We can all agree that these are difficult and unprecedented times for all individuals, let alone businesses. As countries and economies slow down or ground to a halt, a leader's vision, compassion and behaviour could have far reaching consequences to the survival of a given business. Trying to establish a sense of normalcy to our business and our lives is almost impossible given this time with constant disruption almost every moment there is breaking news about the Coronavirus.
Striking this balance of knowing how to push team performance when everyone is mentally and emotionally distracted by the crisis is a battle during this sensitive period.
This unpredictable situation has revealed a mixed bag of reactions thus far. Some leaders have chosen to pressure their employees. Instead of first undertaking a duty of care to its employees, some businesses have instead treated their employees like children, fearing that they would take the "work from home" measures as an opportunity to "slack off". While there will always be a few that will be irresponsible, the majority of workers do care about their work and careers. This is after all a global pandemic. We are all in this together. After all, we all have families and aren’t we all taking a risk by continuing to work while a deadly pathogen is out there?
If a business leader is insensitive and uncaring at this time, this would have the opposite result. Instead of threatening employees into productivity, it would cause them to feel discouraged and unmotivated which will be wholly incompatible to the survival of the business.
On the flipside, if leaders took this opportunity to assume responsibility for the welfare of its employees, it could have the positive result of unifying workers to do the best for their respective businesses.
Take Facebook as an example. The leader at Facebook has taken this opportunity to give each employee an additional $1000 to tide them over these troubled times. Instead of imposing his business fears on his employees, he has instead chosen to motivate his employees by recognizing their fears of job losses and hard times ahead. This is an inspirational act of leadership.
We are not suggesting that money is the only way to show care. If your business is unable to give monetary benefits, how about leadership emails or videos reassuring workers of the business' ongoing commitment to the welfare and future of its employees. Imagine how inspiring and encouraging it is during these uncertain periods when employees see how their own leaders are thinking beyond their own needs and recognise that these events affect their employees too (and perhaps even more so).
Just look at how Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson did it. He announced that he and Mr Marriott himself will not be taking a salary for the rest of 2020 and his management team will be taking a 50% cut in pay over a video announcement to his entire company. He wanted it to be visual for his employees to see his emotion coming through rather than just a pure email. What this powerful video messaging helped to do was propel a unified purpose and an innate banding together which ultimately solidifies trust to fight through this ordeal as their leaders have made some excellent decisions to safeguard their employees and their brand.
Following such an authentic example, how else can the leadership in various organisations move with speed yet with empathy during the age of Coronavirus?
Seek Consult From a Temporary Source
Management consulting advice could help to focus on managing the flow of information and communication, handling employee needs or stabilising supply chains. The true winners in the current coronavirus crisis will be those organisations that not only show resilience, but also adapt quickly to achieve their goals in novel ways, positioning themselves for post-traumatic growth.
Have Foresight and Re-envision
Switching to virtual responses is only one solution. It may help in the short term, however, research shows that when people act under stressful situations, all their mental energies go into averting the imminent threat. There is a possibility it narrows people’s focus and compromises decision-making capacity.
While the threat is very real and many companies may not survive through this pandemic, those that do will need to recall their larger goals and think creatively: to consider innovative solutions like unusual collaborations and partnerships with other stakeholders, clients, customers and competitors; creating modularity and diversification to protect and insulate units within the larger organization; and building flexible offerings that evolve as circumstances change.
Evolving and Engaging
The real challenge to survive through this is staying relevant and finding ways to continue your business. Find and leverage the opportunities hiding within the crisis. For example, is there a chance for your business to leverage on safety opportunities for the public or inventing a new process that could help to increase and sustain supply chains that have been so badly disrupted?
Not forgetting there will be a portion of your staff who could possibly be infected or their relative was infected by the virus. Outside of logistical and safety concerns, it will be important to keep this community engaged and ensure they are supported during the quarantine and post-quarantine period.
We sense transitional coaching and engagement for the rest of workforce which are still intact may be one of the most important elements for all leaders and executives during this time of crisis.
Uncertainty can lead to anxiety, and the ability to empathise and convey a vision of successfully working through the crisis can lead to emotionally charged higher performance.
At Engaging Leaders we believe that every looming set back can be an opportunity. A leader who is able to see this and utilise it will be the one whose business will go the distance. Have you been showing care to your employees in a way that would motivate them?
With the emphasised social distancing, how would you maintain connections with various departments and employees to persevere in their daily operations and continue team activities remotely via technology and online applications that are abundant in this day and age?
Would you need support in your internal communications and messaging in driving hope and motivation for your staff? The team at Engaging Leaders are more than willing to weather through this crisis with you.
Monica Tan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Tan, Engaging Leaders, leads our clients through a journey of performance and change. With more than 15 years of client and project management experience, she serves as a key advisor to our clients.