by Jordan Birnmaum

There's a lot happening for people as they engage with leaders during a time of crisis, and unconscious evaluations greatly affect how they process what they hear. Addressing those needs can ensure that your communications have the greatest positive impact. Here is some guidance on how best to do so.

  1. Don't sugarcoat, but don't freak people out, either. People will either stop trusting what you say or stop wanting to hear from you altogether.
  2. Admit what you don't know. It will let your team know they can trust everything else that you say.
  3. Update them as soon as you learn anything. If they know they can count on you to share important, relevant information on a timely basis, it frees up valuable time and mental energy.
  4. Check-in regularly. People need quite a bit right now – stability, connection, up-to-date information, adaptability, hope. Checking in checks those boxes. Knowing they can count on you counts for a lot.
  5. Help your people articulate their fears by articulating yours. When people say their fears out loud those fears become less powerful. The best way to help your people is to role model and ask (during one-on-ones).
  6. Validate those fears and offer your support. Let them know they're not crazy for feeling how they do, that you understand, and that you'll try to help them however you can. Be prepared to point them to approved resources for external support.
  7. Whenever possible, have a plan. Meaningful action is the antidote to anxiety. Even if it is just a schedule to stay connected, people benefit from a plan and collective action.
  8. Help people identify what can/cannot be controlled; focus on the former. It's cliché for a reason. Figuring it out with your people, both personally and professionally, will help you all tremendously.
  9. If possible, turn crisis into opportunity. If your people are lucky enough to be able to work from home, what long-term projects are about to get attention? If they're not able to work from home, what new skills can they develop during this time?
  10. Let them know that you care. Now is not the time to assume they know. And it matters. A lot.

While you personally (in all likelihood) can do very little to affect the broader crisis, you can have an incredibly meaningful impact on other people's experiences with it. This is especially true for your team. You'll find that doing so helps you as much as it helps them.

Learn more about our COVID-19 Preparedness Plans.