Right now, we are probably in the most stressful period many of us can remember, with great uncertainty on all fronts: political, economic, financial and of course the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaders are there to take away some of the uncertainty. It is critical that leaders are clear and able to convey certainty—not that good times are right around the corner, but the right person is in charge, the right team is in place and everyone is in good hands
What are some tips for how to communicate with employees and clients?
- Listening. Just knowing you are being heard eliminates a great deal of uncertainty. It is especially important for HR senior management to create the conditions where this can happen.
- Touching base regularly with remote employees. As more of us are forced to work remotely as an infection control measure, many people not used to this kind of physical isolation from co-workers will experience increased anxiety. Make sure staff is equipped for good remote communications and schedule regular video “facetime” when possible.
- Providing regular updates on company status. That said, like the news, too much is not useful and can itself induce stress. Updates should be regular, informative and short but not excessive. The goal is to make staff feel connected to the big picture but not overwhelmed.
- Offering tools to help with stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is one common technique anyone can learn and its effectiveness in reducing anxiety has been clinically proven. Even simply taking a few breaths is one of the oldest most reliable ways to reboot your brain. Evidence-based employee health and wellness programs are a key part of a holistic approach and can be found at: https://eapassist.com.au/digital/
Other actions leadership can take to help calm employees
- Lead by example. Don’t ask employees to do anything that you, as the leader, are not willing to do yourself.
- Be proactive with clients. They are no different than the rest of us in that they are looking for leadership. Communicate succinctly and honestly. In the current remote-working situation, video conferencing is a solid substitute for in-person meetings.
- When stating a problem, offer a solution before being asked. If your company missed a deadline, present a new timeline with the resources dedicated to making it happen.
- Don’t blame others or things beyond your control. Right now, your clients are under the same pressures and facing similar challenges. Present solutions without blaming the situation.
Are there any “don’ts” or pitfalls leadership should be wary of?
Being a leader means taking responsibility and, more importantly, accepting accountability. Clients know that circumstances are difficult but want to feel certain that you are still able to serve their needs the best of your ability. They want predictability, which is what our brains need to stay rational.
Don’t be unrealistically positive. Be confident, present your plan and execute but don’t over-promise. If anything, this is a good time to under-promise and over-deliver.
How can leadership stay calm themselves?
- Recognize what you are feeling, including fear and other uncomfortable feelings. Trying to suppress negative feelings never works.
- Accept those feelings without judgment.
- Investigate whatever the feeling is. Embrace the emotion and get curious about how it is impacting you in mind and body.
- Search the EAP Assist website for information and suitable digital programs & apps.