5 Strategies to Communicate, Connect, and Lead During a Pandemic
Covid-19 has become the primary preoccupation of our minds and hearts (in addition to Racial Injustice). Everything in our life and business is “contaminated” by the threats posed by the virus.
Many of us would rather not have to focus on its implications on health, family, relationships, work, businesses, communities, and society. Some of us would prefer to pretend that it does not exist, and we would be better off behaving that way or at least doing so would be easier in the short term.
These are not effective strategies. The virus is here. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all experiencing effects from Covid-19. Consequently, our circumstances, concerns, and attitudes have changed.
As leaders, if we decide to ignore these realities, we risk losing credibility, getting tuned out, or derided as out of touch by those we seek to influence.
Our power resides in choosing how we respond to the virus, not in disregarding it. Do we choose to engage in new habits such as wearing masks and physical distancing? Do we adjust existing behaviors such as increasing our focus on people’s thoughts and feelings when we interact with them?
When communicating during moments of crisis, be sure to speak to the matters of greatest importance to your audience. Demonstrating empathy with your stakeholders is key to ensuring their readiness to receive your message, strengthening connections, and expanding your impact with them.
There are five dominant needs shared by your associates, colleagues, and customers alike. Do your best to fulfill them in every interaction.
1. Trust and safety.
2. Community and collaboration.
3. Engagement and commitment.
4. Acknowledgement and understanding.
Regardless of whether these fundamental desires are new or already existed, their significance has been amplified. Threats and uncertainty will do that.
It is critical for leaders to acknowledge this priority shift and respond accordingly. Pay attention to what you include in your messaging and what you leave out.
Do your communications meet your recipient’s needs or do they ignore, and even undermine them? Leaders succeed by meeting needs and fail when they do not.
For better communication outcomes, run your messages through the following filters to determine whether you are meeting the concerns of prime importance to your audience. You will be more likely to get them to respond in the way that you want and need.
Communicate in ways that:
1. Enlist trust and provide safety. We all seek to retain and restore trust during periods of crises and need to feel safe in various ways.
2. Generate community and facilitate collaboration. Even as we are physically less connected, we desire relationships and ways to contribute to a larger whole.
3. Encourage engagement and deepen commitment. We want to make things better and entrust our loyalty to things that are worthwhile.
4. Listen and attune to others with empathy and compassion. Stay curious about your associates and customers. Ask them about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Pay attention to what remains unsaid.
5. Inform them about what matters. We want to know where our organizations are headed, what is expected from us, and how we can contribute.
Take the time to consider how you can convey these five elements to your associates and customers in each and every interaction. Now, more than ever, follow the adage that “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Stay safe and be well.