When I think back about transformational leaders in world history, one of those names that comes to mind is Martin Luther King Jr. He had a clear mission, he was a great communicator, and he was very visible leader in many different circumstances. That visibility provided him a connection with people that allowed his message to reach many different people groups. His well thought out communications were the power source for the mission. Can you imagine him delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech using a 30 page power point slide? No way!
As we are in unusual times to say the least, it is so important for everyone in a leadership position to be very visible and to communicate effectively. Who would have thought we would be dealing with a global pandemic? It was not even a consideration as we ended 2019 and entered into a new year.
So here are a few thoughts for you to consider regarding this concept of effective visible leadership:
1. Be present with those you lead more now than ever. When I say present, I mean stay in regular communication with those you are leading. They need to hear from you on a regular basis.
2. Key messages are vital. Too much information is not helpful. Narrow the focus to things that really matter right now. Here are some thoughts on communicating:
a. Educate your people! Information on personal care of handwashing, distancing, regular disinfecting surfaces that employee’s engage in, not coming to work if they have flu symptoms, etc. Don’t assume people are all watching network news.
b. Encourage your folks to ask questions and bring information/ideas to us. Expand and open the lines of communication more now than ever.
c. Don’t guess! If you don’t know answers to questions or issues, don’t panic but just be honest. Tell them we will find out and get back to them asap. Be prepared; know what you know and what you don’t know.
d. Communicate in a variety of ways. While we are not meeting in large groups, talk to groups in smaller, open settings; provide concise written communications; post key messages on bulletin boards and IP TV’s; and be available on the plant floor and in the office for people.
3. Be sure people know and see what we are doing on their behalf.
a. Additional cleaning in the plant. They need to know we are doing that and see us doing it.
b. Eliminating large group meetings but still being effective in maintaining safety focus. Talk to them about our revised approach and execute it well.
c. Staggering break/meal times to reduce the numbers in the break room at one time. Explain why and be creative.
d. Limit outside visitors/traffic into the facility and limit our travel outside the facility. Communicate broadly here by email, phone, and postings outside the plant. Our people need to know and see we are doing all we can to provide them a safe work place.
4. Remind everyone of the importance we play in the supply chain of essential items for people. We often just think of ourselves as just making empty boxes. We are producing essential packaging material that allows grocery stores to be restocked, key products to be delivered to people all over the world, and products that in many cases keep people alive. Don’t underestimate the importance of what we are doing in times like this one.
In short, be more visible now more than ever. Leaders come forward during challenging times. We are no doubt in the midst of a challenge that we didn’t expect nor any of us have scene in our lifetime. Keep calm, stay focused on what’s important now, narrow your focus, communicate well, and execute at a high level!