We cannot emphasize enough the importance of effective communication as leaders. DeBoer Fellowship provides this summary on leadership and effective crisis communications through its Trustworthy initiative. This article, “6 ways you can show true leadership during a crisis like COVID-19, and how to communicate effectively with your employees and clients” was originally published by Business Insider, an American financial and business news website.
For leaders, a crisis can be used as an opportunity to “exhibit your company’s values” through effective communication strategies. Below, Business Insider identifies six ways leaders should communicate during times of crisis:
- Be transparent – Be clear about what customers and employees can expect. For example, “if call center wait times are long, acknowledge it” or “if your product is late…apologize, say you will do better, and move on.” Leaders must not shy away from being direct. “Ff you don’t know all the answers, admit it, but [promise] to find out as much as you can and come back with updates.
Another Trustworthy summary, “Calm through crisis,” describes how important it is for leaders to relate with honesty. Transparency and honesty help to lessen the anxiety others feel during uncertainty.
- Communicate frequently – Constantly update and communicate with your audiences – “internally with employees, partners, and board members, and externally with customers, investors, and reporters.” Leaders should ask themselves daily “what [their] audiences need to know that day, and the next day, and the one after that.” Be assured that “you can’t overcommunicate in a crisis.”
In a previous Trustworthy summary, “Leadership in a crisis” we provided McKinsey’s insight into frequent and transparent communication during a crisis.
- Get ahead of the issue – Plan for how your organization will communicate upcoming actions such as if “you have to pay a fine, close operations, lay off staff, recall a product, or do anything you don’t want to do.” It is better to plan all of this in advance, before you have to respond publicly to a media inquiry or government agency. Business Insider recommends leaders to “act swiftly and boldly and let your audiences know why such action is required.”
- Bring perspective – Acknowledge the crisis situation and the reasons behind your response. For example, Business Insider writes, “if you operate a fitness facility and you have to temporarily close for public health reasons [share with] your members that their health is your top priority.”
- Communicate solutions, not just issues –Bring solutions rather than issues to the forefront of your members’ or stakeholders’ minds. Be a problem-solver, not just a problem-spotter. Demonstrate your ability to adapt in the midst of the changing circumstances and use “your communication channels to reach your members during the crisis.” An example of this could be moving in-person yoga classes to an online format that members can access. Or, perhaps, you could move a large conference or in-person training to an online virtual training.
- Let people know how you are caring for your own people – Communicate to external audiences how your company is treating its internal stakeholders (employees, board members, etc.). This can increase visibility for your company in positive ways. Customers often like to know that companies take care of “their own people in times of crisis.”
These are six practical ways to communicate during this unexpected, global crisis with your internal and external audiences. Use your position of leadership to make this crisis an opportunity for your company.
About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit: www.deboerfellowship.org.