HOW TO LEAD AND COMMUNICATE IN A HEALTH CRISIS

BE OPEN, BE COMMUNICATING, BE VULNERABLE

Crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic sweeping Australian businesses provide fascinating opportunities to test yourself as a leader, and determine the levels of ‘grit’ and resilience in your team/workplace overall. Leadership is a privilege and you should treat this current calamity as a chance to test yourself and your team.

THREE KEYS TO ADOPT

So, what are the key ways to communicate with staff during a crisis?

You should communicate and consult with your affected staff (and their representative/s, if required) as regularly and as openly as you can. The method of communication should be a mix of individual staff meetings, a group staff meeting and providing material in writing.  The specific ratio of how much of each depends on your organisation and preferences as a leader/communicator. Remember to:

  • Be confident. To lead, self-confidence and high self-esteem are useful, perhaps even essential. Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires and maintain the team morale. Keep up your confidence levels up. Assure everyone that you are all going to work through this and ‘come out the other side’. As the leader, your team will take cues from you; by staying calm and confident, you will create the environment for your team to feel the same. This does not mean cocky or flippant (the risks are serious), but calm, competent, confident and positive.  
  • Be decisive. When it comes to decision-making, you need to be thoughtful but also decisive. Communicate what has been decided and what the business is going to do. Own those decisions, even if this means acknowledging the plan created isn’t perfect or will have to be adapted as new information (from Government, WHO, DFAT etc.) come to light.
  • Be visible. Make sure you’re accessible and ‘around’, be seen to be leading, in a calm and confident manner. Don’t fall into the trap of crisis-management whereby teams meet behind closed doors for days and plan, plan, plan. Just ‘walk the floor’ and be available if employees want to ask specific questions or voice their fears etc. Create the esprit de corps, keep everyone working and moving ahead.

TRY BEING VULNERABLE

Nobody knows how COVID-19 is going to play out. You should not try and ‘bluff’ your team with false reassurance (“She’ll be right”) and giving answers you can’t be confident are accurate or believable. ‘She’ may not be ‘right’. It might be a disaster, both for your organisation and your people individually. Indeed, the opposite approach is likely to be something that resonates far better with your people. Be vulnerable; admit you don’t have the answers, that you don’t know what’s going to happen, that this scares you as well. Be open, be vulnerable, be human. As Brené Brown explains in her leadership theory on this topic:

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage”.

CONCLUSION

This will be a significant challenge for many (if not all) Australian businesses to confront, especially coming right behind the terrible Summer bushfires. But, with some sensible planning and some determined execution, business should be able to ‘weather the storm’. Give your business the best shot at success by:

  • spending the time to genuinely work through whether alternatives to redundancy can be explored in the first instance (talk to your staff, they might have proposals you hadn’t considered which helps to get through the immediate pain period); and
  • leading rather than managing. This is a time for inspirational, courageous, compassionate and communicative leaders. Are you up to the challenge?

NEED SOME HELP?

We have a series of blogs on coping with COVID-19 on our website including on leave entitlements. We also have a range of other documents (such as communications to staff or suppliers explaining the pragmatic precautions your organisation is taking) which we can tailor to your needs.

Further, future-proof for the next crisis by ensuring your leaders and managers are coached and developed into bring truly effective, inspirational leaders. If you need some help in this area, reach out to enquire about engaging us to supercharge your leaders through:

  • creating a ‘coaching culture’ whereby leaders assist and develop each other to grow and communicate better which, in turn, yields superior business results;
  • growing leaders who want to aspire to an even higher level of leadership, performance, emotional intelligence and support for those they manage; and
  • building teams who want to increase coordination, communication, and collaboration to boost productivity.

Contact our Director Mark on mark@workplacewizards.com.au or 0458 6444 69 to find out more.

FREE: How-to guide: Survive (and thrive) through COVID-19
What to prioritise and how to tackle the main challenges businesses are facing.
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Mark Ritchie

Mark Ritchie

Mark is passionate about helping Australian businesses efficiently resolve their industrial relations issues. Mark has demonstrated proficiency advising managers, executives and boards of small to medium-sized enterprises, as well as some of Australia’s best-known companies, on both litigious and non-litigious matters.

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