Last night I went to my local grocery store. It’s not one of those major chains. It’s a family-owned supermarket chain serving greater Los Angeles.
As I walked down the aisle to grab some olive oil, I ran into one of the employees. He had a shopping cart full of random products and was restocking the shelves.
I asked him how he was holding up. Like most of us, I could tell he was still absorbing the aftermath of people stocking up on groceries and all the empty shelves.
He said, “I’m doing what I can. My manager wants all these products on the shelf and I’m like, have you seen the shelves? He’s going to have a lot of anxiety for the next couple days.”
I felt for him. I’m sure his manager, like most of us, wants a quick return to normalcy in light of the pandemic. And the way to achieve some semblance of that is by putting whatever inventory you have back on the shelves. However, there’s a disconnect in the communication and it shows up in the employee.
Here are three leadership communication tips for these stressful times.
First, set the tone. Your employees are looking to you for reassurance. If you’re anxious, they’re anxious. If you’re calm, they’re more likely to be calm. Either will seep into how they serve your customers and how they’re going to perform over the long haul. It all starts with you though.
Second, share some vulnerability. You may not know what they’re going through. And they may not know what you’re going through. If you communicate how you feel, there’s an opportunity to build a bridge through this shared experience.
Third, provide very clear, easy to understand marching orders. It’s easy to get caught up in the what ifs or the if onlys or how could this happen. Control what you can control. Identify the next action. And share the why each step of the way. Our next move is. The goal for this week is. What you want to say to customers is.
It’s also worth noting, there is an opportunity to ask your front line employees for feedback. What are they hearing from customers? What questions do customers keep asking? What messages seem to resonate with them?
You may find there’s an opportunity to implement changes or introduce new services that will benefit your company in the future after this pandemic passes.