Our team recognizes that the community of leaders we serve is being tested like never before; the spread of COVID-19 is profoundly impacting people, businesses, and institutions across the globe. The speed of this ever-evolving situation coupled with the need for decisive action, despite the weight of pivotal decisions and acute uncertainty, make for unprecedented human and organizational challenges.
We are aware that leaders are struggling to instill confidence in employees, provide a sense of security in their organizations, and manage changes in day-to-day operations, all while sustaining momentum and a forward focus on strategic initiatives. In service to one another and to our clients, we gathered virtually to connect and share valuable experiences and insights offering guidance to help not only our own team but the leaders we support, as we journey through this crisis together; here are the takeaways that rose to the top.
Leverage communication to strengthen organizational trust and lead people forward. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on COVID-19 highlighted findings that “my employer” was the most trusted institution/source for coronavirus-related communication over business in general, NGOs, government, and media. Regarding the most trusted spokespeople, the CEO of “my employer” came in at 54 percent, squarely in the middle of the ranking among scientists, medical professionals, WHO and CDC officials, government officials, journalists, and “a person like yourself.” What an extraordinary responsibility and opportunity! Key implications for leaders? Be proactive and over-communicate, sharing accurate and reliable information in a timely manner. Be as “visible” and accessible as possible, leveraging technology to connect with dispersed and remote employees. Adopt a transparent approach—treating employees as respected business partners—and share the “why” behind critical decisions. Be vulnerable and admit missteps, taking accountability, and setting expectations for course correction. Focus on opening up a dialogue—not on having all the answers—and keeping the conversation going.
Anchor your response to your company’s purpose and values. There is great power in purpose; it matters to us because as human beings we have an innate desire to belong and contribute to something bigger than ourselves. Aligning employees with purpose—especially in turbulent times—inspires commitment and motivates performance. Values create meaningful touchpoints within your organization; shine a light on values-based decision making and values in action across the organization as well as outside the company as care for employees, customers, partners, communities, and others is demonstrated. Identification with company purpose and values builds community, strengthens loyalty, and yields powerful outcomes. Reputation, after all, is built from the inside out.
Practice empathy. Be mindful of the human side of change and the emotion involved. Future expectations have been disrupted, a sense of control has been lost, the ability to process a lot of information in a short period of time has been compromised. Many people are being asked to change their behavior in drastic ways, and not just at work, but at home and in their communities. Check in regularly with employees and ask how they are doing, how their family is faring. Listen for understanding, and offer genuine care and support. Use this time to strengthen relationships with your people.
Model the way. Employees will take a cue from leadership on how to feel and respond. Leaders exhibiting a calm, focused mindset and a sense of control will help their people to display the same. A hallmark of a crisis is its nature to change quickly. Leaders must demonstrate agility and adaptive behavior in their decision making and actions, as the current environment will require this behavior from people across the organization.
Plan for the future. Be clear about the here and now, but point to organizational strengths, opportunities for collaboration, progress being made, and a vision for the future. Envision success and continue to adapt plans, ensuring flexibility to respond in this rapidly evolving climate. Be open and transparent at every turn. The far-reaching and long-lasting impact of this healthcare crisis is still uncertain; however, continual communication with employees and external stakeholders to align expectations and realities and chart a path forward will help reduce the fear of the unknown, focus your people, and empower them to act.
Our team’s purpose—and promise—has always been to help leaders lead change. We are united in our commitment to doing all we can to support our colleagues, clients, partners, and friends in managing through the impacts of COVID-19. We will navigate this crisis together, the only way we know how…the DCG way. We stand with you, and we are ready to help.