The COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertainty, fear, and anxiety to our workplaces, especially for small business owners and their employees. How do you lead your business through these uncertain times? How can you be empathetic to your employees’ concerns while also empowering them to do their best work? Here are our top tips for leading your team right now.
Take Care of Yourself
First things first, take good care of yourself so you can be a strong and effective leader for your team. Put on your oxygen mask first, as they say. Eat well, get regular exercise and plenty of sleep, take time for fun and rest, and protect yourself from COVID-19 by following preventive guidelines. A small business is especially dependent on its leadership, so make sure you are taking the time to care for yourself.
Building and maintaining good relationships with your employees is crucial. According to Pew Research Center, 81 percent of millennials won’t trust you unless you build a relationship with them! Since about half of our workforce is made up of millennials, it’s likely that a large portion of your employees won’t trust you unless you first take the time to get to know them.
If your employees are working remotely, building relationships will look a little different. Here are a few ideas:
- Consider providing a virtual space for “water cooler” conversation where you and your team can chat, sharing stories and photos from daily life.
- Acknowledge and celebrate special occasions like births, birthdays, and anniversaries. Even if you can’t be together to have cake, do something celebratory like adding a post to social media or a group chat.
- In the same vein, recognize contributions your employees have made to the business – thank them for specific things they’re doing well.
These few, seemingly small things are solid first steps toward deepening your relationships with your staff.
As we mentioned above, building trust is an important part of maintaining a cohesive team that is willing to follow your lead. Even more, trust is foundational to high-functioning teams – a team that trusts its leadership will be at its most productive. A few ways to build trust:
- Follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
- Be humble and honest – admit what you do and don’t know.
- Communicate clear goals and expectations about projects, while also giving employees space to complete their work independently.
- Provide employees with the resources they need to do their jobs, and remove barriers as needed.
If you build trusting relationships with your employees, they will also be more receptive when you have to deliver hard news. Unfortunately, you may need to do that more often than usual right now, but having strong relationships with your staff will soften the blow.
Foster Collaboration and Ask for Employee Input
Collaboration is a crucial part of maintaining cohesion among your team. Collaborating with co-workers when you’re not in the same place is more challenging, but still possible. Utilize technology to keep the collaboration going – provide your team with tools for online meetings, document sharing, task management and communication. Also, ask them to help you brainstorm or problem solve from time to time. It will make them feel more connected to your business and give them a sense that they are helping the company get through a tough time.
In difficult times, it’s especially important to be honest with your staff about what you do and don’t know. It’s ok that you don’t have all the answers – we are sailing through uncharted waters after all – just be honest about that. Communicate clearly and often. Information is changing rapidly, so it’s important to keep everyone updated as well as you can. Also, don’t sugarcoat things or gloss over news you think your employees won’t want to hear. It’s far worse to withhold important information from them than to deliver bad news.
Keep it Positive and Encouraging
You can’t manage your employees’ emotions, but you can help to allay their fears. Make an effort to understand your employees’ worries and stresses during this time, and do what you can to encourage them. Provide inspiration and offer hope that this crisis is temporary and things will eventually improve. Be honest though – false hope will only make things worse in the end. No one knows what the future holds (especially with regard to COVID-19), so don’t make predictions – just be sure your tone conveys positivity and strength.
We hope these tips help you navigate the ups and downs of leading your business through difficult and uncertain times. For more ways to keep your business healthy during this time, see our recent post on how to recession-proof your business.
Wood CPA is here to help your small business – don’t hesitate to contact us for bookkeeping and accounting services, tax preparation, payroll services, business advisory services, and more.