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Leading in difficult times.

Leadership during a crisis requires more than a business continuity plan.

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We’re in the midst of uncharted waters with the onset of COVID-19 and right now, you just can’t avoid hearing about it. Even if you don’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or scroll social media … you’ll hear about it when you pay for fuel or grocery shopping. Everyone is talking about it.

Here in the Caribbean we annually prepare for the impact of Hurricanes, so I always feel like there’s a perpetual preparation process. I’ve adopted that mindset and taken the usual precautions following the Medical expert’s advice and making sure I’m tuned to a reliable source of information. 

As a leader you and your team should have already;

  • Defined the workplace safety guidelines for the business?
  • Finalized your business continuity plan for the short, medium and long term. Within this you should have considered;
    • Remote working and how to support at home workers equipment be supplied to help – laptop, printer, phone etc.
    • How to utilize technology to communicate – video conferencing etc.
    • Guidelines on work related travel, especially overseas?
    • Are the other ways to reduce risk – staggering employee starting and departing times, along with lunch and break periods, to minimize overcrowding in common areas such as elevators, break rooms, etc.

That’s just a few actions and there’s a lot of practical information with regards to preparing your business on line and local governments. But just as important is your role during this period.

As the leader your team are looking to you for direction. They’re looking to you for reassurance. So drawing from my experience my advice during this time would be;

  • Be decisive and flexible – your plan may not go according to plan so be prepared to swerve and adapt accordingly. You may need to make decisions on the fly without all the information you’re used to and they might be difficult ones, the ones you know aren’t going to win you any points. And don’t feel bad about it if you do have to change up. Right now the situation is unpredictable.
  • Be flexible with your team – if they have to be quarantined, maybe they have additional care responsibilities with schools closing, or they have to tend to a sick relative. – it’s a worrying time for everyone.    
  • Focus on controlling the controllables – if the situation worsens e.g. logistics impacted, Government edicts, it can produce frustrating moments but realistically it’s out of your control so there’s no point getting bent out of shape. Your energy is better suited focusing on what is in your control.
  • You don’t have to do it all yourself – Share the load and utilize your team where and whenever possible
  • Communicate with your team – often. Make sure they’re clear on the steps being taken in the business and the options available to them. Whilst you may not have all the answers, demonstrate that you’re in control of your business – even if it’s just keeping abreast of what the experts are saying. Your team are looking to you for reassurance and the work environment can very quickly become chaotic – emotions are running high, your team is stressed and scared. It’s imperative for you to be in control and stop the panic from spreading.
  • Compassion – It goes along way. It’s not just about being nice, it’s about having genuine concern for the well-being of your team and trust me your team will go a long way for you with a little compassion from you.
  • Mental health – It’s going to be a stressful time for you too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, if you need it.  It’s a worrying time for all and whether you’re the boss, the head of your household, responsible for just yourself be cognizant of your mental health. I know it can be difficult not to worry – this can and most likely will play on your mind but try and maintain your normal routine (with the advised precautions).  

As we all continue to navigate this interesting time, the best you can do right now, is be the best leader you can be.

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