Working from home provides flexibility but it comes with challenges for leaders, especially in times of crisis and disruption like many of us are facing. In this 10 minute video, Joni draws on her years as an executive coach at Aspyre Wealth Partners and her career in Corporate America. While these times are unprecedented in some respects, her five tips for crisis leadership are built on the basics of Communication 101 and showing up with integrity and empathy.
Five Tips for Crisis Leadership
- Remain Calm
- Prioritize Work
- Short Term Action
“Think ambitiously, but advance patiently.”
A transcript is included below for those who prefer to read rather than listen or watch a video.
Hi, I’m Joni Lindquist, I’m a financial planner and executive career coach at Aspire Wealth Partners. We help people Master What’s Next in their lives and help them through transitions and this includes both their work lives, managing their career, and also managing their money and their financial lives.
We think both the career and financial are important. It’s all a part of your life together. I would argue that your career — and managing that effectively — helps you build your financial wealth.
So today I’m just going to take a couple minutes and talk about this time of pandemic — an unprecedented times for all of us. Talk about leadership in times of crisis!
I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned in working with my executive coaching clients. Here are five tips that I thought about today. And there’s probably more than five, honestly. But it’s important to at least get focus and we’ll talk about that as we continue here.
I really believe if you focus on these five things it presents a great opportunity for you to either rise as a leader in these times of crisis or falter because it’s during times of crisis that leadership comes to the forefront.
People will either crumble or they will rise higher. These are tips to help you rise higher in these very challenging times.
The first one is to communicate. It’s always important as a leader to communicate with team but it’s even more important in a time of a crisis. There’s so much uncertainty and a lot of anxiety, from your team.
The first thing about communication is making sure you are talking with them on a continuous basis. And this could be in different forms — and should be in different forms.
- For example you have team meetings on Zoom. Zoom is a wonderful thing. So all of you see each other. You check in. That could be daily. Could be every other day. It could be weekly as we go through this. Depending on what you feel your team needs.
- I also supplement that with individual check-ins with your team to make sure that they are doing well and that they understand what’s important and what the priorities right now are for them. That’s really important, too.
If you can’t, say you manage hundreds of people and you can’t get to everybody. Talk to your highest level direct reports. Then for larger teams, where you can’t talk to people individually, break them into small teams of three or four people, because you really want to understand where their mental aspect is. Where they are mentally, and how they are dealing through this.
Crisis leadership is not just about the work. You want to check in with them as human beings. Early on, especially in uncertain times. A lot of times people will be free with their feelings and what they what they’re going through. If you’re in a bigger team setting, the one-on-one or one-to-very-few will help accelerate that.
The other thing is to not only communicate and talk to folks; it’s also important to listen. Right? Communication is two way. It’s very important to listen to what they are saying. And what they aren’t saying.
- Make sure you ask questions and don’t just let them get away with, “Oh I’m fine.”
⦁ Ask about what their days are like.
⦁ Ask what challenges they’re having.
⦁ Talk about opportunities.
⦁ Talk about successes along the way, so they get a sense of that they’re making progress individually. Talk about all those things and listen to their answer.
- Make sure you are really tapped into how they are feeling. This is really important as a leader. Right now, hear what is said and what isn’t said, and make sure you get a full discovery on that.
1b. Communicate About Decisions
The other thing with communication as you set out plans and attack plans for how you’re doing your work these days, is to communicate your assumptions behind the decisions you are making. That’s really important because we’re finding that day in and day out things are changing so dramatically, so fast, that what you were seeking today we may find out something new tomorrow. So your decision you made yesterday might not make sense.
Instead of looking like you’re flip flopping with the team, if they understand the assumption behind your decision, then when the assumptions change you can come back and say, “Okay we’ve got to alter. We’ve got a shift and it’s because of this. Because the assumption isn’t the same anymore.”
That will lead to more credibility, and it shows your team that you respect what they what they think. That their knowledge is important to you. You are communicating what’s really the assumptions behind your decision so we understand the full context of your decision making.
Second thing is honesty. Honesty is always important. But it is ratcheted up right now. You have to be honest with what you know and what you don’t know.
- Don’t be pretend to know everything. It’s really important to be authentic with who you are.
- Say what you do know. What you think.
- Say what you think based on the assumptions you’re making. And — the direction you’re asking them to go based on your assumptions.
- Say what you don’t know. And what you will fill in later.
- Make sure you’re very honest with how you’re approaching the business and what you’re asking them to do.
If you don’t know something, certainly say it. We can’t be fake during these times because people will see through that fakeness immediately.
