Communicate for Success During a Crisis
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

A crisis requires substantially more communication and different kinds of interactions. Leaders at all levels need to recognize this and respond. When we communicate more frequently and get focused on essential outcomes, it can produce excellent results. I have found that effective communication during a crisis involves increasing role orientations, quick connections, and additional developmental coaching.

Role orientations involve helping everyone know what they are required to do now. During a crisis, it may become unclear how individuals are supposed to respond, given the many changes in the workplace. Leaders need to spend time clarifying and understanding what has changed so they can offer insights into how the person’s role has changed and what has remained the same. This could be a simple conversation or a more formal update of their role description. We all need to understand what is now expected of us to excel at what we do. A lack of clarity reduces the ability to take initiative and act effectively.

Quick connections during a crisis are essential. Stress and uncertainty can genuinely disrupt an individual at work. When we make it a regular event to connect with our team members, we show we care and help them make course corrections in areas they are struggling with. It can only take a few minutes to know if someone is struggling. Then, we can devote more time to the issue and help them resolve it. We need to check in on our teams and colleagues. Quick connections show we care and will be there for them in this difficult time.

Developmental coaching is also critical during a time of crisis. Although we should be doing this routinely anyway, this can get missed when we are responding to challenges. A significant challenge like COVID-19 can truly derail our efforts to help our teams develop. Spending 30 minutes talking with team members about developmental goals and actions shows we care and fosters growth, despite the crisis or challenge. It can be formal or informal as long as we take the time to be with each person, help them see their challenges and opportunities, and share insights and support in pursuing their goals. Failure to do this during a crisis could result in individuals becoming disillusioned, decreasing their effectiveness, and causing them to leave the organization seeking better opportunities.

As an individual, we also need to continue along our developmental paths. Lessons learned from what we are experiencing can help us prepare for the days ahead. When we focus on our growth, it can help us see challenges as opportunities to build better days ahead. When we are developing new skills, it demonstrates to others that it is essential to move from surviving to thriving again. We need to live our way into our new lives.

It cannot be overstated that communication is the key to navigating through a crisis. We need to help clarify roles, quickly and frequently connect with others, and work to develop our teams and colleagues. These forms of support for others are vital. It will also help us grow during this crisis in the areas that will serve us well in the years to come.