In my recent conversations with business owners and leaders, few if any of them, believe business is ever going back to what it was previously. However, clarity on what the new “normal” might look like is still an unknown. In the face of this uncertainty, most of the business owners and leaders I spoke with are evaluating new business models, new products and services and new go-to-market organizational structures that will help them be ready and adaptable to whatever the future brings.
Most of these business leaders are seeing their approach to leadership changing. Questions like those in my last email are common, especially in the area of what leadership skills to focus on to make the greatest difference in the months ahead and how to most effectively rally their teams to take the organization where it needs to go.
So, let’s dig in and let’s get REAL.
“R” is for Relate
In this segment we’ll focus on the importance great leaders place on connecting exceptionally well with their people. Great leaders inspire confidence, trust, and respect in their people. These leaders want their people to achieve their best and to be fully engaged in getting the organization where it needs to go. Even in times of uncertainty like we are in now, good leaders know it is important to chart business direction, to forge ahead, to take risks. And they need their people on board to do this.
How can you increase your effectiveness? To connect and link with your people, bring them together, speak to them openly, honestly, and often about the situation, as best as you understand it. Speak to them about what you know, and what you don’t know, and how they can contribute to where the business is heading.
Yes, the environment is still shifting. But even if you are not 100% sure, you need to communicate the direction you are taking and why. Describe the variables which might alter the direction and outline the milestones the company will be monitoring to change or hold course. Don’t be vague, be clear, be HONEST. People relate much better when they understand, when they feel listened to, and when they feel understood.
Right now, your people are fearful, uncertain, stressed by all the unknowns of the situation. Be empathetic to this. Take time to engage one on one with your team. Talk about their concerns, their family situations, their hopes and fears for the future, their ideas that might help the business. Show them you care. Ask your staff what they think and how they feel about the organization now and its future. Connect and respond to their questions and work to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Three Actions to Increase Your Ability to “Relate”
. CONDUCT A TOWN HALL MEETING. Bring your people together frequently to provide business updates, either in person (practicing social distancing) or virtually, using online technology such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, of Microsoft Teams – or whatever group software you are comfortable with. Here are four agenda points to structure the content and messages in your Town hall.
Thank you – Acknowledge the effort and changes that Covid-19 has had on your people and your business. Celebrate the wins, recognize the challenges and the impact it is having.
What have we learned – Discuss how Covid-19 has impacted the business, and identify the lessons learned. These might come from your staff, the marketplace, and other areas such as: Customer/Client purchase/buying habits, Political, Societal, or Technological impacts. These are important elements for people to understand, because these were instrumental considerations in realigning and charting ongoing and future business directions. If there are areas of uncertainty, identify what they are, and how the company will be monitoring these.
Road Ahead – Talk about where the company is going. Focus on customers and organizational structure for the road ahead. Solicit staff input and engage them in developing the plan for the new way forward. Recognize their contributions. If there are going to be business changes, state when they will take place. Provide a summary of next steps, including when the next update from you is going to be.
Questions – Always be open to and prepared for questions. Have a few prepared FAQ to start the conversation. Share the agenda with direct reports and staff a few days ahead of time. Let them know you encourage questions. When answering questions, be open, honest, and sincere. If you don’t know the answer to a question, that’s okay. Thank the individual for the question and let everyone know you will get the answer for them, and by when.
2. STAY CONNECTED. Make it a point to reach out and personally talk with your people. At a minimum reach out to your direct reports regularly. Check in with how they are doing, their families and loved ones. Ask them what they think about the Road Ahead. Have an open-door policy. Encourage suggestions and ideas. When we are in place of uncertainty, your people can be amazing sources of information, providing business pulse checks and being an extra set of eyes and ears to help the business move forward. Ask for help when you need it – people love to help, especially in an emergency.
3. KEEP INFORMED. If you are already conducting regular business updates, continue please. If you are not, now is the time to start. This is especially important when you have identified milestones the company will be monitoring.
If any of the ideas about relating have resonated with you, take the next steps, and put it into action right away. Don’t delay, time is of the essence. I am looking forward to helping you in anyway I can. And as I mentioned previously, if you would like to forward this on to another business owner, please do. We are all in this together!
Best and please be safe and healthy!