In a crisis, what does your team want from you as a leader? What do they consider essential if they are going to follow you? We can put it in one word –
We have had countless discussions during the recent tumultuous months where team members have told us one thing: they literally ache for their leaders to be authentic with them. They are not looking for perfection. They don’t expect leaders to be flawless or to make every decision correctly. What they do expect – what they crave – is for their leaders to be transparent and honest with them. To be willing to be vulnerable about the impact current events are having on the business, about what the strategy is to go forward, and about what it will take to come out successfully on the other side of 2020.
As a leader, your management techniques are critically important during this time – but your ability to be authentic with your team trumps every best practice you may have. For example, when you are authentic, you can explain to your team that though a decision made sense a month ago, you now have to shift direction because circumstances have changed. You can own up if you get angry or frustrated during a tense situation and apologize to the team. You can be open about what it will take from everyone to overcome obstacles.
Your authenticity will allow and encourage your team members to be authentic as well. Such mutual respect and openness is vital if you are to effectively address the challenges 2020 has presented to your business. It is impossible to rise above the chaos we are now experiencing as a country if we approach issues with bluster, falsehoods, and phoniness. As a leader, you need to personally demonstrate that you are willing to connect with reality: openly, honestly, and transparently.
Take the time to authentically connect with your team and the people who work for you. Hear their needs and concerns, and give them the truth. Remember that if you do not, you are creating a communication vacuum – and people will fill that vacuum with rumors. Those rumors will always be uglier than even hard truths, and will make people disengaged, depressed, and afraid. The truth – even a tough truth – is always motivating. People can and will rise to the challenge when they understand what the challenge is.
You may be concerned that in being authentic, you will reveal that there are gaps in what you know. That is all right. It is okay not to know everything, and to let your team know that you don’t know everything. They don’t expect you to know everything, anyway. Admit the fact, and let them know what you are doing to fill any information gaps. This transparency will give your team the confidence to keep moving forward.
So, here is your takeaway in this troubling time: as a leader, be authentic with your team. Acknowledge what you know and what you don’t know. Be clear about the challenges. Accept and admit that you are not perfect, and own up when you make a mistake. Keep open communication flowing both ways between you and your team. Be willing to change direction when circumstances warrant it, and explain why so that your team understands what is happening and why it is happening.
Your authenticity will help see your business through 2020 – and beyond.