The world is on fire. 

Okay, not really on fire, but WHO (World Health Organization) has deemed COVID-19 a global pandemic and we’re all freaking out. 

We are facing an extraordinary challenge in combating the spread and mitigating the impacts of the Coronavirus. From all accounts the situation is likely to escalate and get much worse before it gets better. The idea of that can and is, in many cases leading society to hopelessness and acting in ways that are irrational. 

If you are a leader within your organization, community and even family, you have a responsibility to the people you serve to be a voice of calm, reason and wisdom. In 2008, I was a manager on the frontlines for Washington Mutual. I can recall very clearly the day my mom called me at work and asked if I still had a job. I didn’t know. We were entering the most staggering recession of my lifetime. The economy would be halted, families were devastated, companies reduced to rubble and much more. 

The fear felt now mirrors the fear felt then and as difficult as it is to keep fear at bay, we must. When we give ourselves over to fear and panic it pushes us to act completely outside of ourselves. It pulls on the most toxic pieces of our humanity and produces awful results. 

Being a leader on a typical day can be hard. Today and in the days ahead it will likely get more difficult, but your actions can be the driving force behind how well your team and business operations weather the storm. See below for my top recommendations: 

  • Educate yourself and only share facts. Getting your teams and departments riled up over speculation and conjecture will not serve you. It will only create more panic. Follow the CDC guidelines. This should be obvious, but again relying on the ratings driven media to deliver purely factual and actionable intel is unwise. 
  • Proactively reach out to the various stakeholders of your organization. Think of both internal and external clients. Reach out to every active client to determine how this is impacting their business and how you can continue to support them. Connect with each person on your team and within your department to see how this could potentially impact their personal lives. Do you need to make any accommodations? Remind your people of Employee Assistance Programs that may be available for counseling.
  • Create contingency plans. Discuss a redistribution of work as necessary. Ensure each team member is set up to do their jobs away from the office if possible. Also, determine who will back up who if someone on your team becomes unavailable to fulfill their assigned tasks.
  • Create safe spaces for dialogues within the office. Give your people an opportunity to share their concerns, fears and anxiety. Sometimes just talking about it can make a world of difference. 
  • If you start to feel overwhelmed, reach up. Being a leader doesn’t make you immune to feelings, fear or panic. In fact, because you have access to more information, it can make it more difficult to keep perspective. If you find yourself spiraling a bit, connect with your leadership and share your concerns with them versus turning to your team. They will be better equipped to help you regain perspective and determine the way forward. 

Most importantly in all of this, remember the resilience of humanity. We have been through crisis, challenge and difficulty before, yet we persist. We will come out on the other side of this. 

If you are a leader and have found other ways to support your team, I’d love to hear from you!