COVID-19: What leader do you need to be?

The United States is in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If your organization wasn’t already crisis planning, they certainly are now.

For the past week, I have been watching the “message from our CEO” emails, the social posts, the news (now that is enough to scare anyone!) and can’t stop thinking about how much we learn about people during times like this…how much we learn about our leaders.

There is no doubt that the impacts of this situation are far reaching as organizations pull back spending, freeze travel, update work-from-home policies and look to protect the health and safety of their employees and customers.  It is the right thing to do.  For some leaders, they have managed their organizations through crisis before and for others, they lack the experience.   

Regardless, it is a tough place to be for any leader.

I have experienced it before, and I am seeing it with my clients now.  It is times like this when intentional leadership is needed most.

How You Show Up + How You Engage + How You Show HEART = Intentional Leadership

Show up with a sense of responsibility and commitment to your organization and role model the behavior you want people to follow.  Engage personally with people, listen to their fears and communicate openly and transparently. Acknowledge the challenge and help people know that you have their best interest at heart.

Most crises come on quickly and it is critical to jump into planning, make swift decisions, move people to action, address the external constituents.

But it is also critical to take a breath and think through the plan to lead your people through the situation.

Here are four things you can do as an Intentional Leader, to show up as your best self and as the leader your employees need you to be:

  1. Remain in Control – The worst thing you can do is overreact which brings fear, panic and self-interest into the picture.  All eyes are on you so maintain self-control by projecting a sense of calm.  Don’t minimize the situation as you can come off as inauthentic but use facts (not fear) to balance the reality of the situation with the emotions of the people.
  2. Overcommunicate – In absence of information, people fill in the blanks. Be visible and explain the steps being taken.  Be transparent, clear and timely in sharing information.  Recognize the fluidity of the circumstances and commit to regular updates that keep everyone focused forward together.
  3. Provide Perspective– Help your people see the bigger picture…the world on the other side of the crisis.  Remain positive and encouraging as your organization pushes through the discomfort and uncertainty.  When necessary, stand back from the action and reassess.  Solicit input within the organization but pull in outside advice when necessary. 
  4. Crisis Resolution – Don’t waste the crisis! When the challenge is finally over, it is important to de-escalate and restore operations but that doesn’t always mean “business as usual”.  Ask for feedback, capture lessons learned and identify long last improvements that can be made. Most importantly, explicitly thank and recognize people for what they achieved.  Acknowledge the disruption and express gratitude for their continued support, focus and commitment during a difficult time.

As painful as it is, a time like this is an opportunity to practice the type of leadership – inspirational, connected, present, mindful – that is needed to effectively and successfully lead through the most difficult and uncertain situations.

Embrace the challenge, be intentional in your how and new ways of thinking will arise. You will get past it with an understanding that you can face a crisis, like COVID-19, head on and be a better leader for your organization in the long run.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tricia is a global business leader, author and certified executive coach. Her unique corporate background gives her a clear understanding of the personal and professional challenges that senior business leaders face today. She brings real-life expertise around talent, culture and leadership to every coaching engagement and is committed to helping individuals, teams and organizations accelerate performance.

Tricia believes this can be done with authenticity and by staying true to personal values, beliefs, and leadership styles.