“One step at a time.” It’s an old phrase, but a useful one to keep in mind these days. We’re all in uncharted waters right now, trying to navigate without many of the familiar daymarks. Everyone’s routine is out the window, not just yours. We hope this article can provide some useful pointers for how to lead in the face of this uncertainty both internally, with your team, and externally with your customers, clients and stakeholders.
Internally, in this time of uncertainty, it is important to be flexible, while keeping in mind every individual’s different restrictions and abilities. Here are a couple of ideas to help you and your business maintain normalcy.
- Consider having a regularly scheduled weekly staff meeting, via the phone or internet. It helps put some routine back into people’s home-office days, increases accountability, and helps maintain team continuity.
- Try providing structured videoconferencing opportunities to let your staff see each other in low-stake contexts. Go To Meeting and Zoom both offer great, affordable options. Have someone else spend 60 seconds to show participants the mute button, how to show their screen, etc.,
- Think about a theme on Wednesdays—Hat day? Pet day? Just be careful! Click here for a smile:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-tjwY9BlJA&feature=youtu.be
Productivity, even for those used to working on a computer all day, will be down. Take it one step at a time but establish and clarify your expectations. As a leader, this means adjusting what you think can be accomplished each day. There are going to be more distractions than we are used to. Some people will be working from the dining table and some from their coach. There may be kids at home, chores to do, and some people in the household who need care. Most importantly, make sure your employees understand that you know what they are facing, and open the door for clear communication.
Here are some ideas for how you can lead with compassion without compromising your company’s work:
- Recognize that for some of your employees, their work may get done after traditional hours. You may even consider letting your employees shift their regular hours.
- Help your staff turn off. Working from home, it’s sometimes tough to draw a line between work time and home time. Say something like: “At 5 p.m. on Friday, I want you to shut your laptop, and go have a good weekend with your family. It’s time to not think about work for a while.”
- Open your mouth with compassion. These are your people. Each person is stressed and thinking about things that were not even in their life a month ago. Consider regularly sending them something funny, inspirational or a great photo.
- Increase your communication. Silence is quite lonely when operating at home!
Do you have a business continuity plan for each of your divisions/departments, in case someone on your team gets sick or is out of commission for several weeks? If not, it’s time to clarify what must be accomplished, when, and by whom, and write it down. You should also consider regularly meeting with your accountant to make sure you fully understand different income and expenses, and what can be expected.
External: Now is a good time to ask yourself the most central questions:
- Who are your customers? What are you able to provide to them? Think about it—it may not be your traditional product (i.e., a new dodger or sail), but what else could you and your colleagues supply them?
- Is there an opportunity to provide internet or social media content, pro tips, ask the experts, or something that shows off your team and keeps your customers engaged with your brand? (remember that you know much more about your products than your customers, and in their minds, you are an expert.)
- Communicate with your customers. Make sure they know you are there for them and what you can do for them.
- Is there an opportunity within the current atmosphere to develop your backburner new product?
- Are there state or small business administration loan opportunities that your company should explore?
Personal: Do you want to do something?
- It’s a great time to go work on your own boat. Time for that spring polish that you never seem to have time to do? Just don’t invite all your friends to participate this year!
- Have any unused N95 masks around your shop, waiting for your next fiberglass or sanding job? Even if the box is open, please consider donating them to your local hospital. (We just found some in our wood shop and the local hospital said ‘Yes! Please!”) Here’s a feel-good article about an industry colleague.
- Healthy? Give blood. Check with your local blood bank for details and opportunities.
Finally, take care of yourself. A very smart friend once told me that when you are in the middle of a huge issue, it’s sometimes hard to see that you’ll get through it. But in hindsight, you’ve been through many of those in your life, and you always got out the other side. Remember that, hang in there and know there’s more sailing in your future.
Our thanks to Margaret Podlich (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Ali Mitchell (email@example.com) for organizing this article for us.