Running a business is difficult under normal circumstances. There are always a number of challenges facing businesses from managing people, attracting new customers, and controlling expenses. During the normal course of business, the ability to balance the needs of your business, your team, and your customers can test even the best leaders.
Of course, these aren't normal circumstances. As Marriott's CEO Arne Sorenson points out in a video to his employees, which was released on Twitter, the immediate economic impact of the current Covid-19 pandemic on the company's business is greater than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined. In Sorenson's words "that's saying something."
A message to Marriott International associates from President and CEO Arne Sorenson. pic.twitter.com/OwsF14TZgb-- Marriott International (@MarriottIntl) March 19, 2020
The video is worth a watch for every leader. And not just because in it, he commits to forgoing a salary for the remainder of the year and cutting those of his executive team by 50 percent. That, by the way, is a lesson in leadership in and of itself.
More importantly, Sorenson manages to directly and clearly communicate with his team in the midst of a crisis in a way that many leaders in business and elsewhere fail to grasp. That should be at the top of your list of priorities when figuring out your business contingency plan during a crisis.
The lesson here is this: Talk to your team. They need to hear from you. They need you to be honest, be clear, and be transparent. They deserve nothing less from you--their leader.
No one wants to give their team bad news. No one wants to tell people they are facing a problem they may not be able to fix. As a leader, the tendency is to try and paint the best picture possible.
Except, sometimes the best picture is still pretty murky. When it is, your job is to be honest with your team and set expectations as best you can. That's true even if what you're expecting is more bad news. Right now, that level of transparency is critical to helping people make the best decisions about how the current crisis affects their lives.
Even when you can't give your team certainty, it still deserves your transparency and honesty. Even when you can't make promises about the future, you should be upfront about where you're at today.
Neither of those things will magically make everything better, but what they will do is build trust. In a world where it seems like things are falling apart, trust is by far the most valuable currency, and it's the one that costs you the least.