I am the Managing Partner of EB5 Connected Network – a national EB-5 visa company with more than 2,000 foreign investors from more than 60 countries.
The business changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic are a real-time example of: business uncertainty— an event that a company cannot predict and that creates risks that cannot be planned or measured. While the pandemic has affected businesses on fronts such as workforce numbers and ability to be on site, on a smaller scale, business uncertainty may stem from changes in technology, government policies, material availability or demand. While we can reduce the impact of uncertainty by: effective planningin the struggle to get back on track, it’s easy to overlook a critical asset: the people who make the company.
Business uncertainty typically leads to major upheavals for employees and managers alike. People worry about the stability of the business while some feel helpless and overwhelmed. These feelings intensify as people experience changes in routines and new policies necessitated by circumstances. This can lead to a loss of motivation and engagement, which in turn affects their ability to support the company’s success.
As a business leader, you must draw on your emotional intelligence to lead your team through the tough times. These five tips can help you focus your energy on what your team needs in a leader in uncertain times.
1. Build trust.
Understand that employees feel insecure and restless during periods of business uncertainty. So communication is crucial, especially if the situation involves rapid, unpredictable changes.
Build trust– be it between co-workers or employees and managers – includes honesty, compassion, and a commitment to doing what you say you want. If you don’t have all the answers, admit it and explain the strategic decisions you’re making based on the information available. For example, if you’re not sure all jobs are safe, don’t reassure people that you’ll be able to navigate the crisis without losses. If the situation shifts and you have to lay off people, the other employees will lose confidence in you. Instead, explain that the situation may change and that you’ll keep them updated — and then actually keep them posted.
2. Be transparent.
Transparency is an important part of trust. Few things demotivate people as quickly as speculation with water coolers. A person who misunderstands a situation can quickly turn into an erroneous analysis that grows more dramatic with each retelling. This can lead to what if about things like pay cuts or layoffs. The simple antidote is transparency. Being honest about the business situation and how it might affect employees can make them feel more confident about their future.
Recognize that the business faces uncertainty and make sure people understand how you want to face the challenges. For example, if you need to make budget cuts, explain what you are entering and why. Be specific about how much you need to cut and what effect the change will have on the business. People are more likely to accept change if they understand the reasoning behind it.
In addition, address rumors as they arise. Answer questions clearly and honestly to ensure any misunderstandings are cleared up before they sour the work environment.
3. Listen to your team.
Hear your team’s feedback on new routines, policies, and strategies to learn about and resolve issues encountered during implementation. Encourage people to make suggestions that can help you achieve the goals you set to succeed in the new business environment. You can request feedback through one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and even employee surveys, which are especially useful for remote workers.
It’s also important to listen to people’s concerns that extend beyond or overlap with the workplace. They may worry about being able to pay their bills or find it difficult to adjust to a new schedule because they have childcare or family responsibilities that they struggle with. All of these concerns affect not only their focus and engagement, but also their general well-being. You can’t control everything, but sometimes a small adjustment—or just listening to and talking about a problem—can solve a problem that seemed insurmountable.
Uncertainty causes emotional upheaval, and while most people experience some degree of anxiety, everyone reacts differently and experiences emotions that may not be apparent to you. Be aware of this when communicating with your team and show them that they matter and that you want the best for them. In other words, treat your team with compassion and respect, and helping them maintain a healthy work-life balance.
4. Be flexible.
The problem with uncertainty is that it’s not business as usual. Therefore, there is no need to blindly enforce traditional workplace policies and procedures. As a business leader, you must have a clear understanding of the needs of the business. This will help you identify areas where flexibility can improve morale and engagement. For example, a shorter workday or workweek, flexible working hours or even working from home several days a week can help an employee tackle a problem without significantly affecting their productivity.
5. Set short term goals and celebrate wins.
Setting achievable short-term goals and celebrating individual and team goals are easy ways to motivate your team and create a sense of achievement when enthusiasm and optimism begin to wane. Breaking bigger goals into smaller short-term goals is an effective strategy for helping people track long-term goals and visualize how you are progressing as a team and company. Reminders like these are especially helpful when people lose sight of the path to success. Then thank people for their contribution and congratulate them on achieving their goals.
As the effects of the pandemic continue, it is important to keep the well-being of your employees in mind. When you actively work to support your team during times of uncertainty, you can help them stay motivated and focused on shared success.