A few months ago, we were all having conversations about the importance of avoiding touchy subjects with family during the holidays. As a nation, we were all interacting with a level of practical political correctness that helped everyone avoid conflict.
Then, the rapid spread of Covid-19 around the world sparked conversations about social inequality, specifically identifying race and essential worker disparities. Then, we all watched in horror of the tragedy in Minneapolis, Minnesota of George Floyd, and the world again confronted injustice.
The difficult conversations we were conditioned to avoid at the dinner table and at work became the conversations we all needed to hear over the past few weeks. From income inequality, healthcare, to racial disparities, we are now forced to face some truths about the inequities in the world. Companies big and small are all taking a stand, and a global movement is brewing.
Many founders, including myself, have released public statements within the past few days to assure past and current clients, partners and investors of a commitment to support and commence open dialogue. Many other companies and founders are still silent. Today, your silence is louder than ever, while the world is watching and grieving. You must be more vocal about your commitment to justice, equality, and solutions.
Here are three ways for you to begin engaging in difficult conversations as a leader.
1. Be Transparent
If you don't know what to say, don't worry. Actually, that is the best way to start -- "I'm (or we are) still processing the events of the past two weeks, and I don't know if I have the right words to say at this time that will heal your wounds, but I (we are) am willing to listen." It is a simple statement that acknowledges your awareness.
We are living through a new reality and uncertain times. The world is in shock, and transparency works well for you to ask for others to help you understand their concerns. You may not know the "right" thing to say at this time, but sometimes that is the right thing to say. It will allow others to help you gain an understanding to their pain. It does not need to be perfect, it must be transparent.
2. Go Live
Over the past few weeks, hosting a few afternoon Instagram live sessions has been quite therapeutic. I've had moments to cry and laugh with my followers and team as we have chimed in and listened to each other. In addition, remember people look to you for leadership, guidance and hope. A prepared statement "video" may come across as cold and uninviting.
Choose a platform - Zoom, Facebook live, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc, and just go! An informal impromptu chat may have the greatest impact for you to learn how others are feeling at this moment. Allow your followers and team members to view your compassion and vulnerability, while learning how to support each other.
3. Host your own Virtual Town Hall
Since we are all on Zoom these days, take the time to create a safe space for your team to express themselves. Think of it as a listening session, where you can learn from other experiences, and grow as a leader.
More importantly, I have found the combination of a scheduled Town Hall in addition to a formal press release/statement had a positive impact on my business, while increasing visibility. I hosted three Town Halls within the last month, which have all been full, with a lasting social impact from my followers. In addition, I have brought on guests and created safe spaces for the audience to share their stories and experiences.
You can no longer remain silent during a time of uncertainty and unrest. This is not about choosing a side, but rather, it is a way to let your team and followers/customers know you are aware of the current changes in the world, and you are willing to learn how to be a more effective leader.