The current Covid-19 pandemic is something we have never experienced in our company nor is something that I have experienced personally in my 25 years in healthcare. This crisis is the third major one our company has overcome locally here in Louisiana: In 2005 we experienced Hurricane Katrina and in 2016 we had a catastrophic 1000-year flood. Both events, while devastating, were localized and were definable events. The current Coronavirus presents more challenges in that the event does not have any sort of timetable or geographic limitations. The lack of visibility makes this crisis extremely difficult to manage and predict. Considering the fact that the global economy has come to an unprecedented virtual standstill, all of this begs the following question: How do we manage our businesses and employees during this time of crisis? This five-part series will cover, from the employer’s perspective, what leadership is needed, the physical aspects of the crisis, the emotional turmoil employees and owners feel, the financial implications of managing this period of time and three overarching takeaways from the current Covid-19 crisis.
In times of crisis, leaders must first detach themselves from the crisis event. It is imperative for leaders to focus on facts and not let emotions drive their mindset. Additionally, it is important for leaders to be laser-focused on the two or three most important tasks to be accomplished each day. Everything else needs to be put aside. Lastly, leaders must concentrate on the things they can control and influence. One should not waste valuable time and energy on things or circumstances for which they have no control.
As an employer in a crisis, leadership is something the organization not only looks for but is essential in order to navigate through the crisis event successfully. At a minimum, leaders need to be able to do three things well during a crisis: use emotional intelligence, make decisions and provide reassurance.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well understand the emotions of others. I believe the cornerstone of EQ is empathy. Empathetic leaders understand the unique situations and circumstances of the people in their organization. People want to be heard and understood by their employers. Many studies have proven when this occurs, job satisfaction and loyalty levels go through the roof. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are active listeners, give praise, demonstrate authenticity and are very good at keeping their commitments.
Leaders are constantly charged with two big responsibilities: Having effective conversations and making decisions. In a time of crisis, the need for leaders to make sound decisions escalates exponentially. When in crisis, leaders are tasked with making decisions without sufficient data, in a very short time period and often with little or no visibility of the immediate future. Sometimes, the best decision is to stand down and do nothing. Other times, lack of action is not an option. The employees and the long-term viability of the organization should always be the two most important factors to consider.
When experiencing a crisis, people in the company want to know everything is going to be okay. Strong, steady leadership is vital. Leaders need to provide a sense of organizational stability and reassurance the company will continue to do well long-term. Leaders must be transparent and offer visibility to the degree that they have in the situation. Even with the best of intentions, unfortunately as a last resort, companies may have no choice but to furlough or lay off employees.
During a crisis such as the Covid-19 virus pandemic, leaders must lead. Leadership roles are magnified during difficult times. The ability of a leader to exhibit good emotional intelligence, make productive decisions and give reassurance to the employees is paramount when experiencing a crisis.