Leading With Empathy: Tips for Managing Teams During a Pandemic


April 2, 2020

Managing and directing teams can be challenging in the best of times, but adding on a pandemic that affects every part of our lives creates a new level of complexity. As c-suite executives, we’re making difficult decisions hourly — even by the minute — that impact our employees’ lives and our businesses’ livelihoods. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you as you lead your teams these trying times.

Open and Honest Is the Best Policy

A human crisis demands a human response. Your messaging and approach to clients, teams, coworkers and even family is more important than ever. Understanding where a client or team has concerns and being open to how they’re feeling will go a long way in developing and deepening the relationships. When it comes to your employees, don’t be afraid of less-than-ideal facts. Employees appreciate a direct and sincere approach right now and you want to ensure your messages are direct with no room for ambiguity.

Stay the Course 

Review mission-critical projects and ensure they’re still progressing. The impact of this virus will eventually subside and the mission of your organization will still be front and center. Also, by keeping your teams focused on the highest priority tasks, you’ll be providing a sense of stability and focus during a time of instability and outside distractions.

Be Nimble and Expect Change

Just as mission-critical projects need to continue, projects that just a few short weeks ago were top priority will likely need to change either scope or priority, or be pushed off altogether. Ensure you’re staying on top of the shifting priorities and communicating them to your teams. 

Also, be nimble with your in-market messages. A campaign that just kicked off may now miss the mark completely and need to be readjusted, re-formulated and re-deployed.

Be a Consumer of Information

Look for industry trends to emerge and shift your strategies accordingly. Don’t be afraid to test theories and discover new tactics to employ. These are unprecedented times and paying attention to those emerging trends will be your best bet for staying on top of how industries — and even users’ behavior patterns — are changing. Our go-to resources include:

Do you have other resources you’re relying on to bring you the latest digital marketing news? Share them with us and we can add them to our list.

Set Realistic Goals and Expectations for Your Teams 

We’re all dealing with a new reality. Many of us are exclusively working from home, managing dispersed teams. On top of that, family obligations are now a regular part of the workday. All of this, alongside the ever-changing and quickly evolving news swirling around us, can be extremely stressful. Understand that all of this takes a toll on an employee and a team. This is a bit of a “quarantine tax” that must be factored into how we view and set expectations with our teams. Don’t expect everyone to operate at rigid hours during the day, but do maintain high expectations of meeting deadlines and accomplishing tasks. A little flexibility and empathy will go a long way toward employee morale and productivity.

Remain in Close Contact with Clients

Make sure you or your directors are checking in with your clients. Ask them how they’re doing but don’t sell anything right now. Let the dust settle. If your product or service is a priority for them, they’ll let you know. In the meantime, advise them on market shifts and opportunities that they can leverage. For example, we’ve created a content hub, Forward. Together., that offers tips and tricks for shifting media and search strategies to adapt to current trends. You may want to consider creating similar strategies for staying in front of your clients and adding value during this stressful time.

We’d love to hear about how you’re leading your teams during this COVID-19 crisis. If you have tips to share, please let us know so we can add them to this post. And if you have any questions for us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re all working hard — from home.

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