Leadership During Uncertain Times

During the last two decades, our country has experienced several periods of great business uncertainty. Periods of severe business, economic, and personal crisis resulted from the widespread dot-com failures in 2001, the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, and now the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these events brought a more severe economic impact than the last. Beyond its severe economic impact, COVID-19 also brought an unprecedented level of concern and uncertainty regarding our personal health and wellbeing. The full effect on our nation’s economy and our personal lives remains uncertain. This uncertainty presents unique challenges to business leaders in managing their most valuable asset – their employees.

No one likes uncertainty. During a crisis, your employees are likely to experience a wide range of concerns and questions. Will they keep their job? Will the company survive? Will they be able to make ends meet at home? What happens if they have a family emergency or a spouse loses employment?

Your leadership team is the company’s barometer. The way you respond to uncertainty will influence your employees’ attitude and outlook. Studies show that as human anxiety levels rise, decision-making ability declines. Providing leadership and good communication will help reassure your staff through uncertain times and give them the ability to stay focused and make good decisions for themselves and your company.

(OVER) COMMUNICATE

If you think you are communicating too much during uncertain times, you’re probably
communicating just enough. More than ever before, those connected to your company need to hear from you regularly. If you don’t find ways to provide employees with the information they seek, they’ll find other sources for information. Their source of information (or disinformation) could become the rumor mill. Nothing shuts down a rumor mill faster than frequent, transparent communication.

But what if you don’t have all the answers? That’s ok. Just be honest in your communications. Show legitimate concern over uncertainty and the challenges you are facing, while also providing reassurance and optimism. After all, our economy is very resilient and has always bounced back. Chances are, your business has survived many tough challenges and downturns in the past. When times are difficult, don’t sugarcoat or be evasive in your communications. Instead, show strength and confidence to your employees. This is your time to inspire, reassure and demonstrate compassion while making difficult decisions.

COACH MIDDLE MANAGEMENT

A well-intentioned but inexperienced manager can do damage to your overall message. Don’t assume all your managers and team leaders are on the same page as you are. You should communicate to them how the company is addressing current challenges, determine what questions they have, and answer them. Then, guide them on how to best communicate that information to their teams. Ideally, a low-level employee should get the same answers from their manager as they would from you.

CREATE A PLAN

Create a plan to address the existing uncertainties and challenges. Be sure your
management team has input into developing your strategy. Fully assess your current
situation and a range of contingencies. Encourage brainstorming and creativity from your team in addressing novel situations. Be decisive whenever reasonably possible don’t wait for complete clarity. Decisiveness will help remove uncertainty and apprehension with your management team. Weigh the cost of indecision, and don’t let the fear of a wrong decision paralyze your organization. Even a plan providing a general roadmap with key trigger points is better than no plan at all. Be agile in decision making and don’t be afraid to address new issues and modify your plan accordingly. Be sure your team understands the plan and how to communicate it through different levels within your organization.

CONSIDER PEOPLE NOT MERELY PROFITS

Amid uncertainty, it makes sense to be concerned about your company’s bottom line.
However, if your team believes that you care more about profits than their wellbeing, you’ll probably lose their trust and support. When things rebound, you could face a costly turnover problem. Of course, keeping your company healthy and weathering the storm is crucial. Hard decisions will need to be made. However, remember to lead from both your heart and your head. Be willing to address unique personal circumstances and demonstrate compassion. Your employees will take note and be more supportive when difficult decisions must be made. Remember, your employees’ perception is your reality, and it’s up to you to convey the message that they are your most important asset.

FIND A SHARED SENSE OF PURPOSE

Create an atmosphere that “we’re all in this together.” Don’t let people feel isolated. Most people feel there is strength in numbers and find additional motivation in supporting team goals and objectives. A crisis is an opportunity for your team to bond and come out stronger on the other side. Use your company’s mission statement and core values to remind your employees of your shared purpose for the company and its employees. In addition, consider finding ways for your team to help the community during a crisis. Collective efforts to give back to the community creates a shared purpose and helps curb anxiety.

TAKING THE RIGHT APPROACH TO UNCERTAINTY

The past has taught us that, unfortunately, periods of great uncertainty do arise in
business, often without warning. During uncertainty, employees are looking for leadership and reassurance. Developing a plan, creating a shared sense of purpose and good communications are critical during this time. Demonstrating leadership, decisiveness and compassion are key in responding to uncertainty and creating trust with your team, because your actions will be remembered after things resume to normal. The proper approach can further strengthen your organization and create lasting goodwill with your employees.


Partnering with a staffing expert, like Qualified Staffing, can help you lead during times of uncertainty. Contact Qualified Staffing today to learn more. 

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