During this time of extraordinary disruption, your communication — the content as well as the tone — can have great influence on how well you and your employees, customers, family and friends move through the changes that are disrupting our lives and our businesses.
Jane Brust of The Activ Consulting Group offers the following tips:
- Keep connecting, reaching out and talking to your associates. Communication will reduce anxiety and keep employees, clients, customers and others engaged—especially while everyone is working from home and social distancing.
- Ask others how they’re doing, let them know you care. Start every meeting or online gathering with a brief check-in. Be mindful that the stress of our current situation will hit each of us at different times in different ways.
- Ground your communication in your shared mission and/or values and emphasize what remains the same even in the midst of change. If your organization exists to serve others, note that you will continue to do that, but in new and different ways. If your business is a restaurant, you will continue to feed people great food and provide great service, even if you are now doing curbside pickup and delivery. If responsibility is one of your family values, how is each family member living into that?
- Those who look to you as a leader want to know that you care about what they care about: their safety, their physical and mental health, their job security, etc. Keep that message going in your communication to give others some peace of mind.
- Empathy and honesty go a long way in supporting others. Remember that listening is key to two-way communication. Create feedback loops for others to ask questions, offer ideas and comments.
- Stay in your lane. Unless you are a health care professional, do not share medical advice or pass along hearsay – which is happening on social media. Share credible information from indicated sources, such as articles in mainstream media or something new on the Centers for Disease Control website.
- Keep your communication brief and to the point. In this time of high anxiety, our attention spans are shorter. Let others know what you want them to know and what you want them to do—keep it simple.
- Use best practices in your videoconferencing — our new way of life. Watch this short “terrible” video created by Los Angeles media trainer Mark Bernheimer:
(Note: I would add to Mark’s good tips that you need to avoid having a lamp or plant or anything else appear to be growing out of your head in the background AND be sure everyone knows how to mute themselves when they are not speaking, then UNMUTE themselves when they do speak.)
- Encourage others to think about how they will function going forward. We need to be creative and resourceful in looking at how we can serve others at this challenging time and move into new ways of doing things.
- Be positive. We will get through this. Express something for which you are grateful and encourage others to do the same.
- If possible, encourage others to volunteer if they can do so safely. Give blood or volunteer to make fundraising calls for a local nonprofit. Serving others can be immeasurably comforting.
- Remember to take care of yourself – which will allow you to be effective in doing all of the above. Required reading: The Harvard Business Review article on grief (March 23, 2020) tells it like it is.
Stay safe. Stay connected. Keep communicating!