An experience and a blessing
BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - May 17, 2020 - 12:00am

Nobody knows! This should be the slogan of the times.

When will people be able to return to the office? Nobody knows. How much losses have we incurred since the lockdown began? Nobody knows. Let people go? Nobody knows although some are already doing it. COVID-19 continues to disrupt business, while the leaders continue to grapple with the unknown.

Well, since nobody knows so, I might as well tell my team, “I don’t know! because that will be the safest answer, I can give.” Whoa! Not so fast. You are a leader. You have a team of people under your care. You need to be in constant communication with them. Nothing causes more anxiety as being left out of the loop with nobody telling them what is going on. This is the worst time for you to go on “AWOL.” This means: “Absence Without Leaders.”

In my webinar-based leadership training, I have pointed out that people are anxious; they are worried about their company, their jobs, and their future. Leaders need to exhibit transparency and communicate truthfully. But the messages should always be wrapped with a sense of possibility and hope. In other words, you hope for the best, but you face and confront the brutal facts. Here are some ideas you might find useful:

1. Do not leave your people hanging

If you are the frontline manager, your most important objective is to make sure that you are the person your team will turn to for guidance and direction. Even if your knowledge is limited and you do not have the big-picture information (nobody does anyway), you need to be honest about what you know. Tell your team, “Guys, we do not know about this... but we do know about this... so we will have to make do with what we know now and try to close the gap.”

2. Do not overwhelm your people

Your people are working from home. They have challenges they never had before. They have to do work and family at the same place and at the same time. People share their concerns with me in my webinars. They have not learned how to stop working and draw boundaries between work and personal life because they have never been trained to do so. They can get easily overwhelmed. Your team would want to know how and when you will be providing them with updates on the changing situation. Do not surprise them with unannounced meetings as these are only for emergencies.

3.Communicate. Communicate. Communicate

Communicate early and often, do periodic small meetings, conduct one-on-one meetings with your key people, provide them with a platform for airing out their anxieties and issues. This is time-consuming, but you are the leader and you have to do this. Show compassion and show empathy. Do not sugarcoat the news and do not speculate on what would happen because when you sugarcoat things, you will be perceived as dishonest, and when you speculate, know that your people need facts and not your opinions.

4. Be inspiring

Exhibit courage with humility. Speak the truth but offer hope. Be responsible for the information you should keep and the information you can share. Tell them, “things may be difficult, but we need to be strong together. And when we get through this, we will all emerge stronger.”

COVID-19 is not the first crisis we have ever experienced, and it certainly would not be the last. But do you know what you are doing? You are blessed with the opportunity to be teaching and training your people on how to succeed in times of crisis, and that is one of the most beautiful things that leaders can do for their people. Experience and enjoy the blessing.

(Connect with Francis Kong in www.facebook.com/franciskong2. Or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 DZFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)

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