There aren’t many good things about COVID-19, but the pandemic has given company leaders a chance to learn about their own communication styles and readiness in a crisis.
The messaging you send now is important. Your response will remain in the minds of clients and employees long after the crisis is over. Here are a few tips for effective communication during troubled times.
Respond Quickly and Correctly
Multiple studies have shown that the first message is the most powerful. This is why a news story that gets the facts wrong still influences people’s thinking even after a correction is published. Most of us remember the wrong information better than we do the correction.
Companies that take too long to communicate an action plan and attitude will suffer. Employees lose confidence when there’s an information vacuum, and leaders are left scrambling to repair that loss rather than creating the perception that they want.
Be Truthful About Bad News
If you had to lay off team members, it’s imperative to announce the downsizing after it happens. This helps prevent rumors, and also gives leaders a chance to craft the right narrative around the reduction in force. You might discuss issues like reduced lead flow, lost revenue, client cancellations, and official mandates that affect current projects.
Companies that take too long to communicate an action plan and attitude will suffer.
Encourage questions and answer them with as much transparency as possible. Also, remind employees that your door is open anytime for a private meeting. Finally, empower your managers to talk with their teams and help them with messaging. When handled correctly, a crisis can actually galvanize people to pull together and renew ties.
Remember Three Cs
There are three aspects to establishing trust and loyalty from your team during a crisis, and it’s important that as a leader you embody them all. Most of us can smell when these things are faked.
Caring: Research shows that when leaders are perceived as caring about their team, all messages are more likely to be accepted. Validate people’s fears. Acknowledge their uncertainty about the future. The human touch goes a long way.
Competence: While it may be necessary to adjust policies during a changing situation, it’s important to project an air of decisiveness and control. This inspires confidence in the company and in your leadership.
Commitment: State your goals whenever possible. What are the company’s short-term objectives? Are you still hoping for a flat year? Commit to those goals and keep them as talking points. This creates a sense of structure during a scarily unstructured time.
Unfortunately we can’t change the disruption that has happened in our businesses and our lives. But we can control our reactions to them. And that makes a huge difference.