Leadership is what is needed now
Question: I own a small business on Cape Cod. I am concerned about survival, but need to lead my team through this transition period as we reopen our business. Any thoughts?
Answer: Even though we are reopening our businesses we are still in a transitional state of crisis. Leadership is defined by the direction you set, the culture you have create and have grown and the example you create for your employees. There are essentially three types of leaders in a crisis, according to Adam Bryant and David Reiner of Merryck & Co. First are those who just vanish. They are nowhere to be seen, nor are the yheard from to calm employee fears. The second is the type that says, “There is nothing to worry about. All will be good in the end.” They are even more destructive than those who vanish because they sow false hope. And then there are those leaders who say, “There is a lot we don’t know about the situation and we are going to work through it together.” Leaders in periods of crisis have very specific characteristics.
They are lifelong learners.
The most productive activity a leader can take in these unprecedented times is to become knowledgeable about what tools are available to help your business survive and your employees weather this period. The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts both have resources and benefits available to small-business owners. It is being updated daily. First stops: disasterloan. sba.gov/ela/ and mass.gov/info-details/ covid-19-resources-andguidance- for-businesses.
They actively communicate.
Just like in “normal” times, constant communication is critical to maintain the mass that is your business. It means communicating with your customers, your suppliers and your employees. Each has different needs from you, so you have to customize your messaging. Leaders say what they mean and mean what they say. They are clear, succinct and focused in their messaging.
They lead with integrity.
In times of uncertainty, it is critical for leaders to be ethical, transparent and honest in their dealings. That doesn’t mean you do it alone. You need to rely on the experience and expertise of your team. By treating bad news the same as good news, you become more authentic. Share information that is empowering to your employees, so they can act in a positive manner.
They display positivity.
Leaders of small businesses who are positive and express their thoughts in positive tones create a psychological environment in which the entity can survive. Leaders during crisis control fears for their business and help their teams manage their individual unique situations.
They problem solve. One of the key leadership roles is to identify the issues facing the business and addressing them based on the urgency of the issue. Employees see that their owner is protecting the core that is their collective future.
They display creativity. This element of leadership is key. A shuttered business has few options, but great leaders find ways to make those few options work for them. They work with chambers of commerce to get the word out that you are open for
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business, just in a different format — carry-out or outdoor eating vs. dining in, buying gift cards for future purchases, online offerings vs. in-store shopping. Leaders who think “outside the box” demonstrate to their employees that it is business first, not themselves. If the business leaders can find ways to keep cash flowing during this transitional period, the employees of the business will rally around them creatively.
They are flexible. These are times when leadership needs to be flexible. None of us has been through in this environment. Finding new ways to address the simple is needed. The true leaders harness their teams to become more nimble to meet their customers’ needs and attempt to provide stability for their businesses by being agile.
They mentor constantly. If ever mentoring is needed it is now. Taking your management hat off and leading by coaching and counseling is where the owners of small businesses need to be during these times of so many unknowns. One-on-One mentoring means guiding your team through their individual needs and helping them find a way through all the unknowns and obstacles that individuals are being faced with today. Make mentoring personal. When you can be one-on-one with your team members, a leader can put a human face on relationships.
If these are the characteristics, then as a small-business owner you might think about these activities to drive confidence and engagement.
Project honesty and confidence.
Your employees, suppliers and customers are looking for reassurance that you are in control of next steps. In periods of uncertainty, you might not be totally in control, but you need to project an atmosphere of having multiple plans to address the variety of options that will confront your enterprise. The biggest challenge is not to overpromise and underperform.
Be decisive and adaptable.
This is an environment where quick decision making and flexibility are important to your entire business family to have the confidence that you are there to lead them through the chaos. You cannot control the chaos because it is being driven by factors out of your control, but you can control the information that is being delivered so everyone is up to date, all the time.
Exercise caution. Everyone wants to be back at work, satisfying customer needs, generating cash and paying the bills; however one of the roles of a leader in transition is to take measured but quick action that is best for everyone inside and outside the business. Having a decision tree of actions will serve you in being both timely, but cautious in taking next steps.
Be positive. There is a difference between being optimistic and displaying positivity. When it seems like nothing else can go wrong, your role as the leader of your small business is to remain positive. “We are taking all the steps we can think of to prepare ourselves to withstand the issues of being closed for the next 30 days” is being positive. When you display too much optimism about the future, you are risking being viewed as unrealistic. Leaders needs to be seen as realists to maintain the confidence of their team.
It is all new ground for most of small-business leaders, but leadership is what is needed right now. Take the high road and be the leader you know you can be to guide your team through the unforeseen.
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Sourced from Career Experts, careeerexperts. co.uk. SCORE Cape Cod and the Islands is open for business via remote mentoring technology — phone, email, video. Contact us at capecod.score.org, capecodscore@ verizon. net or 508-775-4884. We are here for you.