Leaders asking themselves how resilient their business is should also ask a more foundationally important question: How resilient are your people?
This new business climate entails navigating much more than the actual impacts on the workforce, supply chain, and customer experience. It means keeping people focused, agile, and able to manage through fast-changing and adverse situations.
Keeping your workforce resilient in this context is a challenge and an opportunity.
The opportunity starts with trust in employers and leaders. Leaders must step up and help people manage their own fears and thrive as best as they can.
Every employee plays a part in the business ecosystem, and when people begin to make decisions based on emotional reactions, everything from high-level goals to operating practices can be at risk.
Resilient leaders may be the last defense in holding the line on business goals as well as the safety and well-being of their employees. It is critical right now to influence employees’ expected negativity and enforce realistic positivity.
Consider these practices to foster a more resilient organization.
Keep Your Emotions in Check. Coronavirus has our brains pinging on “future threat,” driving global anxiety and shared fear, as we all live in this extreme state of uncertainty. However, as leaders in the organization, you set the tone. Model calm. Be realistic about the situation, but keep the panic private. Give yourself time and space to vent out of view of your workforce.
Remain Realistic. People will begin to catastrophize in this situation. It’s a natural response that’s rooted in self-preservation. While blind optimism can come off as dismissive and dishonest, you can model realistic optimism and plan for the best possible outcome.
This involves naming the worst-case scenario, followed by the best-case scenario, and ultimately landing on what is most likely to occur. Then outline the steps to make this happen in a productive and practical way. Your people want to hear that you have a plan in place. Determine the steps before you share them, and make sure the steps are realistic.
Adaptivity is Key. Working smart means making informed adjustments based on the information you have. Set up policies that allow people to work smartly and with minimal risk.
Communicate with your team around goals and responsibilities, individually when possible, on an organization-wide level, and online.
Encourage Empathy. While our fear responses may escalate beyond reason, the fear response itself is normal. First and foremost—even before constructing a plan—make sure to provide your employees with a foundation of support.
This is key to building trust with your employees, who, studies show, are more likely to get behind a leader with whom they connect. Rather than trying to fix the situation, simply listen.
By definition, empathy involves taking the perspective of another, which will help your employees feel less alone in whatever they are feeling. Rather than sugar-coating messages for people, try relating to their feelings and being straight but supportive about the current situation.
Empower Your People. Last, but very important, encourage agency, empowerment, and self-care. Make it clear that accepting help is okay. According to meQuilibrium’s co-founder and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Perlman: “In times of uncertainty we forget or ignore the most fundamental self-care. We should do what we should always do: Take care of ourselves.” Perlman says self-care gives people a sense of control “when the world at large seems more overwhelming.”
When it comes to uncertainty, we may not always be able to control the outcome, but we can control our response to it. And that’s resilience.