5 Simple Things Heroic Leaders Communicate During Distress
Friday, March 27, 2020
Cue the triumphant music. We need heroes. We need people to swoop in and show confidence. We need people who can become a rock—unbreakable, immoveable, and calm. We need you. It’s your time to step forward, leaders. The world is in distress. And, so are your people. Your teams are facing a myriad of highly-stressful questions like: “Will I be safe? Is my job at risk? How do I protect my family? And, when will everything return to normal?”
These are legitimate questions. And, I don’t care who you are, or how big your title is, the only honest answer any real leader can give anyone is: “I don’t know the answer.”
Here’s the humble answer we all need to be courageous to give right now—as bosses, colleagues, professionals, and parents to children who believe we know something they don’t know—“Nobody has the answers.”
That, for many of us, is a harsh, honest, reality. However, it’s what is necessary. And, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, it can be good—as it’s the only way you can build trust.
If you’re a leader, a parent, a colleague, or a friend, here are 5 things you need to communicate to the people around you—to inspire hope, strength, and tenacity.
1: I don’t know the answers, and that’s okay. This is the truth. Everyone knows it. Nobody wants to talk about it. We don’t know how long this will last, who it will effect, and what will ultimately happen in the future. But, that’s okay. Why? Well, quite simply because these same statements can be made in good times and bad. Nobody can ever promise security. No one can promise sameness. And, no one wants it either. We, as humans, are intended to grow. And, change is necessary for growth. Not knowing the answers is not only okay, but it’s something we all should look for as a constant.
2: I care. This may be the most important thing you need to communicate right now. Each of us is facing the unknown, which can be terribly frightening. Your team members are scared. And, some of you will be asked to deliver bad news. But, businesses are based on budgets. It’s a hard reality. But, trust me (from personal experience) there’s nothing worse than telling an employee who’s job is being eliminated, “We’re not worried about you.” Make a special point, before, during, and after bad news, to show people you actually care.
3: We are in this together. In my lifetime, and probably yours, I’ve never witnessed something that is actually a global talking point and shared concern. Yet, it’s human nature for your people to only be concerned right now about how this will impact their lives. Bring your people into the conversation. We’re all dealing with the same thing, and all the different things that are unique to our own lives. Ask your people, “How is this affecting you?” And, tell your people, “This is how it’s impacting me.” We’re all in this together. And, the moment we all understand that, we can start making positive change.
4: Opportunity is rampant. I often quote and interview a lot of global leaders in my books, articles, and posts. But, this is a first. I want to quote someone who has had a profound impact on my life and career, that many of you have never heard of, my mom. “Todd, something good comes out of everything.” She’s right. We may be facing a pandemic that will cause a lot of pain. But, we’re also facing a change that will make many of us see things we’ve never seen before. Times of change open our eyes to new ways, procedures, cost savings, and opportunities like nothing else. There will be people and companies that don’t just recover from this crisis, but instead will understand a better way to move forward when this is all over. They’ll grab the opportunity and run. Tell your people to look for that opportunity.
5: I believe in you. Countless companies and managers are sending their people home to work for the first time…ever. And, while this obviously is an uneasy time, your people need to know that you trust them. This means, you need to assume that they care about their job, your department, and your company as it weathers this storm. Give your people the benefit of the doubt. Realize they’re dealing with other distractions and stressors at home. Give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion, because this is why you hired them—not because you thought they needed to check in every hour, but because you believed they would bring value to your team and organization. Believe in them.
The world needs heroes right now. You can be one of them. You don’t need to be on the front lines. You don’t need to be saving lives with your bare hands. You just need to be a leader. Be honest. Show them you care and that we’re all in this together. Be an optimist and reveal the opportunity. And, finally, trust yourself—that you’ve hired the right people to help you through this.
Oh, and by the way, keep this list. It works just as effectively in good times and bad.