(Gloucestercitynews.net)(July 30, 2020)--As the COVID-19 pandemic has blanketed our nation in uncertainty, Americans are increasingly turning to authority figures for reassurance. While this often means the federal, state, and local authorities, businesses—some of our country’s most prominent institutions—play a unique role in keeping their teams and their communities calm and appraised.
But how should business leaders address publicly address the pandemic? In so delicate a situation, the capacity for missteps is endless. A careful tone must be struck, one that shows deference to the tragedy and evinces hope for a brighter future while avoiding blame, fear, and conspiracy.
We sat down with Amit Raizada, CEO of venture capital firm Spectrum Business Ventures, to gain some insight into how executives should address their employees during this uncertain moment. A c-suite veteran who’s spent more than two decades in venture capital, Raizada imparted some critical wisdom that executives can use to connect with their teams.
When communicating COVID-related policies and updates to your staff, Raizada recommends prioritizing transparency.
The last four months have been a confusing moment for many people. There’s a heightened degree of uncertainty about when businesses will reopen, employees will return to their offices, and life will start to return to normal, Raizada said.
“It’s very likely that your team is eager for information about what’s going on,” Raizada said. “They’ll want to know about scheduling—whether they should come to the office or work from home—PPE requirements, and other modifications to their typical work routine.”
Raizada maintained that effective COVID communication strategy means admitting when you don’t have all the answers.
“Be upfront with your employees and detail what some of the behind the scenes processes look like,” Raizada said. “If you’re waiting on a decision from county authorities about reopening your office, communicate that to your employees. It’s critical your employees feel appraised on the decision-making process. They will understand that many of their questions cannot be answered immediately.”
“When you don’t have all the answers,” Raizada said, “you’re better off admitting that to your team than you are saying nothing at all.”
As an executive, your team sees you as a leader and will turn to you for strength during difficult moments at your firm. As COVID continues to spread, Raizada called it “imperative” that executives demonstrate leadership and accountability for their teams.
“Your team wants to know that you are looking out for them and for the company,” Raizada said. “The easiest way to do this is to stay accountable. Take responsibility for ensuring your firm has adequate levels of PPE and observes social distancing. Commit yourself to work with state and local officials to determine when and how to most safely reopen your business.”
Raizada recommended that executives do this by taking responsibility for the firm and its objectives during COVID.
“Don’t just provide your team with lip service, take action to ensure their safety,” Raizada said. “And when you do commit yourself, be sure to own it. Make it very clear that you invested in your team and committed to a positive outcome to this situation.”
Above all—Raizada said—effective executive communications should be compassionate and empathetic.
“Over 140,000 Americans have died from COVID-19,” Raizada said, “and countless others have lost income and opportunities because of the virus. Recognize that this is a national tragedy and that—while business is always important—your team’s minds may be elsewhere.”
During this time, effective executives want their employees to feel as if management is an ally, not an adversary.
“There’s enough stress in the world right now,” said Raizada. “Don’t let your work become another source of it. Listen to your team. Make it known that you’re there to support them and to act as a resource. Forgive small mistakes. Compassion keeps your team motivated and inspired—two traits that will make a significant difference as we battle this pandemic.”