2020. The year of upheaval. Businesses are closed, people are in isolation, borders are shut to outsiders. Countries are in lockdown. This will be the year that will be known in history books as the year the whole world shut down.
Everything we knew to be true is now not true. Like the fact that you can expect to be paid your full wages while in employment, is now up in the air. Or that we can expect to be healthy if we eat good food and exercise, is not enough. One this is sure though, your people feel scared, and anxious. The number one anxiety they have right now is, when this crisis will end, will they have a job to go back to.
Being a business owner and leader does not exempt you from feeling the same feelings, but you can make a difference in their lives by doing the most important thing:
Make them feel safe. Even in the most normal of times, you need to make your people feel safe to build a strong team. In times like these, where uncertainty is the norm, the need for you to make them feel safe is even more important.
The first step to making them feel safe is to communicate with your team what is happening in the business. Allow them to express how they feel right now. Give timely information to each and every one of your team members. Connect with them thru a dedicated media site where they can check info anytime. Make sure that the information you are giving them is correct, but if you do not know the answer to their questions, be honest and open about it. Tell them you do not know and that you will find out for them. The last thing you want to give them is false information to make them feel safe, because if it all falls apart, you want them to be prepared for the worst. Make sure lines of communication are open between you and your team.
Your empathy skills will be put to the test at difficult times such as these. You need to be able to listen to what they are saying and feeling, and tell them you are in the same boat as they are. You are in this together. If they are taking a pay cut, so should you. You can not save your own hide and burn them at the stakes. Be reliable, be sincere, be kind.
You, the leader must be able to coach them through their feeling of hopelessness in the moment. Coaching would require you to be present, emotionally and mentally, and let them talk. Stop your mind chatter about what to tell them, how to tell them. Be there as you would be with a friend while having drinks, listen and just go with the flow of the conversation. Be the sounding board, but do not be caught up in their fear and anxiety. Be the level headed one in your conversation. Challenge their thoughts, see if their fears are exaggerated or warranted. Be the calm one in your conversation.
Be the master of your own emotion.
Finally, as uncertainty will most likely take time to pass, keep on top of these things. You would also need to be aware of how you are feeling. This will help you keep your emotions in check. You would not want to freak out because people will be depending on you, to be the barometer of the situation. An emotionally aware leader understands their emotions and would know how to manage it in relation to the situation. Being the master of your emotion will be an added step to help you to be in the game for the long haul.
Making your team feel safe but being realistic about the situation is the rudder of your business in times of change. When they know you have their back, and when you do come up on the other side, you know they will have your back. After all, you are in this together, as a family.