COVID-19 CEOS AND TEABAGS IN HOT WATER
I have never spoken as much to CEOs than in the last couple of weeks, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in Mauritius. Usually elusive and mostly in a hurry, CEOs are today navigating their teams towards virtual offices while navigating their own way towards what will be mostly very difficult decisions. We are talking about a massive downturn in the economy, retrenchments, and, for some, the survival of their business. And, through all of that, the need to communicate – now or later – remains.
Some advice :
National involvement – The recent Edelman Covid-19 Trust Barometer says that employees somehow expect their companies to protect them, but to a certain extent, also protect the communities around us. If you are in a position to somehow let your company be involved in some form of action that will percolate on the community, this action will communicate very loudly that you care – the engagement of your employees will rise.
Regular communication – In a study done by Harvard right after 9/11, employees in the US agreed that it was essential for them to hear from the leader – through email, social media or other – once a day. Or as regularly as possible. This applies today, in these times of unprecedented global unknown. The last thing you want to do is go quiet. It is essential to lead your teams through what is happening, what is being decided, what they can expect, etc. And it is OK to say that you don’t know it all and answers will come later.
Be authentic – Do not hide what you are feeling and you will be surprised by how your teams will react. You can share, on a personal level, the challenges of the work from home or the challenges of having to think of potential difficult decisions at work. Ultimately, authentic communication helps to build trust and faith in your company.
Leverage on facts and data – Build a team around you who can give you reliable, verifiable information, even if a CEO also has to lead with his guts. These times of unprecedented crisis where facts change daily call for leverage on hard facts – gut feeling should be listened to somewhere along the line, but proven tactics and data must now be privileged.
CEOs are in deep and often murky waters these days. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, it is when you put a tea bag in hot water that you will know how strong it is.