by Paul Raggio
In moments of great, societal peril, I think of General Eisenhower talking to the 101st Airborne before the Screaming Eagles climbed into their C-47 aircraft with orders to jump into Normandy. Certainly, Ike knew many would not survive the jump, and many more would perish in the ground battle that would follow. But this didn’t stop him from seeing his paratroopers, nor communicating the importance of their mission and how much he cared for them. Historical films show him walking among the troopers the evening before D-Day, talking, laughing, patting them on their shoulders and backs, providing words of encouragement, and on occasion, a hug. He was saying something to them, but not just anything. Words, yes, but so much more. It was his presence and vision that calmed the troops, allowing them to release pent up anxiety, permission to expose their fear, and a chance to revel in a world to come because of their doing. He gave them purpose. This is what leaders communicate in times of crisis.
Lisa and I presented a webinar last week hosted by the SCV Valley Industrial Association, titled “How SCV Business Owners Can Lead, Think, Plan, and Act Through COVID-19.” It was our first of what we anticipate will be many. In that presentation we emphasized the importance of leaders communicating clear, direct, purposeful and inspirational messages to their family, team, customers and any other stakeholders they come in contact with. Leaders, right now, should be delivering informative, positive and inspirational messages that calm and reassure their constituents that we will get through this together, and projecting an enduring vision of growth and prosperity, and most importantly, giving them purpose.
A crisis like COVID-19 is a time when you must show up as a leader and demonstrate your company’s values by what and how you communicate. Organizations that handle crisis communications well are proactive in their messaging and connect regularly with their internal and external audiences. This is not a time to be silent nor let your messages be created by default. Better to err on the side of over-communicating than not. Take time to first examine your intentions and get clear on your “WHY” regarding what you want to say and then add doses of positivity, passion and enthusiasm so it will inspire solutions. On a routine basis communicate these purposeful messages to all your team, including staff, customers, clients, suppliers, stakeholders, networks, strategic alliances and partnerships.
Communication isn’t just words, it’s actions too. Like many other crises in the past, COVID-19 has the potential to bond more of us around common causes. We can look to our faith-based, service and nonprofit organizations and ask what they need, how we can help and encourage and unite our teams and audiences to get engaged and make a difference to those in need. Think in terms of our collective impact and remember we are all in this together, one team, one fight, one mission, to survive COVID-19 physically, mentally and economically.
If you are like us, you’re having to adapt to this virtual environment, learning new words and activities like zoom, go-to, webinars, webcasts, WebEx’s, and the like, all in pursuit of remotely engaging our stakeholders and customers. This is the new normal, and likely a permanent change in the way we do business. Why not consider this an opportunity and new approach to promote your business? So, if your business has vision, mission and purpose statements, now is the time to update and revise them, then message that in your virtual meetings and conference calls and on your emails, social media, direct mailers, and newsletters. If your business hasn’t developed these essential things, take the time and do so now, it will be extremely important when the rebound occurs.
During this time of crisis and uncertainty, be that leader through your virtual presence that says something, but not just anything, to calm your troops, allowing them to release pent up anxiety, permission to expose their fear, and a chance to revel in a world to come because of their doing. Give them vision and purpose. This is what a leader communicates in times of crisis. Now let’s get after it!
Paul Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions, a service disabled, veteran owned, family operated firm based in Santa Clarita, California, and they are certified business coaches for ActionCOACH, the number one business coaching service in the world. Paul and Lisa mentor and coach business owners and their employees on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. Email him at email@example.com or go to his website at www.paulraggio.actioncoach.com.