The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster. I left the office on a Friday, and the CDC was making recommendations about group events. Nothing drastic, just precautionary guidelines. Since my company does quite a few group events their best recommendations were that if they were groups that were larger than 250 people that those events should be delayed or postponed or even cancelled over the course of the next several months. They had certain other recommendations. Schools were in a scattering of places closed, but mostly they were open and in a little bit of a wait and see pattern.
Then over the weekend, as I paid attention to various county commissioners, health offices and various state health officials the CDC sites changed their guidelines. Now, they were saying if it is an event with 50 or more people then you should consider postponing. Schools in many states closed. California had declared a state of emergency and said for people who are in the risk population over a certain age that they should be mandatory quarantine themselves ...etc.
Over the course of 2 days, everything had changed.
As I processed what this meant for our society and our business, it became very apparent that this was a crucial time to be there for my staff as a leader. Typically on a Monday huddle we get together via zoom across various time zones to connect and check in on our plans for the week. It's a good chance to share information. It's a good chance for people to share victories. Really just a chance to connect with their peers and their colleagues inside the company. Again, just to keep everyone together.
When my team met after things in the US drastically changed almost overnight, we did something different because I knew we needed to talk to the fears and the concerns that various team members had in order to help ease their anxiety. So here is what I did with my own team.
It's important that as a leader you focus on being the voice of certainty in a sea of confusion. You need to be that congruent voice. It doesn't mean you have to have all the answers because you won't always have all the answers. Right now there's a lot of unknowns about what's going on, but there are some things that you should be able to rely on.
2. Don't Minimize Their Fears and Concerns
The challenges that we are facing right now are unique. But it's important to remember that businesses and countries have faced adversity before and I believe strongly - I know it - that we will overcome adversity again. I have deep faith that we're going to get through this stuff too and at the same time there are going to be opportunities where we can serve greater and create more value.
I'm not saying it's going to be easy. I'm not saying there's not going to be some real painful pieces that we have to go through, but we're going to find our way through this to make the most of a situation.
3. Stay in Contact
It seems like the breaking news just keeps coming. So I let my team know that for the next few weeks I will be reaching out to all of them through a group e-mail or a group audio every day so that they know what's going on, what my thinking is about the current changes etc.
I explained to them what we're going to be doing in the short-run as a business and I let them know that we don't have all the answers right now, but here are the questions that we're asking....here's what we're paying attention to..here's what we're choosing to filter out and what we're not going to accept. We're not going to accept hype. We're not going to accept hysteria. We're not going to accept information sources that just aren't reputable.
4. Open Up The Dialog
The final piece of advice I have with this, has to do with creating an open dialog amongst your team members. On our Monday call, I allowed my team to share their thoughts on the current situation and seven or eight people on the conference line shared their thoughts. This was and that was an important part of settling the team down and to also remind them that we have a real important service that we can do for our marketplace, which is our point of maximum contribution to the world. A way that we can add value to the world during these uncertain times.
The bottom line, be intentional and thoughtful about how you lead your team during these times. They are looking for you for guidance and direction.