Communication conquers crisis

Clear communication, an open mindset and fostering a strong company culture has never been more important than it is right now. Hannah Gill explains how this key attribute will help leaders guide their team through tough times

From bushfires and hail storms to Coronavirus and Kanye for president; we’ve been living through a state of instability and unknowns.

Many industries, including ours, have kept on keeping on—albeit with a host of changes, and a welcome opportunity to innovate and challenge the status quo.

Everywhere you look, there are lessons to be learnt from living through times of crisis.

From learning how to make the most of every ingredient in your fridge, to adapting to managing a team in entirely new and unprecedented circumstances—2020 has proven that each crisis presents a new and unique opportunity for development and growth.

Here are my top three tips for managing and leading a team through a crisis.

The holy grail of skills required for leading a team through good times and bad is communication.

Clear, consistent and succinct communication that cuts through the overwhelming noise your people experience in challenging times will allow
you to lead with clarity and demonstrate that you have a plan and are not leaving your team to flounder.

While presence and clarity are fundamental, it’s equally important not to overwhelm your team with lots of unnecessary communication; consistency is far more important than intensity— especially in times of crisis.

Ultimately, you must set the tone that your team will follow, so making sure
that tone is one of calm confidence is vital.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, at Independent, I instigated a two-part communication plan that aimed to ensure my team felt supported and informed about what was going on while we were working remotely.

This entailed a morning email with any relevant information or news from the day and a motivational quote or funny meme.

This was followed by an afternoon email with my ‘peak, pit and score’ for the day.

I would share my highlight, low point, and an overall score out of 10 for the day and encouraged my team to share theirs with me in return.

This communication approach proved exceptionally beneficial to the team and I.

I was present and available within their workday, and able to check in with everyone daily.

I also committed to responding to their replies that night.

The nature of managing a team during unprecedented times means you might be called to make unusual decisions and changes to the way you and
your team work.

Approaching potential changes with an open and flexible mindset is the
best way to navigate the adjustments with ease.

Inevitably, pandemics, natural disasters and other crises turn the usual day-to-day order of business completely on its head.

At Independent, we had 50 people working from home within 24 hours of the COVID-19 pandemic being announced.

This was important in ensuring that employees felt their leaders were working to keep them safe, supported and protected.

Continuing to hero the employee experience is just as important during times of crisis.

Although this may look a little different—it’s crucial that your team continues to feel as though you’re still taking their satisfaction at work,
career progression, and overall happiness seriously.

In an industry where training and progression pathways can be limited, I like to consistently encourage my team to identify their niche and passion, and pursue education and training in that space.

Similarly, maintaining company culture during a trying time is critical.

At Independent, our organisational ‘culture playbook’ maps out the values and expected behaviours that apply, regardless of whether employees are working from home during a crisis or not.

Ensuring you take the time, particularly in the onboarding space and when you are geographically disconnected from your team, to focus on the operational and cultural expectations of staff is crucial to surviving, and thriving, during a crisis.

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Hannah Gill

Hannah Gill is the Director of The Property Collective, REIACT President and one half of Gill & Hooper