As we support individuals, teams, and organizational leaders on this wild ride that is COVID-19, we’re observing the many challenges and opportunities in this crazy time. This week we want to address a significant challenge that’s emerging as we—as a country and a world—move from black and white to gray.

By black and white, in this instance, we’re describing the experience for many leaders over the past few months. That is, many expectations in response to the pandemic were clear and crisp; in many ways they were black and white.

Specifically, non-essential services were told to close their face-to-face workplaces, to one of working virtually, and to social distance. Individual leaders didn’t need to make this call but were guided or directed to do so from federal, state, and local government leaders. While hard, it was clear, and leaders got about the business of helping their employees navigate working from home or, if laid off, navigate unemployment.

As we’ve moved through
the initial stages of the pandemic,
leaders are exploring when and how to reopen.

While the mandate is still clear and crisp for some businesses, for many others the decisions about how to move forward are back on the shoulders of leaders. These leaders report feeling anxious about making sure their employees, customers, and clients are safe while balancing the need to earn as much money as possible and as soon as possible so that their businesses can stay afloat.

This week, we want to support you as you’re making these decisions and working to interpret the sometimes nuanced and evolving messages. We understand if they make you anxious. And we want you to remember that they make your employees anxious as well. Gray can do that.

The first thing we want to encourage you to do is to acknowledge how stressful and uncertain these next few months feel.  

  • Acknowledge this to yourself and increase your focus on taking care of yourself.

    This level of uncertainty is extremely hard on you.

    It takes a toll on your brain, making it hard to think, to process new information, and to learn. It takes a toll on your body as your body interprets your anxiety and stress as threat and keeps you on high alert. It takes a toll on your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers as you feel increasingly stretched and, perhaps, near breaking.

  • Acknowledge this to your employees and commit to remaining in dialogue with them as you make decisions.

    Your staff will feel much more confidence if they know you’re taking this seriously, they feel they matter to you, and they understand how you’re thinking about and making decisions.

The second thing we’d recommend is to err on the side of people while committing to increasing revenue and profitability

  • While you need to ensure financial viability, if you lose your best talent you’ll be in real trouble.

    Consider what you must do to increase revenue and profitability and what it takes from your employees. Then, with that in mind, begin to create a plan that takes into account the safety and success of your people.

    At the end of the day, you can’t earn revenue or become profitable if your best people have either literally left the job or have emotionally given up because they don’t have confidence in you as a leader.

  • Share your thinking with your leaders first to refine your approach and clarify your rationale. Then share with the entire organization.

    Remember, you’ll be more credible as a leader when your employees know that you’ll share your thinking, your rationale for decisions, and your plan for their safety while creating business success. Let them know you’re open to considering their recommendations and to hearing their concerns.

    We’re working with some incredible leaders who are doing townhall webinars weekly, others who do email updates daily, and many who have an open-door policy to anyone who has questions, suggestions or concerns. In this case, of course, it’s not literally an open door but you get the idea.

This week, spend some time considering how you’re navigating the movement in our world from black and white to gray, acknowledging your own and your employees’ stress and committing to creating solutions that navigate the important line of safety and financial success.

While the following article doesn’t quite reflect black and white, it comes close as leaders consider safe ways to move forward.

We’re here if you need our support.