Leading Through Change

As our world has changed overnight and continues to minute-by-minute, leading through this change and uncertainty is a huge weight for a business owner to carry. Not only is there a concern for the business, but employees, employees’ families and, of course, our own families.

In a time of change or crisis, employees look to leaders to provide guidance, reassurance and compassion. And while there are upsetting emotions as we think through various scenarios, it is important to be honest, transparent and also calm.

Be Honest

You are most likely feeling some uneasy feelings. Worried about the business and balancing safety of employees and customers, while still servicing customers. Concerned about our employees’ health, our health and the health of families and friends.

Share with the team your concerns. Be honest with them. Teams have respect for a leader who is also human. Leaders are not expected to be super humans all the time and it is okay to have these feelings and share them. Acknowledge the emotions, why and focus on putting a plan in place.

Share What You Know

Make sure to share any information you know about the business at this moment. But also acknowledge things are in flux and can change. Provide as much detail as you can, and think is appropriate for the people in the room. Remember, knowledge is power. Not sharing important information may result in the team making up their own story filled with misinformation, rumors may start, and people may begin to worry or feel anxious.

Answer Questions

Your team will have questions. Be sure to give them the opportunity to ask questions and provide as much as you can. This will help alleviate nerves and reduce the possibility of rumors or other misinformation throughout the organization.

The Plan

Consider working through various scenarios: Good, bad, worse. Determine in each scenario what needs to be done to preserve the business, employees, customers, etc. This will take some tough decisions. However, it is better to plan and have the answers now, rather than having to think through it as the circumstances become worse and you are at a heightened emotional state.

Ask for Input

Share the outline or the basics of the plan with the team and ask for input, ideas and solutions. This gives everyone a chance to feel ownership, included and simply more comfortable a plan exists. And take the suggestions into consideration. This is your front line; they may see have better vantage point on a particular aspect of the business that can really help during the change.

Consider Radical Alternatives

It is time to think outside the box and consider alternatives, no matter how radical, to help sustain the business. Examples include reducing all employee time to four days versus five days to reduce payroll but not have to let someone go. Another would be to give customers longer net terms, a free month of service rather than cancel the contract, reduced billing for a timeframe and other such measures. This may be a time to shift your sales people from cold-calling to working with the marketing team to develop the case studies they have been meaning to put together for months, or attend some virtual training, or create a sales play book.

There are probably endless options to review to help keep the business as stable as possible. Keep your mind open and do the analysis, not only the financial analysis but the human capital analysis as well.

Act Decisively

Again, with a plan in place for different scenarios and input from the team, decisions are made, but still need to be executed as things change and progress. Act decisively, stick with the plan, or if something really unexpected has happened, review quickly, thoroughly and decide. In most cases, apologizing for an over-reaction is easier than the under reaction or no reaction at all.

Keep Communicating

It is not enough to have the proverbial open door policy. Schedule meetings to not only provide updates, but to receive feedback and updates as well. This could be necessary daily depending on your company or industry.

Make sure you are proactively talking to employees, both one-on-one as well as full teams. If you notice a team member being quiet, or looking worried or upset, open a conversation with them privately. Listen to them and their concerns. Sometimes just listening can reassure people.

Know Each Person Handles This Differently

Similar to how people grieve differently, people handle crisis, change and uncertainty very differently. Cater to each person and how they are feeling and handling things. Be respectful of their feelings and how they handle the situation. One person may want to talk through things, another person may want to stay quiet. Everyone should still remain respectful, courteous and be as collaborative as possible. This is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior.

Control What You Can

Many of today’s issues is out of all of our hands. Control what you can. Help your employees control what they can. The rest, monitor and continue to plan against various scenarios as things happen. In other words, simply accept the reality.

This Too Shall Pass

Above all, as the saying goes, this too shall pass. And leaders who are able to lead through change and crisis successfully will gain more respect from their team. Be the leader you would want to follow through a difficult time.

How Can I Help?

I can help with various aspects of leading through a crisis or change. Contact me today for assistance in financial planning, strategy, scenario planning and much more.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

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