Communication – always a characteristic of high-performing teams – becomes even more crucial in times of crisis such as we are currently experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic. During a crisis, people are easily distracted as urgent matters arise unpredictably and unexpected developments reshape the business and the marketplace. In recent weeks, we have worked with multiple teams that have been in danger of losing their focus on their priorities because of the upheaval happening at every level of society. The remedy is always the same: communicate, communicate, communicate.
The purpose of communication within a team is to make connections, enhance understanding, and achieve alignment so that the team can succeed in its goals. In a crisis situation, the team leader must radically ramp up communication within the team to clearly define what the priorities are and why those priorities matter. If you are that leader, bear the following in mind:
1. You cannot overcommunicate.
You may consider this to be an exaggeration. It is not. If you think that at some point your team members will protest and say, “Enough already – we got it! We can recite the priorities with our eyes closed,” don’t fool yourself; it will never happen. Not because your team members are failing to pay attention, but because the situation is tense and full of unknowns, which often – despite the best of intentions and efforts – pushes people off-track. For that reason, if you reach a point where you think you’ve spent “enough time” communicating, don’t let up.
2. Don’t assume that people heard what you said.
The leaders we talk with learn over and over and over again that even when they think they have communicated with perfect clarity, people might not have really heard what they said. This is the case in even “normal” situations, but, in times of crisis, it is exacerbated by the tumult going on all around. Therefore, always circle back with your team to check for understanding. Ask them to paraphrase what they have heard. This type of engagement not only ensures that your team members understand what you have said, but helps them truly internalize and act upon it.
3. Spend time listening.
Communication must be a two-way dialogue; be sure to give your team members the opportunity to ask questions and express their thoughts. Encourage them to offer their own reflections and perspectives. People need to feel that they have been heard, whether they are voicing agreement, sharing concerns, or offering ideas. When you evince a willingness to listen to your team members and to give credence to what they say, you are demonstrating your respect for them as individuals. This, in turn, builds trust – the foundation of high-performing teams.
Even in times of crisis, it is possible to stay on target with your priorities and accomplish your goals as a team. Relentless communication is the key. Keep at it and your team will prove that nothing – not even a global pandemic – can stand in the way of success.