How can you show up for your people during this deeply unsettling time? What do they need most from you this week?
While you need to focus on your business, caring for your people should be at the top of your list. They are counting on you for information, stability, and compassion.
Based on my many years advising companies during crises as the CEO of my Employee Assistance Program and on input from current clients who are exceptional leaders, here are my suggestions for helping your people during this time of uncertainty.
Check In and Listen.
Ask all your direct reports how they and their families are doing. Inquire directly about how they are feeling. Listen carefully and ask more questions. What are you facing? What’s your biggest concern? How is your family? How is your team?
Don’t rush these conversations—people need to talk about their emotions and worries so they can truly be focused on their work.
Ask “Is there anything I can do to help?” Your concern will build deep trust, connection, and loyalty.
Remind your employees that mental health services are available if their anxiety becomes overwhelming. Share the contact information for your employee assistance program or state mental health hotline if those are available.
You will need to continue this “checking-in” while we are moving through all the phases of the crisis.
Make sure that your direct reports continue this chain of caring with all of their people as well. This should become a company- wide practice that all colleagues can do. We can’t ignore that people are feeling anxious, worried, and sad—even if they don’t talk about their feelings.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
Your employees are hungry for information about what is going on with you and with the company.
While the cadence can be adjusted, it’s important to communicate on a stable schedule and often. One of my clients is holding a daily check in with all employees and is sponsoring a mid-afternoon coffee hour via Zoom that anyone can join if they want to connect.
Get information out about any major changes as quickly as possible. When people know they can rely on you to share important information, they will trust you and there will be less rumors.
If you want to view a great example of communication, check out the latest news conference with Governor Cuomo of New York. He is a master of providing tough statistics combined with his specific action plans for managing responses to the virus. He also shares all the good works New Yorkers are doing, especially the healthcare workers. And he connects people with his words. Today, he closed his comments this way: “As New Yorkers, we will be there for each other as we always have been.”
We don’t know how long this crisis will last. Remind your people that we are in this together, that we will help each other and each other’s families.
As Governor Cuomo said, “Humanity is going to overcome this crisis at the end of the day. I promise you that.” I promise you that.
Sharon Dougherty is the CEO of Priority Coaching, an executive coaching and consulting firm. She works with CEOs and senior leaders in major corporations, startups, healthcare systems, universities, and non-profit organizations. Her client list includes ADP; ARAMARK; BMW; Bowery Farming; Chief; Estee Lauder; Flatiron Health; Merck; New York Presbyterian; Novo Nordisk; Seamless; Slice; Spire; The Sill; and the Wharton School of Business.
CEO, Priority Coaching