Leading with Empathy

the Key to Calm in the Midst of COVID-19 (or Any Crisis)

“This too shall pass.”

But until it does, how do you cope in the meantime? How do you lead others? Ensure productivity? Keep your team together? Even if you’ve managed and led through crisis in the past, this one is different, involving mandatory social distancing, economic repercussions, and a whole new way of living and working—at least for a while.

In The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, Larry Johnson highlights in Principle Two: Begin at the Beginning™. When he wrote the book, I don’t imagine he had a pandemic in mind. But leaders, in all types of organizations, must begin at the beginning. To keep your team producing, you have to focus on them, before you focus on anything else.

Many leaders go straight to logistics and operations talk–or worse, go into hiding. All of which are understandable. (If you haven’t wanted to pull your covers back over your head in the morning in the last month, you may have some kind of superpower.)

However, two things that are most needed in a time of crisis—especially when working remotely and social distancing are required—are connection and compassion. If you want to see productivity, results and long-term loyalty, start with empathy.

Your team is probably scared. Scared they might lose their job. Scared they or their loved ones will get ill and not be able to get the help they need. Scared of the what the next day’s headlines will bring.

These are real concerns (Maslow taught us that), and your care for people *as people* builds the foundation for everything else: staying connected while working remotely, staying productive, working with donors or clients during this time, and problem-solving in new ways.

Take a few minutes to show you care. About them. There is something about saying, “I know you’re scared. I share similar concerns, but we are going to get through this together” or just asking them how they are doing that helps produce calm.

Fear dissipates when named and sets the stage for problem-solving, creativity, and new ways of doing business that will help you, your team, and your organization come out stronger, smarter, and more bonded than ever before.

Our guest author is Sally DeChenne Bryant.   Sally serves as the president and CEO of BRYANT GROUP, for one of the nation’s leading search firms specializing in recruiting and training advancement professionals. She began her advancement career in 1989, serving in both higher education and healthcare before starting her own consulting firm in 2001. She is an award-winning speaker and entrepreneur and is passionate about philanthropy and building powerful teams.