Here’s a little pointer for being a great leader in a pandemic: it’s okay to tell your employees you aren’t sure what the new normal will look like for your firm.
They don’t expect you to have a crystal ball. What they want is consistency, compassion and clear communication.
That’s the big takeaway from a Gallup survey of what employees expect from their leaders in these anxious days.
“To be an effective leader during this time, you must remember that humans experience life about 30 percent rationally and 70 percent emotionally,” writes Paul Berg for Gallup. “Right now, those emotions tend toward fear and uncertainty. Six in 10 Americans are very (26 percent) or somewhat worried (34 percent) that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus. So although what you communicate is important, how you do it and how it makes your people feel is crucial.”
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Gallup asked more than a hundred Human Resource Officers at some of the world’s largest organizations (not just law firms) about their COVID-19 strategies and policies. Here are some highlights from the survey:
- Building trust is essential. This starts by being predictable in an unpredictable time. “Leaders don’t need to predictthe future, but they must be predictable now and in the future,” writes Berg. “It’s hard to trust an erratic leader.”
- Compassion counts. “If ever there was a time to show you care, this is it,” says Berg. “Your people are juggling new responsibilities, fears and problems, and they need to hear their managers and leaders say out loud that they understand, that the company is behind them, that you’ll get through this new situation together. They need to feel genuine compassion.”
- Actions speak louder than words. “The commitments, support and sacrifices you make to help keep employees, customers and communities whole are a reflection and demonstration of your priorities. Put bluntly, verbal compassion without policy compassion is insulting. Real compassion changes things, and when the pandemic has passed, how you treated people will be remembered most.”
- Provide a sense of stability. “There are two elements to stability, the practical and the psychological,” Berg writes. “Making sure employees have the materials and equipment they need to work under rapidly changing circumstances – such as technology, access and communication – provides practical stability. But the core of stability is psychological security, particularly the need to know where a company is headed and that one’s job is secure. This is why you must clearly define and communicate your decision-making principles – especially regarding employment and pay.”
- Communicate a hopeful message. “Hopeful workers are more resilient, innovative and agile, better able to plan ahead and navigate obstacles – all very valuable assets,” writes Berg. “Tell people what you want to achieve this week, this month, this quarter, and whyyou’re sure those goals can be reached. That gives people reason to hope and motivation to dig deep.”
- Focus on your team members who are on the front lines. “The employees most vulnerable to the ripple effects of COVID-19 are often the ones closest to your customers.”
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, a training and consulting company that helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.