Paint A Realistic Picture
As much as they can, it’s important that leaders provide their people with honest rationale for their decisions, Bock said. For example, talk candidly about the fact that your company will be more conservative during a time when revenue will be harder to come by. Be more explicit about goals, meetings with management, and the like.
Such candor will help keep people focused on their work rather than wondering what might be going on, he said.
Stress can take a toll. Bock recommended that leaders factor in the mental health of their teams by encouraging them to exercise, take breaks during the day, practice meditation, or use mindfulness techniques.
And just as leaders can offer empathy and comfort to their employees, it also can work in reverse. Bock said one of his colleagues reminded him at a time he was stressed to take a three-minute break for mindfulness. The advice “stopped me in my tracks, and it helped offer me perspective at a time when I needed it,” he said.
If You Can, Scout For Talent
A downturn can be a good time to recruit, if you are able, Bock said. With a staggering number of people who have become unemployed as the result of the pandemic, this can be an opportunity to build your bench.
“We all know good people who have lost their jobs,” Bock noted. “With so many individuals being laid off due to circumstances rather than performance, organizations have the opportunity to bring on top talent that otherwise might not have been on the market.”
If your workforce includes people who are 33 years old or younger, keep in mind that they have never been through an economic downturn before as a working adult—making this time especially unsettling. Offering lessons from past crises can be helpful, Bock said. While it’s true that each economic downturn has its own unique attributes, there are many similarities, as well.
Convey Good News
It is also a good idea for leaders to celebrate wins, no matter how small, whenever they appear, Bock advised. But don’t go overboard in such a way that creates a false hope or an overly positive narrative. In fact, acknowledging that uncertainty is appropriate, while offering good news, can spur on teams to continue to push hard.
“We are surrounded by negative news during a health and economic crisis. We need to emphasize good news when we can, as well,” Bock noted.
Cultivate A Strong Culture
Finally, the pandemic has underscored the need for leaders to recognize that team culture is more important than team composition, Bock said.
How the team functions—whether members check in on each other, take actions to prevent silos from forming, or give all members a chance to weigh in—"has never been more important to business continuity,” Bock said. “A strong culture depends on psychological safety, role clarity, dependability, and impact,” he said.
In the end, leaders must acknowledge that this is a trying time, Bock concluded. Investing in your teams—including their well-being—focusing on resilience, and communicating honestly, calmly, and consistently are all ways to lead to the brighter times ahead.