I don’t know about you, but my inbox has been deluged with well-meaning, useless Coronavirus advice. If one more person sends me information on how to wash my hands or socially distance myself or engage with my team, I’m going to say a bad word. As a result, I have been avoiding sending out advice of my own.
And then amid all the noise I got a PowerPoint deck from my colleague Nancy Picard, one of the smartest people I know. Her deck was full of useful guidance about how to lead right now — useful enough that I was moved to share it with you.
A guide to crisis leadership thinking
She recommends that leaders focus on three points:
- Even though you may be feeling helpless right now, you are in fact more powerful than ever. Your power resides on others’ willingness to follow you, and right now people are looking for guidance and direction.
- You must convey calm. That means simultaneously mastering your own anxieties and helping others to master theirs. This is really hard.
- Be very clear about what to do and what not to do. Set priorities and boundaries. This is a key focus of my new book, Curating Your Life, and Nancy emphasizes its importance in the current crisis.
How to lead during a crisis
Those three points are the “what.” Here are her keys to the “how”:
- Be available. Think about when you’re sitting on an airplane on the tarmac and it’s not going anywhere. If there’s no information from the cockpit for a long time, the passengers quickly become irritable and agitated. But if the pilot gets on the intercom every 10 minutes or so and provides an update, people cope much better. In this crisis, you are the pilot.
- Don’t overcommunicate. Yes, you need to keep people informed. But right now, most people are taking in so much information that we’re drowning. Be thoughtful about what information is going to be helpful, when.
- Take care of yourself. You are an extremely important asset to your company at this time. Besides looking after your physical health, take care of your emotional wellbeing as well. This is an exhausting time and most of us are stressed and running on fumes. Be good to yourself, and find the activities and people who give you energy.
- Be personal. Ask about people’s families. Share some information about yourself and how you’re feeling. That will build the sense of community that everyone needs so badly right now.
Nancy’s advice reminds me of that famous quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”