Leadership & Business Survival Strategies in Challenging Times

There is a popular quote circulating on social media these days that counsels, “in crisis, a failure to lead can only lead to failure.” Yet knowing just how to lead during turbulent times isn’t always clear especially when facing extraordinary challenges never encountered before.

Now is the time to be the company’s chief empathy officer. Your employees and other key stakeholders are looking to you for leadership and guidance. Your strength and empathy will go a long way in calming serious concerns and keeping everyone focused on a brighter future.

Here are some pointers on how to transition your team (and yourself) from crisis mode to a more future-focused productive mindset.

Reconnect your team to “the big picture.”

Think of it this way. In creating your company, you did so based on a well thought out business plan detailing your mission, vision and value proposition. These elements created connections, collective pride, loyalty and brand advocacy among your employees and stakeholders.

Uncertain times are a chance to revisit your beginnings and revive pride and resilience in your workforce by reconnecting employees to why the company was created, for whom, and why it matters to your clients, community and perhaps the world.

The most important element of this exercise is to remind your employees how valued their individual contributions are to the collective efforts required for company success.

Deliver tough news systematically.

Persistent bad news can feel like a verbal form of Chinese water torture. The constant drips of bad news can take its emotional toll.

COVID-19 information is everywhere we look. It is sometimes inaccurate and contradictory. Many are feeling the stress of the coronavirus media frenzy and trying to rise above the chaos by focusing on trusted information sources like the CDC and WHO.

To your employees, you are the critical news source relating to the stability of and/or vulnerabilities facing your enterprise.

Instead of daily updates on serious business challenges, consider delivering difficult news in bundles. For example, if hours are going to be reduced, communicate the bad news with the assurance you will provide an update in two weeks.

Stay transparent and open.

Now is not the time to hide bad news. Commit to a strategy of speaking up early and truthfully. Doing so will protect the long-term reputation of your company by gaining the trust and confidence of those who matter including your employees, customers, clients, investors and the media.

Also, when you choose transparency in the midst of a crisis, you are encouraging others to speak up honestly about issues and rumors that could irreversibly damage your company’s future prospects.

Demonstrate the transparency you seek from others and create a climate in which people can raise questions, concerns, and ideas without fear of personal repercussions.

Have regular check-ins. Share what you know and don’t know.

It’s important to help employees feel connected in the era of social distancing. Using virtual environments available through Google Hangouts, Zoom and Skype can keep spirits up and efforts united.

Just as important, it is a time for you to share what you know and don’t know about the ongoing business-related impacts of the crisis.

Encourage questions and be willing to admit you may not have all the answers as events unfold. Assure your team you will respond accurately when you know more. In doing so, your team knows you can be counted upon to be a straight shooter.

Leadership is what we are called upon to do.

Managing your own emotions and those of your team can be a difficult balancing act. In the best of all worlds, you will project compassion and realistic hope even when outcomes are uncertain. Lead with the belief that things will get better through unified, inspired action.

Watch the full presentation, sponsored by the Tucson Metro Chamber.


Linda Welter, Caliber Group principal & CEO, is a veteran brand reputation and crisis management expert based in Tucson, Ariz. with more than 20 years of experience helping businesses build, position and protect company brand reputations. She has helped the leadership of multiple organizations successfully navigate crises and major issues in times of great uncertainty including business closures, layoffs, foodborne illness outbreaks, unplanned leadership changes, mergers and acquisitions, arson, litigation, and accusations of corporate wrongdoing.

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