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A Leader’s True Colors Shine in Tough Times

March 26, 2020

I was speaking with a colleague…safely distanced via the phone, of course…about these unprecedented times we are navigating and how people’s true colors come out in times of crisis or uncertainty.


We each shared inspiring stories about our clients who are making a difference – doing pro bono work for customers who were feeling the pinch, supporting their local restaurants by ordering takeout as they worked from home, or even purchasing gift cards to use at retailers once this storm has passed.


Other stories we’ve heard in the news were not so encouraging – like the Tennessee man who had stockpiled 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and wipes in an attempt to profit off the public’s panic over the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon put a stop to his activity after he sold 300 bottles. He ended up donating them, but only after the state’s attorney general’s office began investigating him for price gouging.


It is interesting to see how leaders are responding to uncharted territory. In the midst of any uncertainty, we each have a choice regarding how we respond. Things are out of our control – that’s true. But we never were in full control. And there have always been things we can control – like how we treat people, how we follow advice of experts, and how we find our peace in troubled or uncertain times.


As leaders of small businesses, I challenge you to let your true colors shine and step ahead with three tangible actions:


1. Stay in Front


With news feeds overflowing, the last thing a leader or company should do is step back and not show up. While you can’t control external market factors, you can put your energy into assuring your employees and customers that you are here for them now…and when the storm passes. Things you can do include:


  • Reach out. Pick up the phone daily to connect with your team and customers and ask them how they’re doing. Extroverts are feeling particularly lonely and displaced right about now. Getting a call from a friendly voice can be just what they needed for reassurance and connection.

  • Rally your team. Great things happen when people come together! Many people are feeling isolated if they are working from home for the first time in their careers, and need to be connected to their tribe. There are many collaboration tools out there to keep your team moving forward. My number one is video calls (we use Zoom), where we can see one another, read facial expressions, have a dialog where it feels like you’re in the same room. Know that your team may have mounting fears about working from home, or reduction in income, or trying to deal with a disruption in childcare options. The best things you can do as a leader is listen, offer support, and stay in touch. While you may not be able to solve all of their issues, you can be there to lean on.

  • Be visible. Maintain frequency and consistency in your outbound messages through email, LinkedIn, Zoom or Facetime. This provides visibility and positivity. Share what you’re doing to help improve things in your community and inspire others to do the same thing.


2. Revisit Your Plan


Business owners often fall into the trap of working “in” their business instead of “on” it. I’ve done the same thing myself, and now is a perfect time to shift that paradigm and think bigger. Now is a great time to read a good business book or two. I’d recommend Traction, by Gino Wickman (my business bible!), or go old-school (yet still relevant) and revisit The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Circle your leadership team and talk about your overall objectives for the next year or two, make plans for when this storm passes, and come out of the shoot ready to charge, full steam ahead!


3. Go Proactive


No matter what your business environment looks like during this time, there are people out there who need your help. It’s time to get creative, think outside the box, and find ways to help, encourage and improve the situation for someone. Get creative and you might be surprised how one small suggestion, idea or action can impact someone else’s life or business for the better!


I challenge you to join me, and let this situation we’re facing become an opportunity to move in a positive direction. If you need help navigating your next steps, please reach out to someone you trust. We are also here for you should you need ideas around how you can chart this temporary situation by letting your true colors be your guide.

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