As the leader of clients, team members, or even of our families and ourselves, our outcomes are often a direct result of our communication. That’s even more important when times are tough. But we need to be even more intentional about how we communicate during times of crisis.
If you remember one rule of thumb when it comes to communication styles, it should be to “listen to absorb, not to respond.” This is important in good times, of course. But it’s even more important in bad times. When I called prospects about staffing needs during the Great Recession, I resisted the common urge to respond right away. Instead, I asked them what position or skill set they’d be most interested in hiring. They told me. I absorbed it, thanked them for their time, and used that information to pivot my business.
Way too many times, we listen to people’s concerns and try to convince them that their concern is misplaced. When times are tough, do your best to avoid that temptation. When we listen to absorb, we’re fully present and we can truly learn how to better lead the other person. It doesn’t matter who it is—an upset client, a significant other planning a home improvement project, or a three-year-old refusing to eat their peas—you can do more good by absorbing what they say and not responding at all, than listening only to formulate a response. Look them in the eye if you’re face-to-face.
Avoid scrolling through Instagram if you’re on the phone. Be present. Be focused. And truly listen.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a client who was communicating with her team on a daily basis while they were working from home. She sent out emails and gave updates about key business metrics. Her business had been hit hard, and most of her staff was laid off. She was trying to come up with ways to get people money. She emailed on a daily basis to let them know she was thinking of them, but nobody responded.
During a coaching call, I suggested she go in a different direction. Sending daily emails was a good idea, but long paragraphs of text couldn’t adequately represent how hard she was working to support her team. I asked her to try sending a short video every morning. It didn’t need to be anything highly produced. She could say the same exact thing that she’d say in email. But sending it as a video would allow her team to see her and hear her vocal inflection. She’s a heart-centered leader and runs a heart- centered company. She really does care deeply for her people. Sending emails stripped the heart out of her message every morning, so we decided to try videos.
Every video started the same, with something to the effect of “Good morning. I’m thinking of you. I hope you and your family are well.” It also included an invitation for them to reach out if they needed to talk about anything, such as, “If I can help you, please let me know. If you have any needs, I want to be here to help.” She then updated her team:
Here’s what I know about the company. Here’s where we stand. I filled out an application for four government loans. The brutal reality is, I don’t know when the money is going to come in, and I don’t know if we’re going to get the money if we do get the money.
If we do get approved for the money, I don’t know how fast it will arrive in our bank account. Here’s a plan I’ve got. I’m laying out a framework to do one, two, and three if we don’t get the money. I’m also working on a contingency plan. Here’s four, five, and six. Feel free to give me any feedback, please. Connect with me. I’m happy to chat with you at any time. Have a great day.
The entire video was less than two minutes long. The very first day, she went from receiving zero engagement to incredible engagement. It really landed with her people. So, when we think about communication, let’s think about the frequency, but let’s also think about the form, too.
Are we heart centered? What is our vocal inflection? How do we care about others? How do we care about our team? How do we share what we don’t know? How often should we communicate with that in mind? And what form of communication would most accurately reflect who we are?
When times are tough, the frequency and forms of communication we use can make a big difference in the effectiveness of our communications.
Written by Todd Palmer. Have you read?