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COVID-19: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

March 16, 2020 Advisory, HR

Wow! How did we get to this place of disruption so quickly? We’ve never been in this place before and it’s hard to know what to do first.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 (coronavirus) a pandemic on March 10, 2020 and it has literally rocked our world. As leaders in business, we’ve never been faced with this before. The complex ramifications of this experience make it hard to know what to do first. But we know we need to do something and NOW. The first step is understanding where to start in relation to supporting ourselves, our families, our business, our employees, our customers and our communities.

To start to make sense of all of this, here are five things for business owners to consider while trying to manage this complex situation.

#1) How Are You Doing?

Before you can take care of anyone else you need to first focus (and quickly) on yourself.  Reacting to the situation at hand may not be the most effective way to move forward as it may create more concern if people experiencing you reacting versus creating the outcome that’s needed. Remember, people can feel your stress and when that exists it only creates more stress for others. Your role as a leader is more critical today than it was a week ago.

Check in with yourself, where are you feeling stress, anxiety, fear and other emotions? Where are you noticing resistance? Resilience? Pay attention to how you are feeling and breathe.  Studies show that deep cleansing breaths slow down our hearts, clear our minds and help us to center on what is important. As a leader, you’ll need to be fully grounded so that you can prepare to and help others.

#2) How Are Your Employees Doing?

Employees are equally concerned about the global pandemic we are faced with and they are likely looking to you for reassurance, guidance and direction. The first and best thing you can do now with your employees is to understand what’s going on for them as a group and individually. What are their concerns, what are their fears, where do they need support, what do they see possible in this situation, where can they help? The best thing when dealing with uncertainty is to listen to what’s going on for others first. From that information, providing them with guidance and direction will help to calm the overall anxiety and uncertainty that people are experiencing.

Don’t minimize what employees are going through. Remember, your reaction to this situation will not only impact employees today; your decisions may impact the future retention your key employees.

#3) What Resources are Available to Help?

As you have a better understanding of what your employee’s needs are, you’ll want to ensure that you have proper resources to help. As a leader, it’s important to remain factual, credible, calm and optimistic during these times. What resources are available to help guide you through this uncertainty? And what should be shared with your employees?

As a leader in the business, if you haven’t already done this, check in with your insurance providers to see what is available related to important services and resources they have available for you and your employees. These include employee counseling through EAP programs, testing processes and other guidance. Most insurance carriers and brokers have been extremely proactive in having material ready. Check with them to see what that have that should be communicated. Other resources for you to use include:

#4) What’s Needed for the Business?

You more than anyone know that amidst all of this chaos, there’s still a business to run. Running your business during these uncertain times means first of all, protecting your employees which was covered earlier in this article.

Secondly, make sure that you have the right cross-functional team in place available to make sound decisions regarding the shifts needed in the business. In this area, create several different scenarios using different perspectives and “what if” questions. There’s a lot we don’t know and can’t predict; however, staying focused ‘what’s on here and what’s needed’ may help guide you through this ‘storm’.

Finally, stay close to your customers – what do they need? What can you provide? What’s missing? What’s next?  Knowing that we’re all impacted should encourage curiosity and compassion.

#5) Where Are the Community Needs?

During a time of ‘protecting’ ourselves – have you seen how bare the grocery store aisles are? This may also present an opportunity to step back and access what’s happening in our communities. As an example, children who are accustomed to receiving meals at schools won’t have access to food during school closures. How can we use this opportunity to ‘hit the reset button’ and help others who can’t help themselves? The notion of corporate social responsibility is more important now than ever.

These are uncertain times for sure. What is needed across the world are leaders that are calm and resilient. Resilient people are aware of situations, their own emotional reactions and the behavior of those around them. … By remaining aware, resilient people can maintain control of situations and think of new ways to navigate through uncertainty.

About the Author
Joan Hibdon, Owner of jdh Insights, LLC, is a consultant for Fahrenheit Advisors in Phoenix, AZ.  Joan builds and maintains strong relationships with clients by connecting with all of the relevant human aspects of business. Joan has over 25 years of experience leading all aspects of human resources in a variety of global organizations. Her expertise includes coaching, consulting, and providing learning and development services focused on cultivating leadership and creating extraordinary employee experiences in public, private and nonprofit organizations. She is also adept at converting strategy into practical applications and guiding companies through change management initiatives to achieve organizational success. Questions for Joan?  Email her at jhibdon@fahrenheitadvisors.com

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