Updated: Apr 16, 2020
I have countless conversations with my clients, colleagues and friends over the past few weeks concerning leadership, decision making and this crisis. Unfortunately, I've been hearing some unbelievably bad stories about how leaders and companies are handling things right now. Instead of telling you the top five things you should be doing as a leader right now, these are examples of the worst things you could do.
In no particular order...
1. Pretend this is OK. Stop pretending. Hopeful, confident, and positive are not synonymous with pretending. Give people the time and space they need to process this. It feels like an alien invasion or an episode of Stranger Things. Have a discussion about the real of this and allow for anything to be said. Share your vulnerabilities honestly too. Be a leader but also be a human being.
2. Lying about the future. Your employees and teams need to hear truth and uncertainty in honest language. Telling everyone everything is going to be fine, then laying people off 2 days later is unacceptable. If you don't know, say that. If you are staring at 5 tough choices and none of them are easy, then speak that out loud. You can be realistic and hopeful simultaneously.
3. Hiding at home (sticking your head in the sand). If you are playing dodgeball with phone calls from your team, managers, Board of Directors, etc. STOP. Avoiding problems does not make them go away. Face this head on, regardless of the outcome, and your customers and employees will respect it.
4. Having multiple personalities. You have to get on board with consistency. Being spastic, emotionally volatile or unpredictable right now does not provide the stability your employees need. Freak out when you can privately. Communicate with consistency publicly. Don't email out important stuff and talk about cats in your zoom meetings. Be appropriate in where, when and how you deliver bad news.
5. Self-protectionism - or any form of selfishness. There is no place in the world right now for this, there never has been. No one will follow a leader, or return to work for a company where they thought the leader was saving only the jobs and salaries at the top. Take one for the team. Cut something for yourself first. Put your needs aside and think of others.
6. Acting Defensive. If you are lashing out at others and feeling defensive, you need to stop and ask yourself why. Defensive behavior makes you look guilty and like you are hiding something. It makes people suspicious and makes them uneasy. They immediately feel uncertain and that they will be soon be blamed or thrown under the bus. It erodes trust in an organization almost as quickly as dishonesty.
7. Demanding perfection. We are all being asked to do things we never imagined at work, all while juggling the stress, our hand sanitizer, our bills and our lives. Start the day instead by assuming everyone is doing their best and that is good enough today. Be reasonable and give grace. Ask what can get done, not telling what you expect to get done.
8. Assuming the worst. Quit thinking that your employees working from home are screwing around and eating bon-bons all day. They are parenting and worrying and sanitizing and working hard to keep jobs they need. Threatening behavior and assumptions of laziness do not motivate harder work or more dedication. They show people the true culture of your workplace and where they don't want to work when this is over.