Leading your people through a crisis – whether it’s the Covid-19 pandemic, budget cuts, or one-off emergencies – requires a certain set of traits. Do you know what they are?
In our last post, we identified ‘decisiveness’ as the first key trait of effective leaders. But although fast decision-making is key, if your team doesn’t know what those decisions are then they won’t be effective. Communication is key.
We all process information differently, especially in crisis situations. You need to factor that into how you communicate changes to your team.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States suggests there are 4 ways we process information differently under stress: by simplifying messages, holding on to current beliefs, seeking additional information and opinions, and believing. the first message we hear.
That means it’s essential for leaders to:
From our data, we heard a lot of concerning stories: leaders being absent, ‘going into a hole’ and teams not hearing from them for weeks. There was a lack of direction, and clarity.
Part of being a leader is frequently explaining the situation – where the company is, what they know and don’t know, and what actions are being taken. And in a pandemic, ‘frequently’ should mean every day.
But we’re all human – and humans experience a fight-or-flight response which affects both our problem-solving ability, and our capacity to hear and understand data. Effective leaders know this, so are taking frequent pauses to process, reassess, and keep their people up-to-date.
On 5th May 2020, Brain Chesky made 25% of his workforce redundant. CEO and Cofounder of Airbnb, his company suffered a devastating hit during the pandemic – with the booming empire of holiday lettings affected by global lockdowns and travel bans.
That’s never an easy decision, and it’s an ever harder conversation. But the letter Brian wrote his teams could not have been more clear about the reasons for the layoffs, and the difficulty of coming to this outcome. He was clear about:
His open communication, and show of humanity, doesn’t make the painful decision easier. But it does give his people the exit they deserve.
Check in next week for the next trait you need to deliver effective crisis leadership.