Many leaders I speak with are feeling exhausted and uncertain how long their current situations will last.
In fact, each day may bring different emotions to leaders which is completely understandable. Myself included. Some mornings we may wake up feeling exhilarated while other days we see more obstacles. The thing about being a leader is that we have to stay focused and keep propelling forward, even when we may not want to. A leader models the way they want their team and colleagues to succeed even during the most difficult of times.
Have you noticed that communication is becoming less and less clear? Whether we are trying to send out an important letter to an organization or creating a virtual problem-solving session, we may be struggling with clarity and timing. If communication is the oil that keeps a team or community running, then now is the time for leaders to focus on the best way to stay connected.
Here are five leadership no-no’s during a crisis:
1. Don’t Think Of Yourself As A Role Model
To be an impactful leader we must recognize that whatever we say and the actions we take will be taken with seriousness. Our team members and customers look to us to display best practices during a challenging time. So if we are not showing compassion while still leading with intent that may end up being how others carry out their actions as well. If we show up on a zoom call disheveled or angry, we are giving others the options of being cranky too. If we drop off a call before it is ended with no explanation, we are modeling disrespect. Think about the role you want to model and make it happen.
2. Don’t Listen Strategically To Hear The Real Message
When leading during a global pandemic, listening to others to gain essential information and data is paramount. We may not be in our customary office spaces and there may be tons of distractions in our homes, but a strong leader is an extraordinary listener. We need to hear what is actually being shared. So how do we do that?
- During a virtual call look into the eyes of the person speaking.
- Be present by just focusing on the phone or video session.
- Ask clarifying questions to understand what is being expressed in the message. Think of questions that begin with: who, what where, when and how.
- Be supportive and approachable to encourage others to speak their truth.
3. Forget To Be Clear In The Communication
For a leader’s message to be effective they must place a high priority on being clear, open and direct. During times of uncertainty as we are dealing with today, it is even more important to take the time to express a clean message. Think about the word choice, the tone of your voice, your body language and hand gestures. I have seen leaders use inappropriate facial expressions that don’t match the words coming out of their mouths. This or any time for that matter, is not a moment to beat around the bush but rather to get to the point with back-up data. We need to share enough information for our audience to be able to process our communication, but not too much to confuse our message. Don’t bring in extraneous facts or stories. Tell stories to complement the essential communication.
4. Think It Is Better To Be Popular Than Honest
A leader needs to be authentic and truthful even at the risk of not being liked. The idea of being nice or popular is never acceptable especially during times of crisis. When leaders are honest:
- They share the good, the bad and the ugly.
- They are clear when offering unsettling facts. For example, telling their teams that working remotely may not end soon.
- They aren’t afraid to show all their cards even ones that may cause frustration or uncertainty. Better that, then having to paddle backwards.
- They stay upbeat and positive.
5. Put Speed Ahead Of Quality
It is never a good idea to lead by rushing instead of delivering a quality outcome. Although we may want to remedy a customer challenge quickly, we need to lead with purpose and accuracy. In a non-profit I am involved many emails need to get out to share critical information. What we have learned is that it is far better to send out a clear and correct message than to rush and share incomplete information. Try not to feel pressured.
What additional leadership no-no’s would you add to this list?
Related: It’s Time for Leaders to Plan