Yes, these are challenging times. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and an economic downturn like we’ve never seen. The fall is here and we’re beginning to anticipate the holidays. If your employees are like most of us, they’re feeling exhausted and stressed even when nothing specific is going wrong. It is times like these when the way you communicate with your staff is more important than ever.
Communicate with care. When people are working through difficult times—and especially when they’re working remotely, and you can’t be in the same room to pick up on subtle cues of expression and body language—you need to communicate everything with great care. Keep in mind that people will be listening especially closely and analyzing what you say in more detail.
Don’t expect too much of people. We often ask people to reach beyond their usual role in times of crisis, and most employees are willing to go the extra mile. But remember too to be mindful of their need for balance and self-care. Don’t let the crisis become a reason to ask for nonstop overwork, but keep expectations as reasonable as possible.
Involve people in the decision-making process. People don’t want to just be told what to do; they want to know they have a say in what is happening, especially in challenging situations. Make room for wide involvement wherever you can, and make sure to let people know they matter and their ideas are valuable. When people feel they have ownership, they care more about outcomes.
Acknowledge your employees’ emotions. Take the time to seek out and listen to your employees’ perspectives and let them know they’re heard and valued. Reassure them that they’re safe in expressing their feelings, and be candid in expressing some of your own emotions to help reinforce that point. Acknowledge and validate what you hear from your people. Express understanding—and look for ways to help if you can.
Create an empowering culture. In a crisis such as we’re experiencing, it’s especially important for people to feel they have control, and how you communicate and what you say is important. You don’t want employees to feel they’re being spoken at, so make sure they understand that they’re the authors of their actions and have the power to make choices through this time of uncertainty. Encourage self-initiation and participation; avoid controlling language and minimize coercive controls like unrealistic deadlines and seeking perfection. Instead, find ways to motivate people through involvement, encouragement, and positive feedback, Be transparent by providing the rationale behind your requests.
Communication is key in a crisis, and how you communicate as a manager or leader can make the difference between thriving or barely surviving in these tough times.
Lead, from within: It is the manager or leader who takes the time to understand their people who people respect the most and who inspires them to give their best through times of crisis.