What a difference a few weeks can make. The uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus has upended our world, our lives and our daily routines. Many of our clients are asking - how do we help our team navigate through this unprecedented time and help them stay positive and productive? As a leader, now is the time to step up to be even more visible, accessible, empathetic, and direct with information.
Here are a few things you can do now to support your team’s success and well-being through this:
1. Help the team prioritize and focus their time, actions and communications with customers.
The nature of their interactions may have changed dramatically. Many employees and salespeople have expressed feeling “adrift” or unsure of how to engage with customers. As a leader, it’s your role to help them with plans and actions so they feel like they are positively contributing. For example:
- Bring your Team together (virtually) to define your communication strategy with customers. Put yourself in your customers’ position and ask- What are their biggest concerns, fears, questions and priorities on our customer’s minds right now? For example:
- Manufacturing: “How will changes in your Supply chain impact us? Will you still be able fulfill our orders on time?”
- Financial Services: “Should I be looking at rebalancing my portfolio? How and at what point?”
- IT/Tech: “How are your operations being impacted by this? What are you doing to keep up with increased demand? Will our service/platform be impacted?”
- Agree on the top questions and, as a sales organization, define and agree on your responses. This way, you are aligned in your messaging to customers. It’s a highly effective way to address real client concerns and ensure consistent messaging. Remember, you are thinking of questions your customers will have for you and your organization and addressing these questions/concerns proactively and with empathy.
- Plan, Focus and Take Action. Determine who you will contact and how you will engage your customers in a conversation about their priorities. Be prepared to address concerns you know they’ll have. Focus on bringing value through sharing ideas and best practices. Meet as a team to share what you’ve learned from your customers so you can leverage ideas and knowledge among peers. Report key customer input back to operations so they can adjust to meet shifting customer demands.
2. Now is a great time to “Sharpen the Saw.”
With many employees and salespeople working from home, consider virtual training to hone their product knowledge, plan their territory and business, and develop their skills for consulting and bringing more value to clients. We know what makes virtual training fail or succeed, and are happy to share best practices and “lessons learned” with you. Consider virtual lunch and learns- both for your team, and with your customers. Send your team and customers take out lunch from a favorite restaurant and support the restaurant community’s business as well.
3. Step up your internal communications with team members.
During a crisis, employees need more frequent communications. Engage and connect with your team with regular informal conversations, mentoring and virtual meetings.
What are the key questions your employees have on their minds?
- Is our company going to be alright?
- What should I be doing? (Plans)
- How do I stay motivated and out of the “abyss” of isolation?
Do your best to address these questions head on with candor, creativity and compassion. Even if that means you don’t have all the answers. Which brings us to:
The #1 thing NOT to do: Avoid talking with your team because you don’t have the answers.
Many managers think that they need to have the answers before they can talk with employees. Not so. It’s important to share realistic, candid information as you have it, but that’s not the only reason to communicate. Especially now when a lot of the world seems to be in TBD mode.
No one has definitive answers right now. This unprecedented pandemic has turned many people’s world view on its head. Social Distancing can feel very isolating and lonely. Don’t ignore. Ask “How are you doing?” and then really listen. Your role as a leader is to help define the new reality and give hope. We know from our work helping organizations lead through change that people want empathy, not avoidance- even if the path forward is not crystal clear.
Connect personally too. Connect with the team remotely. Schedule a virtual Happy Hour or lunch chat. Have everyone turn their cameras on. One of my clients has a weekly update call, but also a virtual meeting where there is only 1 rule: No discussions of work or the virus. So turn those cameras on, enjoy the kids and dogs in the background, laugh about the at home work attire and photos on the wall in the background. The constant barrage of news can be consuming. Don’t let it be.
How are you leading through the pandemic?
We can help. We are happy to listen and offer our support by sharing ideas and best practices to keep your team engaged and productive during this time. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or contact us.