Healthy Communication, Part 1: Leaders

By August 15, 2020Health Tips

As a young boy growing up in a coastal Florida city, the threat of hurricanes was frequent
and distressing.  Several Category 4 hurricanes slammed their way through our neighborhood. I distinctly
recall watching three towering pine trees in our front yard crash to the ground
within minutes of each other, one of which smashed into our house.  If we still
had power, my dad would tune the television to the local weather station to track
the hurricane’s path. The weatherman was our leader, the one we were counting
on to steer us to safety.

Healthy Communications: Part 1During this “hurricane” called Covid-19, progressive leaders understand that
creating and managing a crisis-communications program requires the same commitment
they give to other parts of the organization. Above all, they put their people first.
When leaders prioritize employees’ safety and morale, not just business needs,
people feel protected and supported.
What kinds of strategies might be part of a crisis-communications program?
  • In uncertain times, effective leaders consistently communicate to their people how
    they uniquely contribute to the organization’s goals and values. This gives
    them a sense of motivation, fulfillment, purpose, and belonging, inspiring them
    to act because they want to, not because they have to.
  • Not surprisingly, healthy communication is characterized by a high level of trust.
    When people feel safe they can ask for help, admit mistakes, and take responsibility.
    These acts of vulnerability feel risky. A leader who models vulnerability gives
    others the courage to take off their masks and be real.
  • Healthy companies are a place where people are recognized for their intrinsic
    value, rather than as a cost unit, function, or sum total of their achievements.
    Leaders spend less time trying to exert control and more time building cooperation
    with their team members.
  • A problem some people experience in times of uncertainty is fear of the unknown.
    A way to combat that fear is to establish a few “certainties” in the
    form of structure and routines. Regularly-scheduled Zoom meetings or on-site group
    meetings that allow for employee input, time for questions and answers, and even
    laughter, help people live in the present and feel connected. This reduces anxiety
    and increases focus.
  • It is also helpful to provide your team with tangible action items. Having
    specific next steps gives people a sense of control and the reassurance that they
    are making a contribution toward stabilization. Use words like, “Here are
    the next steps we are taking” or “Here’s what you can do”
    to demonstrate action.
  • By not withholding information, leaders can build trust with their team and
    create a bond. As a leader, it is essential to be honest about successes and failures,
    goals, and financial activities. Changes that could negatively impact the team should
    be shared truthfully. Promoting transparency will allow your team members to feel
    comfortable voicing their concerns to you and their colleagues while reducing possible
    conflict areas and building trust.
Natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes invariably leave behind them a
path of destruction. But as they “rise from the ashes”, homeowners and
business leaders have the opportunity to rebuild, but differently. They call in
architects who can design structures that are safer and more solid, better able
to withstand inevitable future calamity.
Ultimately, the benefit of having a crisis-communication program is that it clarifies
the kind of organization you want to have. Will your organization focus on goals
at the expense of valuing the needs of your people? Or will you recognize that your
people are your most treasured resource in the quest to reach those goals? The answers
to these questions form the way you communicate with your employees, and allow you
to seamlessly transition from crisis mode to a new normal.I am not a quantitative researcher. My conclusions about people and organizations
aren’t rooted in statistics or data. I am a consultant and executive coach who asks
questions that guide people in exploring what they are willing to do differently
in order to get different results.What is possible if you become willing to do something different? What do you risk
if you don’t?

If you have any questions about healthy communication, please log into your account
and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dave Tarpley, MEd Consultant and Executive Coach

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