Many leaders today feel pressure to speak confidently, to articulate a clear vision and to inspire their people.
None of that is wrong. But perhaps the most important thing you can do as the coronavirus crisis unfolds has to do with your ears rather than your mouth.
In our first “Together” weekly webinar, Great Place to Work® Executive Vice President Holly Petroff explained how listening to employees is crucial today. That means refraining from jumping into the conversation too soon so that the truly authentic comments from employees can surface.
“Bite your tongue if you want to say something. Because you, probably, as a leader normally speak at minute five in a meeting. But it’s minute 35, 45, 55 when people are going to start to really tell you what they think. And that’s what they need to express, and what you need to hear as a leader,” Holly said.
Great Place to Work leaders shared three key “don’ts” during the Friday, April 3 edition of Together. “The Three Don’ts” are based on our research surveying some 3.4 million employees across the globe.
Three pitfalls to avoid right now
1. Don’t go it alone
Business executives can be tempted to turn inward or to just a few colleagues amid periods of high stress. That’s not wise, according to our latest research on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
It’s more important than ever to create a culture of inclusion where all employees—including those from historically marginalized groups—feel connected, respected and involved.
Great Place to Work found that organizations with a consistently inclusive culture thrived before, during and after the Great Recession, dramatically outperforming peers.
2. Don’t let Excel drive
Leaders must pay attention to their numbers during the sharp economic downturn that has hit. But Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, advised executives to focus more on the human side of the business now—to things like checking in on employees’ wellbeing, the health of their families and how their communities are doing.
3. Don’t forget tomorrow
Each day during this pandemic-recession raises pressing questions for leaders. But even as you put out fires and address immediate problems, it’s vital to provide a positive vision for the future.
Employees need to hear a balance between realism and hope. To deny difficult times ahead will not land well with people acutely aware of the scope and scale of the COVID-19 crisis.
But leaders also must paint a picture of emerging from these dark times eventually and heading to a sunny future.
Along these lines, Michael shared the “V-curve.” This is a graphic showing how a pandemic-related downturn can pivot quickly into an economic rebound, unlike the “U-curves” of typical recessions, where business growth stalls for an extended period at the bottom of the cycle.
Leaders who stick with their values and build trust with all their people can emerge from the crisis growing at a fast clip. If organizations are headed by executives who let values slide and focus just on short-term gains rather than the organization’s highest mission, the recovery will be slower. “They’ll get better,” Michael said. “But not at the same rate as the ones with purpose-driven leadership.”
It’s OK to admit you don’t have all the answers
One question from participants centered on how to project confidence these days while also demonstrating authenticity. Tony Bond, Chief Diversity and Innovation Officer at Great Place to Work, recommended that leaders lean into authenticity.
People don’t expect executives to have all the answers. Leaders ought to admit that fact, and work together with employees to figure out what’s happening and how to respond, Tony suggested.
“We want to be in a in a place of sense-making,” Tony said. “Not just sense-giving.”
In other words, it’s a time for leaders to listen—using their ears as much as or more than their mouths.
Watch the full webinar recording here. Join us every Friday at 9:30 a.m. PDT/12:30 p.m. EDT to learn from our data and our community of Certified companies. At Together, you can also share what you are experiencing and get advice from others overcoming similar worries. We hope to see you there.