I recently read a quote that said, “How you act in a crisis shows who you really are.” The coronavirus is a crisis like nothing we’ve seen before. We’re continuing to see how businesses and the economy are being impacted, but perhaps what is most striking to me is the social crisis it has created. It’s changing the way we’re behaving. It’s changing our rhythms and routines. It’s overhauled our mode of operating and created a “new normal.”
I don’t by any means want to minimize how hard this crisis has been, but I do think this quote is worth pondering. It’s revealing my character and my attributes. It’s reflecting what’s most important to me.
And I think the same is true for leaders. The coronavirus has undoubtedly shone a spotlight on leaders, and who they really are. Employees, managers, investors and customers are all looking to leaders to, well, lead.
In times of crisis, silence isn’t golden. Now isn’t the time for leaders to shrink back, to pause on communication or to withhold information. If you aren’t convinced, consider this:
- Your employees are your ambassadors. In times of crisis, you need every level of support possible—and this starts with your employees. If you are communicating openly and honestly with your employees, they will be more likely to represent your company well and actively support its goals inside and outside the organization.
- Establishing a “we” mentality instead of a “they” mentality creates a culture of trust. Unity is essential in a crisis. By establishing a “we” mentality, your employees become your communication allies.
- Your actions are just as important as your words. It’s time to show those who matter to you that you care, not just tell them. In a show of solidarity, CEOs across America are reinforcing their messages with actions, giving up their salaries to help protect their companies and employees.
A goal of every crisis is to maintain trust or repair trust if you’ve lost it. In a crisis, the single biggest predictor of loss of trust is the perception that you don’t care, which is why an effective crisis response demonstrates that you do. When it’s time to communicate, follow our CARE guidelines to ensure messaging is:
- Consistent: The messages you communicate to your audiences should be consistent with all other communication. While some of the details will vary as the situation evolves, your values, commitment and vision should be apparent and consistent throughout.
- Authentic: When a company or leader speaks from the heart and navigates a crisis with care, employees feel empowered and maintain a sense of pride in their workplace.
- Relational: Remember your audiences are people, too, with worries and questions. Approach your messaging with a sense of concern, care and an empathic tone.
- Effective: Did your message work? Did it lead to a desired behavior or create confusion? Ask for feedback and monitor how it is impacting audiences to guide future communications.
Even with as much stress and chaos as we’ve seen, I’m encouraged to see leaders stepping up. But it doesn’t end with one video, a signed letter or memo. Leaders must continue to lead through well-executed, caring and authentic communications.