By CAROLYNE NJOGU
COVID-19 has disrupted our way of life and continues to present new challenges daily.
What was once thought to be a health concern far away has now reached many nations across the globe impacting work, school and life in unprecedented ways.
Not only are we experiencing suffering as death tolls rise, many peoples’ physical and mental health are also taking a hit. Our economic and financial health are also at crossroads and have now seen more than 30% stock market drop since mid-March.
In a crisis like this, change is the only certain expectation. Nevertheless, we all must learn to adapt and embrace change as the new normal.
So as a leader, how do you lead change in a current time of crisis? Most importantly, how do you lead yourself and those around you to remain calm in turbulent times, building resilience to face the inevitable?
We’re in this together
We could start by acknowledging that we are all in this together – after all the virus does not discriminate. Additionally, humans are emotional beings, and we cannot help but feel the pain and suffering of our loved ones and those around us.
To cope, manage and emerge from the pain and suffering, we must be willing to own and express how we truly feel to heal and transform ourselves to become stronger and healthier moving forward.
By expressing sympathy, empathy and compassion, the three emotions necessary to sincerely serve one another and truly connect; we all can become better and more compassionate in our society today.
What can you do?
Whether you are a CEO, manager, teacher, clergy or a parent, you will need to figure out what’s your part in this if you are to inspire yourself, your people, and team to creativity, productivity and harmony in tough times.
As a leader, you may start by acknowledging that you have three choices:
- You can choose to ignore the reality before you – which would have grave consequences.
- You can tell those you lead to get their act together! – which would be insensitive and costly.
- You can choose to inspire action and courage – most recommended for all. Stepping up to lead by example of what you want to see in your organisation or home is the ultimate mark of a true leader.
Leading a business is very much like leading a family. At any given time, a great parent tries, in their best ability, to manage and meet the various physical and emotional needs of their family.
Here are 4 ways of how you can lead with care and compassion:
Acknowledge that you are like everyone else dealing with the crisis. By sharing your feelings and emotions openly while communicating with transparency; you can channel your emotions to strength not just for you but for all. After all, leaders are trailblazers.
Clarity in communication
Be clear and intentional in your communication. Remember that everyone is watching and seeking direction from you. Set the tone, be kind in your verbal choices and others will follow. Acknowledge others by saying thank you more often, and own up to your failures regularly and others will follow.
Have the courage to make hard decisions and be clear on your values and those your business stand by. Be willing to do the hard stuff e.g. Do not entertain customer who undermine your values or your team.
Realise that people are motivated by purpose and that by understanding the nature of their current situation, communicating with clarity and transparency as well as having the decisiveness to confront the challenges ahead – you increase your value as you encourage others to act.
Nevertheless, always ensure that your actions correspond with your emotions and words if they are to communicate your care. Releasing an empty press releases or addressing your constituency with empty words is futile to say the least. People want to know that you care and are sincerely invested in their well-being.
People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. – John Maxwell
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The benefits of kindness in business
A thriving culture
Your business health and wellness is directly correlated to that of your employees. According to this article, emotions drive human behaviour.
Therefore, business leaders who lead in creating cultures that allow for employees to ponder, express, manage and channel their emotions authentically (post-COVID-19) will gain in the long run.
Vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown argues that while vulnerability is seen as a sign of weakness in many western cultures, it is not so. By harnessing prevailing fear, anxiety, and pain through vulnerability; joy, love, belonging, creativity and faith can be the new climate in business.
Trust is the currency of business as it is the confidence we place on others. Companies that build trust with their stakeholders experience exponential gains in employee engagement, customer service satisfaction, loyalty, creativity, innovations, happiness and profits.
Business leaders who lead with compassion understand the impact their behaviour has on those they lead in the overall performance, morale and bottom line. Leading with transparency, authenticity and genuine care becomes the embodiment of trust.
A legacy of good
These days, people want to do meaningful work. Thus, businesses that create cultures of compassion stand to gain both in economic terms and in creating a legacy that lives on.
Consider Border’s Bookstore now bankrupt although its non-profit arm, Borders Foundation established in 1996 still lives on.
According to The Ann Arbor News online, the foundation was founded to serve the needs of Borders’ employees in times of financial hardships or due to other challenging life circumstances e.g. job losses, medical problems, domestic violence or utility shutoff.
Can you imagine how critical such support could mean in the wake of COVID-19? Already, we’ve seen mass layoff across the US, as businesses respond to the economic fall out of this pandemic.
Now more than ever before, stress levels are off the charts. In addition to dealing with the normal stress of living in the 21st century, people have to deal with the stress of managing myriads of uncertainty that adds an extra strain on their immune system.
Truthfully, if there was ever a time we needed compassion, it would be now. It remains to be seen if many billionaires, investors, politicians and CEOs will join the ranks of Marriot International CEO, Arne Sorenson in leading compassionately.
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel – Maya Angelou
In a nutshell
Whether you realise it or not, your business success is directly correlated to that of your employees and society’s health and wellness. For business leaders who choose to lead compassionately, the gains are enormous if you start now.
Lead with courage, transparency and authenticity, inspiring hope by investing resources, time and emotional capital necessary to those you lead.
Realise that incorporating kindness to your business strategy is crucial. Start by embodying gratitude, be more present with your team, and you’ll inspire creativity, meaning and happiness. If you do, you’ll build not only a great business but also a legacy that lives on beyond COVID-19.
Read also: Benefits of Gratitude in the Workplace