How to Talk to Your Team When the Future Is Uncertain
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Use rousing language, and affirmation to get the team spirits up. Powerful phrases like ‘I believe in each one of your capabilities and even more so in our teams’ capability, so I am sure we can do this together’ convey a sense of strength, hope and enthusiasm. Keep a moderately positive tone.
The first task for a manager is to be transparent, explaining to the team exactly what is known, and what isn’t known, and not to keep any team member in the dark.
The second task is to provide hope and a sense of possibility to the employees facing an uncertain future ahead.
Be Responsible: Do not divulge out information to your subordinates if you do not have the green light from your seniors. You have a responsibility for your company.
Be Consistent: If you are yourself facing opaqueness from your seniors, it is tricky to communicate openly with your team. In case of some specific orders from above, you can use your authority to provide some leverage to your team, provided it is within limits.
Know Your Team: Put yourself into your team members shoes and understand that they most likely want their fears to be allayed. Reassuring words like ‘eventually, this is going to be over’ or ‘the management is completely transparent’ help soothe nerves.
Humility: Let’s be honest, the current situation is unclear and it’s ok to admit what you don’t know, or cannot comment on.
Before any word is uttered to the employees, you need to understand your role and channel your leader 'avatar' in a time of crisis, as if preparing for a battle. Your steel nerves will be contagious(!) to your team members. You need to sound convincing, and it’s a good idea to follow the basics, like eating well, plenty of sleep and regular exercise.
Sugarcoating bad news of layoffs or pay cut, or denying that something is happening, when you are not sure, makes you come across as a liar or someone who is clueless. Don’t let the truth come out in instalments.
It’s important to understand your team, their individual worries, feelings and stress points. While we cannot manage everyone’s emotions, we can hear them out and minimize their fears. Keep checking in with your team on a regular basis, and provide regular reassurances.
Constant communication with the team is crucial for a manager, and the current state of affairs, when the world is in turmoil and most employees are sitting at home, it is increasingly difficult for the manager to provide information or assurance, due to uncertainty in every aspect of the business. Uncertainty always triggers fear.
Communication has to be early and regular with the employees. They need to know what to expect, and the frequency of which they will receive updates from the management. One idea is to have catch-up meetings with each one of the team members(virtually of course) and to understand their most pressing questions, or make them use the company’s existing online resources for their queries.
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Exploring the evolving role of leaders in the current context.
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