The most important thing...
Okay, it's a crisis. Something bad, really bad, has happened and you have to now step up to be a leader as you never have before. There are a million things swirling in your mind that you think you should be doing...
But one thing is absolutely the most important thing to do.
Communicate - early, often, and with candor.
Communicate to ALL your audiences. Take a moment to really tune in to who your audience's are and what each of them are feeling at this moment. Here are a few groups you might think about:Your team
- are they afraid for the future of your company? Afraid for their jobs? Are they confused about what and how they should be working now?Your clients
- They depend on your services, are they afraid that you will go under? Are they dealing with their own business right now and don't have time or energy to deal with you? What is their stress level? How can you help them? What would be great for them to hear right now? How can you add value to them, not add more stress?Your suppliers, your landlord
- What do they need to know about your financial position or stability? About changing, or stopping, your ordering patterns? Will you need a reduction in rent or more time to pay? What are THEY dealing with in their businesses? How can you be a good partner?Your investors, your bankers
- Are they afraid for your stability? Do they need to be reassured about the path you are following during this crisis? How can they help you?
So now you know who you need to communicate with, and you've thought about what they might be thinking and feeling. Before you start writing or recording your message, take time to just sit quietly and think about what your message should be. Think about who you are talking to in this particular message - clients, employees, vendors, etc - and what is likely to be their biggest concern at the moment. Pull an image into your mind of exactly who you are talking to, then think about what you want to convey, both the theme of your message and the feeling you want to share and create.
During a crisis, the path forward is unclear and the environment changes quickly. You don't need to have all the answers, you just need to shine the light on the path ahead. This helps your audience create a rational, cool-headed space and stay out of the fear-driven, fight-or-flight mental space. And helping your team, your clients, and all your business relationships to maintain calm DURING the storm is a sign of truly great leadership.