Good communication has never been as important as it is today. Rumors, misinformation, and fear can spread as quickly as a virus. Clear, factual, and reliable communication is vital.
As I wrote in a previous post,by now you should have a crisis-management team in place. A key role for this team is the oversight of communications. At a minimum, messages should be reviewed and verified by the team to ensure that they are consistent with policies. Test your process to verify that they will reach all employees, and that all employees are able to have questions answered.
Develop messaging for different scenarios to inform coworkers or third parties about increased risks or exposure, along with a current phone and email contact list by location for health reporting. A great communication protocol clearly designates a person(s) to promptly notify local public health authorities about confirmed as well as suspected cases of the coronavirus. Ensure your designee is properly trained: while employees may be obligated to disclose contraction of Covid-19, personal health data is protected under HIPAA.
Thoughtful, intentional, and honest communication is a vital strategy to navigate a fast-moving crisis. Avoiding or burying bad news serves no one in the long run.
Transparency requires preparation for the “worse before better” reality.
And while we can learn from past recovery processes, things will be different. New business models will emerge. In the meantime, leadership must anticipate challenges and clearly explain facts as they are, what their vision is, and how it will be accomplished.
When internal and external clients—your stakeholders—have confidence in your motives and commitment, they’ll respond in kind. The most important catalyst in a time of crisis is a trust in the word of the leader and the actions they take.
As Harvard Novartis Professor Amy C. Edmondson, author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth (Wiley, 2019) says, “ Transparency doesn’t happen without psychological safety: a climate in which people can raise questions, concerns, and ideas without fear of personal repercussion.” Ensure you have a strong, two-way communication system in place as we navigate through this time of crisis.
Here are a few best practices to strengthen your communication and virtual meeting skills:
Virtual meetings are a great tool, even to have those difficult or controversial conversations. As a leader, all participants will look to you to set expectations and boundaries. Model the behavior you would like to see.