Speak the Truth, Give Hope, Listen, and Show the Way Forward

“Wherever you fly you’ll be the best of the best and wherever you go you will top all the rest… except when you don’t, because sometimes you won’t…”

-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Leadership can be exceptionally rewarding when each step forward feels as though it is producing an outcome that meets or exceeds expectations. When successful leaders are reaping the rewards of having developed and nurtured positive relationships with their teams, having aligned systems for the greatest efficiency, and having intentionally grown the capacity of their team to perform, the outcomes are most often very rewarding.

There are times, however, when even with the leader’s best efforts there are conditions, such as the dot com bust, the great recession, an unforeseen trade action, or in more recent times the COVID-19 virus spread, where you as the leader have done nearly everything right and the outcome is far below expectations.  These moments can be deeply concerning for everyone. As a leader, they pose a particularly difficult challenge. How does one go about the job of leading and inspiring team members when they have done all that you have asked

of them, and because of factors outside one’s control, the result is worry, concern, and fear?

In such situations, it is vital for leaders to be well informed of the crisis, the impacts that the crisis is likely to have on the business, and at least the initial pressures that the business is likely to face.  When the leader is well informed, it is time to communicate!  It will be very important to convey the fullest possible picture to the members of the team.

1. Speak the Truth

The first rule for leaders in a crisis is “speak the truth”. Make sure that the confidence you have built over time with your team is reinforced.  By receiving accurate information from you as the leader, especially in a challenging time, your team will grow in the trust they have in you.

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked, some windows are lighted, but mostly they’re darked… do you dare to stay out, do you dare to go in…?”

 -Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go

2. Give Hope

When the crisis arrives providing whatever reassurance you are able.  In short, the leader must “give hope”.  It is vital that you continue to communicate. Regularly providing your team with real and accurate information will show your attention to their interests. Expressing to the team your commitment that you are applying your energies that into working on and developing a solution for addressing the current crisis will make “giving hope” tangible and real.

It is very important at this point of “giving hope” not to create a situation where one over-promises.

3. Listen to Hear & Involve

Being willing to listen to those expressing concerns shows caring and support for those affected. Being honest and forthcoming with what you are able to do, while it may seem to be less than you had hoped, is still positive.  There will be opportunities to include team members in solution-oriented conversations.

These can serve two main purposes. The first is to further assuage the fears and to more thoroughly explain the situation, thus creating a deeper level of understanding. The second is to hear what creative ideas the team may have to help address the situation.  In both cases as the leader, you have listened, been present, and further conveyed your concern for the well-being of the team members.

4. Chart a New Course

Unfortunately, when such a crisis hits, it does not normally come to a quick resolution. It nearly always requires the leader to further analyze the challenge ahead and chart a new course forward.  Because each team member is experiencing a different set of circumstances in their lives, not every one of them will necessarily embrace the solution put forth as the best for them.

Yet, a leader who shows the way forward after having listened extensively, after having been honest and forthcoming with the team about the challenges, and has made efforts to “give hope” and make the very best of the situation for their team members, will maintain the respect of those they lead.

5. Serve & Shine

There are no easy ways forward for leaders in times of such adversity. It is in these situations, however, where leaders serve and shine.  As the situation improves over time the trust of the team in the leader will grow.  The leader will move to a place, in the eyes of the team, where they are more than just the boss. By speaking the truth, giving hope, listening and showing the way forward, they become a figure in which people have deep trust, and to who they have a deep commitment.

“Be sure when you step, step with great care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balancing act…and you will succeed, yes you will indeed, 98 and ¾% guaranteed”. 

-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

For more information on how to lead your business during COVID-19, check out our other blogs here.