21 Apr 2020
Providing True Leadership During Times of Crisis
Read time: 4 minutes
As a business leader, you’ve undoubtedly weathered various challenges throughout your career. However, chances are, nothing could prepare you for what we now face in the form of COVID-19. How do you lead your agents and employees—not to mention your clients—during a deadly pandemic that’s turned everyone’s lives and businesses upside down?
Take heart. While this may indeed be the greatest crisis of our lives, it’s not the first one confronted by modern mankind. By studying other calamities of the recent past, we can learn what people need most from their leaders during turbulent times.
With that thought, we reviewed what top leadership experts and researchers have to say regarding effective crisis leadership. At the end of the day, we concluded that the most effective business leaders engage in these seven activities to guide their team steadfastly through a crisis.
- Provide a Clear Path Forward
In the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, most of us were paralyzed with shock and uncertainty—and many of us still feel anxious and adrift.
One of the most valuable gifts you can offer your agents and employees right now is a clear path forward. You might begin with something as simple as reminding your team what your purpose is—say, to continue servicing your clients to the best of your abilities, while pursuing sales opportunities in the most meaningful way possible.
From there, you can develop specific operational strategies. You don’t need to be brilliant, but you do need to be decisive. By offering your team a well-defined action plan, you provide them with stability and a sense of control.
- Offer Reassurance and Hope
In a time of crisis, it’s normal human behavior to focus on basic survival needs: safety, security, predictability, and good health.
Be aware of this in your communications with your team. While you want to set a positive tone, don’t ignore what your people are dealing with. Recognize that some are having a harder time than others. Take that extra step of reaching out to them individually. Show them that you care about their well-being. Sometimes, listening is enough.
Similarly, be prepared to reassure clients—more than once if needed—even when you need a little reassurance yourself. Your clients will remember your kindness.
- Define Clear Expectations
When everything is up in the air, it’s valuable to return to the basics. Now’s a great time for clarifying your expectations of agents and employees, setting clear business protocols, and making sure everyone knows what their role is right now.
To get the most from your people, give them clear direction. Set realistic goals and deadlines. Define their value to the agency. This helps people stay focused and productive, despite what’s going on around them.
- Communicate Honestly with Your Team
Recognize that people are hungry for information about the pandemic, the shutdowns, and the impact on their livelihoods. While there is no way of providing much of the information they seek, take steps to keep your team informed. Share what you know (make sure your information comes from reliable sources), and admit what you don’t.
Flatly put, during a crisis, people turn to leaders they can trust. We see this playing out now on the global political stage. Give your agents, employees and clients every reason to believe in you.
- Collaborate with Your Team
Are you familiar with the expression, “All of us is smarter than one of us?” There truly is power in the collaborative process. When developing strategies for moving forward, ask your team for input. Be open to all ideas, even the ones you don’t initially favor. In addition to surfacing some great, new ideas, you are empowering your people by giving them a voice.
- Set a Good Example
Your people will take their cues from you. If you expect them to put in a full workweek while sheltering in place, do the same on your end. Similarly, follow public safety and health guidelines, such as practicing social distancing.
In addition, take responsibility for your business. If you make a bad call, admit it and change direction. We’re all operating in new territory here. Your people will respect you more for it.
- Take Care of Yourself
It’s hard to project confidence and optimism when you’re just as anxious and worried as everyone else. Take time to take care of yourself. Eat right, work out, get enough sleep—in light of COVID-19, self-care matters more than ever. All these things will help you maintain your own focus, energy and optimism.
Finally, make time for the people who mean the most to you. Right now, your friends and family may need your reassurance and attention as much as your team and clients do. True leaders don’t do it alone.