3. Remain Calm
The third is remaining calm. As a leader this is fascinating to me.
Daniel Goleman did some of the original work on emotional intelligence. His work showed that with neuroscience, that followers will follow their leader based on the emotions of the leader. They tend to mirror what the leader is feeling and however the leader is behaving.
So if I act stressed, frustrated, angry, fearful, my team will start to feel that same way. They will mirror those feelings and those emotions. However, if I remain calm. And even if I don’t have all the answers, I remain calm. “We’re going to get through this.” “Let’s take it day by day, week by week.”
When you show that to the team, they are going to mirror that emotion. You might not always feel that way, but make sure you are ready when you are talking with your team, so that you can remain calm during those discussions with them.
4. Prioritize Work
Always prioritize work. In our knowledge-based society, there’s always more work to be done than the time we have, and the resourced to do it.
The reality of our teams working remotely, if they have children, they’re trying to also be teachers along with getting their work done. And sadly, some of you may have team members who have fallen, who have been suffering with COVID or have family members or loved ones dealing with the actual virus and are sick themselves. So you’re down, short team members. That means reduced working hours and possibly reduced productivity.
When you don’t have a full 100% of your resources, it is critical to prioritize the most important work. We have a tendency to be doing 10 to 20 different things at once. It is really important right now to back off of that.
- If you were introducing three new products this next quarter. back up to maybe one. Get that one done, and then move to the next one. You can have success with more sequential work right now, versus trying to do a lot of things all at the same time.
- Focus on the have-to-haves in your business, versus the nice-to-haves. Make changes and do this again and again. Continue to tell your folks why those changes have happened — based on the assumptions you were making when you prioritized that work.
It helps people get that sense of control that they know why things are happening. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment that we got this thing done over the course of a couple weeks — versus having many balls up and not feeling like they’re making a lot of great progress.
If your team knows what they need to focus on, that will help them when they have limited hours. Or when they get distracted at home, it will help them focus on their work, and you’ll get the most productivity you can.
5. Short Term Actions
The last point I have on my five tips is about short term action. There’s a really good article in the Wall Street Journal, written by Sam Walker on April 27 about leadership, and how to we can we get this right as we start to reopen the economy and businesses.
This is about leadership in times of crisis, and moving into reopening. One of the quotes I really like is, “Think ambitiously, but advance patiently.”
For you as a leader, it’s still important to continue to think about the future of your business, about your department, your division, to understand and try to acknowledge what’s happening, whether it is civil unrest or the pandemic, COVID-19. Specifically you want to know how that might affect your customers, your clients, your vendors.
- You need to think about:
⦁ How your workers are going to continue to work
⦁ You want to understand what your work looks like; how it affects everyone
⦁ How people buy and interact with your product or service
- Is this going to change?
⦁ You want to be thinking globally and thinking about the industry trends
⦁ Think about the trends we see in a new world now
⦁ You may not know all the answers, but you certainly want to be thinking about that
⦁ You want to take a step back and think about a short term action plan and help your team
If you think your world’s going to change dramatically, help your clients interface with you. Take the work in small chunks.
So maybe your short term action is some sort of change on a technological platform that you are using so that you better interact with your customers. Maybe that’s the very first thing you prioritize and focus and get that as a short term win for your team. Again, they’ll feel more a sense of of control and a sense of accomplishment. Along the way, it’s really important to focus on those short term actions.
Through all of this, it is about showing compassion, empathy, trying to understand what your team is going through. What they’re going through individually.
One of my teammates sent through a GIF early on in this work from home process.
We’re all in a storm and it’s raining. For some of us it’s a sprinkle and for some of it’s a monsoon.
On different days it’s a thunderstorm. There are different variations of it. So everybody’s a little bit unique in their situation. Understanding where your individuals are and being there with them through this, they will never forget that and you’ll advance your leadership. You’ll also get more productivity done.
Good luck. And if we can help. Just give us a shout here at Aspyre Wealth Partners. We can help you manage your team and help you advance in your career. Take care.
NOTE: Within the video, Joni references a Wall Street Journal article by Sam Walker, “Getting The Restart Right: How To Lead When Nobody Has A Map.”
Joni Lindquist, MBA, CFP®, a former corporate executive, is a Principal, Financial Planner and Executive Coach at Aspyre Wealth Partners. She helps people Master What’s Next®, no matter what phase of life. Aspyre partners with clients to navigate life transitions. A dog lover, Joni also golfs, exercises, travels, and watches old mystery TV shows.
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