As the CEO, you are the person your team is looking to as an example of how to respond to a crisis.
Building a resilient, agile, adaptive team starts with YOU. There’s no app or calendar that can do it for you. Resilience is an inside job. It starts within you, when you address your own fears and work to move through them. Then, it expands to your team.
How you react will influence how they react. Even the most minute statements or behaviors will impact your teams’ response. You need to maintain a sense of perspective, stay calm, and be an example of the resiliency you want your team to respond with.
This includes both what you say and what you don’t say. Communication goes beyond the words we speak or write. Your team hears the things that are left unsaid, they read between the lines, and they watch how your actions line up with your words. Be deliberate so that your team knows what you expect from them and that you are a partner through the storm.
Adaptability and agileness are traits of teams who communicate and collaborate well. How you foster these traits before and during sudden and dramatic changes will determine your ability to weather the storm and even thrive during a crisis. You won’t get through this alone, your whole team needs to be a part of the solution.
Here are the three most important things your team needs to hear from you during a crisis:
#1) “It’s Okay.”
We’re all human. Retain that human element of yourself. Don’t just push to keep working as normal, ignoring the current crisis. This will turn your team off because you are clearly out-of-touch with reality.
Acknowledge the situation for what it is. Be patient. Be understanding. Often, crises force us to act under pressure – and fast. We won’t always have all the information needed to make smart choices so we do the best we can with what we have. Be humble and show your team that you are doing what it takes to navigate the challenge as best you can and that there will be adjustments along the way.
Everyone responds to crisis, stress, and trauma in different ways. As a leader, you need to give your team a safe space to experience their version of events. Some employees will try to ignore their own emotional reactions to the crisis by burying themselves in their work. Then they’ll burn out and need to reset. Some will shut down at the beginning and need a push-start.
No matter how they react to the crisis, it’s your job to communicate to them that their emotions are okay, they’re normal, we’ll work through them and come out stronger on the other side. Those teams that weather the storm best, are flexible and bend to the wind rather than trying to stand firm only to be toppled over.
#2) “We’re a Team.”
Especially during crisis situations, we need community more than ever. Demonstrate to your team that you are just that – a team. You work together to overcome obstacles. Share the projects being undertaken across different facets of the company and show how those efforts will impact the organization as a whole. You are all tackling this together.
You need to show that you are an active part of the team – not a higher-up who is removed and shielded from the situation. As the leader, you need to be the one taking action and initiative. The act of delaying and not making a decision is always worse – logistically and emotionally.
Once a decision has been made, participate proactively in its completion. Be involved, be present, be available for your team, and work together with them to accomplish tasks.
Relationships are the strongest indicator of employee happiness. The relationships your team has amongst each other are important but the bonds between managers and their reports are the most critical. Strengthen these ties especially during times of crisis to build resilience, collaborative environments, and security for your team.
Reminding your team that their contributions to the results are appreciated and essential is important. You need to show them – daily – that their work matters. People who feel like they’re part of something bigger and delivering on more impactful projects will be happier and more effective.
#3) “We Take Care of Each Other.”
Again, this is another reason strong relationships are so important.
Taking care of your team means not just taking care of your own projects, but lending a helping hand to others. It means customizing support to best suit the team member in need.
Perhaps a coworker is experiencing a more challenging home life with their three kids as a single parent. You can offer help in the form of hiring childcare and/or giving extra time to complete the task or reassigning it entirely to someone who volunteers to take on the extra responsibility.
Take your team’s emotional states into serious consideration and share with them your genuine concern. Help where you can and be available to talk to about logistical challenges as well as emotional ones. This shows the utmost respect you have for your employees.
To be a true leader, you need to be more than a boss. You lead by example and by being an active participant in the process. Your people need to see that you’re human, you’re resilient, you’re flexible, and you’re dedicated to the team. If they see this from you, you’re sure to receive it from them in spades.
The Right Conversations Will Improve Employee Satisfaction & Coordination
In a crisis, most companies merely want to survive. With the right tools and systems, your organization can do more. Effective leadership will improve coordination by virtue of proper communication, relationships, and expectation-setting.
If you reinforce these three key statements and remind your team that everything is okay, you’re all part of a team, and you all take care of each other, you can come through the storm stronger than before. Your company can thrive during a global pandemic or any coming economic crisis.
The key piece in determining this success is in how your leaders LEAD.
Lead by example.
Lead with empathy.
Lead with strength.
Lead with teamwork and relationships.
Lead with humility.
In the “Resilience Through Crisis” Toolkit, I’ll give you a plug-and-play communication and team resilience plan packed with step-by-step guides, tools, and templates to help take your team from “Uncertain and Unfocused” to “Unflappable and Unstoppable.”