perform their roles, despite COVID-19. Leaders need to make sure their teams can put that preparation into action. Take an inventory of what technological resources they need. Review their budgets and schedules. Reaffirm each individual team member’s specific role and restate your expectations. Talk to them. Find out what they need, and what their strengths are. Make sure each team member is in the best possible position to contribute their unique talent, experience, and know-how. Then draw up and share a well-informed and strategic roadmap to the future.
3) Keep Everyone in the Loop
A disturbingly large number of employees feel that their organizations are keeping them in the dark. Establish clear, direct lines of 2-way communication. Schedule frequent updates and COVID-19 strategy and status reports. Be available to answer questions and listen to suggestions or concerns. You also have to be especially careful and thoughtful regarding your messaging and language. This is when your executive presence and your multifaceted communication skills will be your greatest assets. If you need to polish those, do not procrastinate. Too many leaders shy away from keeping their teams informed, because they don’t know how to deliver the right kind of message or presentation. I know, because I’ve personally helped thousands of leaders overcome their communication limitations.
4) Demonstrate Empathy and Show Support
The Gallup poll found that a majority of employees do not believe that their organization really cares about them. That’s a classic failure of leadership. If you are fortunate enough to be a leader, now is your golden opportunity. Develop and exercise your emotional intelligence. Show through daily acts of empathy that your first priority is the well-being of your team members. Demonstrate it in measurable ways, and keep reminding them of just how much they matter. After all, without them you are no longer a leader. Convey that to them, serve them, and support them. Allow them to get to know you to strengthen the bonds of trust. Then congratulate yourself for being the kind of leader the world needs more of, the kind we all love to follow.
The Bottom Line
Cultivate the mindset that it is your responsibility to act as the inspirational role model for fearlessness and sensitivity to the needs of others. Lead the charge to secure the resources your employees need to continue doing their best work. Make sure the buck stops with you. People will trust you, respect you, and confide in you. They will follow you along your visionary path to predictable success, for everyone’s benefit.
My Acceleration Questions
To rise to the challenges of 2020, ask yourself:
- What skills of mine do I need to strengthen in order to lead more effectively?
- How well do I know the individual situations and concerns of each employee?
- The needs for certain skills have shifted, so how can I reposition teams to benefit from that?
- What are 3 specific ways I can reduce employee fear and replace it with an action plan?
Nobody has all the answers. But as the leader you are expected to be the beacon in the storm. Whatever shortcomings you may have will be amplified, so if you need mentorship, coaching, or skill acquisition get that now. There’s still time to be one of the exemplary leaders of this uncertain time.
An experienced executive coach or trusted advisor can play an invaluable role to keep you fueled with competitive high-productivity momentum. If you’d like to learn Sarah’s simple yet highly effective leadership and corporate DNA strategies, tips, and insights, sign up here to receive her newsletter. https://hathornconsultinggroup.com/subscribe/