I have been communicating a lot over the last two weeks – with our leadership team, with our staff, and with our clients. The disruption COVID-19 has made to our business, and the speed of decisions we as an organization have made as a result is unprecedented.
As a training organization, we are in the business of bringing people together and yet there is a loud call from health and government officials encouraging us to do the opposite. Working our way through the challenges presented to us has resulted in increased meetings, emails, and conversations.
I’ll admit, my natural inclination in times of crisis is to catastrophize. My anxiety gets the best of me and I am at risk of saying things I regret. Like many aspects of my leadership approach, I have learned to be more thoughtful and intentional instead of just responding to things with a gut reaction. As a result, my communication has, for the most part, been poised and measured.
Move beyond the impact on the organization and also speak about the impact on the individual.
The key thing I’ve learned from smaller crises we’ve been through is the importance of communicating regularly and often. In this particular crisis, I have focused my messaging in four key areas:
1. Be honest and realistic.
I’m not sugar-coating things – this is a crisis and no organization is unaffected. For many businesses, this may even mean laying people off. So yes, be calm, but also be honest and realistic.
2. Acknowledge the impact.
I’m mindful to move beyond the impact on the organization and to also speak about the impact on the individual. Your communications shouldn’t all be organization-focused. It’s crucial to speak to the impact on the people who work for you.
3. Build solidarity.
I’m working to communicate that we are all in this together. To get through this, we need to support each other and do our part to keep things moving forward.
4. Be optimistic.
I am genuinely hopeful for the future – this too shall pass. I believe it’s key for leaders to share their hope for things getting better.
In response to one of the emails I sent to out to our trainers regarding COVID-19, one wrote back to me: “People will forget many things about this crisis, but they will remember how you responded with grace, creativity, and poise.”
In the days and weeks ahead, my encouragement for leaders of all organizations is to thoughtfully and intentionally consider how you are communicating and to do so with grace and poise.
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