How To...

Published April 13, 2020
WORKERS test the lighting on an exterior sign at Allegiant Stadium for the first time as construction continues on the $2 billion, glass-domed future home of the Las Vegas Raiders in Nevada, USA. The Raiders are scheduled to begin play at the 65,000-seat facility in their 2020 seasons.—AFP
WORKERS test the lighting on an exterior sign at Allegiant Stadium for the first time as construction continues on the $2 billion, glass-domed future home of the Las Vegas Raiders in Nevada, USA. The Raiders are scheduled to begin play at the 65,000-seat facility in their 2020 seasons.—AFP

How to communicate with your customers in a crisis

In a fast-moving crisis, it’s important for leaders to communicate with empathy and honesty — not just internally, but externally as well. Of course, customers require a different approach than employees. Make sure you focus on what is important to them. For example, with the current coronavirus crisis, Target’s CEO recently sent out a note to customers describing enhanced in-store cleaning procedures and additional staffing for order pickup and drive-up services. If possible, provide customers relief during a crisis by waiving fees or limits. This not only reassures current customers but can bring new ones on board. Most importantly, focus on empathy rather than trying to create sales opportunities. Companies should rethink advertising and promotion strategies to be more in line with what’s happening in the world. Otherwise you risk sounding tone-deaf and alienating your customers.

(This tip is adapted from “Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis,” by Paul A. Argenti.)

Trust is even more important when you’re working remotely

Supervisors who suddenly have found themselves managing a fully remote team may be wondering how to measure employee productivity and quality of work from a distance. The key ingredient is trust. You may not be able to see what people are doing, but you can still equip them with the information they need, assign them tasks and check on them like you always have. Since you can’t monitor process in the same way, your review will have to be based on outcomes. Of course, there’s no reason to believe that, in this new environment, people won’t do the work they’ve been assigned. Remote work has been around for a very long time, and today we have the technology to not only do our own work but also to successfully collaborate. So as a manager, your main job is to heed Ernest Hemingway’s advice: “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

(This tip is adapted from “15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered,” by Tsedal Neeley.)

Create a response team for internal communications

In the normal course of business, decentralised communication makes sense, especially if you lead a large, complex organisation. But in an emergency or fast-moving situation, you need a crisis-response team. Ideally it should be small – five to seven people. Include a member of the leadership team, someone from communications, a human resources leader and an expert in the area of concern. This team should meet regularly to monitor the situation closely as it continues to evolve, giving regular updates that are succinct and as transparent as possible. Long messages filled with legalese will not be read or easily understood. Explain what you know, what you don’t know and share your sources of information. In an urgent crisis, you will have to communicate when you don’t have as much information as you want. Be vigilant about correcting mistakes without worrying about the repercussions.

(This tip is adapted from “Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis,” by Paul A. Argenti.)

How to adjust to working from home

When you aren’t accustomed to working remotely, it can be hard to adjust psychologically. To make the transition, take a disciplined approach to managing your day and develop a few rituals. Schedule a start and an end time for work. Take a shower, get dressed – even if it’s not your usual office attire – then get started on the day’s activities. If you typically move around a lot at work, build that into your day by taking brief walks outside or even around the house. If you’re an extrovert and accustomed to a lot of social contact, make sure that still happens. Ask yourself: “how will I protect myself from feeling lonely or isolated?” and make a plan. And focus on the positives. Think about what you enjoy about working from home, for example, playing music or being more flexible with your time. Remind yourself that even if it’s not your choice right now, working from home can be fun.

(This tip is adapted from “15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered,” by Tsedal Neeley.)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, April 13th, 2020

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