COVID-19: 7 Ways to Lead in Uncertain Times

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In just a short time, Coronavirus has had a major impact on the world, closing borders, sending stock markets on wild swings and leaving people everywhere unsure of what comes next.

As in any time of uncertainty, companies across the world are naturally concerned about the impact to their financial performance. On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, they also must address concerns about employee safety and psychological well-being that go far beyond what arises during the normal course of business.

Employees are now looking to leaders and executive teams to take actions that protect both them and the business. The pressure and urgency make it tempting to act quickly, without thoughtful consideration of all potential consequences.

Instead, more than ever, leaders need to demonstrate the high-trust, For All™ leadership.

Here are a few ways you can guide your teams through this crisis:

1. Consider how COVID-19 impacts everyone

For All leaders think about the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of every employee as well as their families, friends and pets.

To come to a set of decisions on how to proceed, seek out the most comprehensive factual information from reliable sources such as

2. Remove financial concerns

For All leaders make sure people can keep working safely and comfortably in a manner that keeps them financially secure.

The key here is to ensure health benefit costs can be minimized and reduce worker hours only as a last resort. Leaders should find ways to put $1,500 into their employee’s hands. The majority of Americans don’t have $400 at their disposal for emergencies (reduced working hours, covid-19 tests, childcare, eldercare costs and so on).

If pay reductions are necessary, then what’s good at the bottom is good at the top. The CEO of Southwest Airlines just took a 10% pay cut.

3. Prepare for economic downturn

For All leaders run financial models with recession assumptions to assure the business is prepared. They refine recession and post-recession strategies and determine the people that will be required to drive innovation by all.

Ensure that any advancements you’ve made in the last five years to create a diverse and inclusive workplace are not erased due to layoffs or reorganizations.  Our research proves that companies who ensure key frontline groups have a consistently positive experience thrive in recession, while others fail.

4. Review sick leave policies

It’s critical that employees minimize their risk of infection. An immediate review of sick leave policies can help you encourage them to do the right thing and stay home when they are ill — both for their own safety and for the safety of their colleagues.

This is critical to slow the spread of the virus and to assure that people are well cared for. 

5. Avoid layoffs if at all possible

It’s hard to talk about point number three with employees because it can make them feel less psychologically safe due to financial insecurity. But it is best for leaders to ensure a profitable future for the good of all employees.

For All leaders work to make layoffs the absolute last resort. They plan months ahead and review costs and debt levels, so they can prepare to finance their way through the recession.

Workforce reductions should be made only when you have no other option, and they must be handled equitably and fairly.

6. Communicate openly

Leaders should share the why and how behind decisions whenever possible.

This enables employees to engage in Innovation by All™ and to keep a responsible mindset rather than letting fear and uncertainty lead to a victim mindset.

7. Listen

Communication is a two-way street.

For All leaders ensure that management and HR are in sync, with multiple messaging channels to make sure they know what is going on in the minds and hearts of the people.

We’ll get through this.

However long COVID-19 impacts our lives and our work, eventually life will go back to normal.  And the world will understand that we are all connected and better together than apart.  

With thoughtful, For All leadership, your company and your people will thrive both during and after this time of uncertainty.

Michael C. Bush

Michael Bush is CEO of Great Place to Work®. Driven by a love of business and an unwavering commitment to fair and equitable treatment, Michael joined Great Place to Work as CEO in 2015, bringing 30 years of experience leading and growing organizations. Previously, he was CEO of Tetra Tech Communications, a billion-dollar global telecommunications infrastructure firm and was a member of President Obama’s White House Business Council. He earned his M.S. in Management from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

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