All industries around the globe are impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. This isn’t a new or shocking statement. Some businesses, like Netflix, are thriving. Others, like our favorite local restaurants, aren’t all so lucky. But, how do we lead during the crisis?
Those of us fortunate enough to transition our onsite staff to an entirely work-from-home team are discovering a new form of management. Leadership during this COVID-19 crisis is incredibly difficult. We face a myriad of decisions for which the consequences of the choices are significant, the facts are foggy or absent entirely, and the mitigation options are minimal. Furthermore, the diversity of the challenges seem to be between survival and thriving.
For those of you lucky enough to be thriving during this crisis, the question I expect you are asking is whether to invest, hire, or grow. On the other side of the spectrum are those of you asking, do you lay people off, take out a loan, or perhaps even, how long can you stay afloat before shutting the organization down. As the leader of IntelliTect, here’s what I have found to be critical.
Be Transparent with Employees
Let your team know what’s going on. Clear is kind; unclear is unkind. Employees are smart and intuitive. Be upfront with them about the challenges. Don’t pretend things are hunky-dory even when employees are remote, they know and can sense risk. Instead of letting them make up stories, tell them clearly and honestly what is happening and what the risks are. Give them the knowledge to make the right choices for themselves and their families.
At IntelliTect, we had an all-company meeting where I explained our position and answered all questions. Our team, like yours, is vital to who we are as an organization. Relieving potential tension and giving them the information they need to continue to make the best choices for their families is crucial to maintaining our culture of trust and courageous honesty.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help From Your Team
For IntelliTect, this request manifests in several ways. Firstly, when we have unbillable resources, I request that people put in extra effort. Now is the time to work harder and capitalize on the time by building new processes and potentially even new products. My ask is for people to give their all. We have asked for renewed effort in ideation, for example. We also started our third book discussion, this one online. Ultimately, I’m asking for patience as we navigate unknown waters.
When Needed, Sacrifice More than Your Team
If you are tightening wages to reduce costs, the percentage of reduction should be higher for leaders (perhaps, more generally, higher as salaries increase – not assuming leaders make more). If you are tightening expenses, be sure you are cutting back expenses for yourself – even more.
For IntelliTect, we also want to be mindful of how incredibly blessed we are. My continued interaction with our philanthropy partners has been an important perspective-growing experience. Earlier in the month, I spoke with Jean Nyandwi, the World Relief director for our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Yes, we wrestle COVID-19 in Spokane, but the DRC has yet to emerge from their battle with Ebola and an outbreak of Cholera. Now, COVID-19 is emerging on top of their other crises. People in Level 1 Countries like the DRC are not equipped to deal with pandemics – period.
I started out emphasizing the difficulty we are all experiencing with leading in crisis and provided some guidelines that help me navigate the tumultuous waters. Ultimately, however, the key relief for me has been the collaboration with my team. I so appreciate being able to reach out and ask for insight. On more than one occasion, team members have helped me navigate through this uncertainty. The remarkable result is one of gratitude.
Yes, things are challenging, yes things are hard, but in the end, as a team, we are making it through to the other side where we hope to emerge even stronger.
For more on one of our philanthropic partners, including their response to the COVID-19 crisis, see Eric Edmonds’ spotlight on Partners International.