Communicate to connect

Author: 
Paul Nolan

As this issue’s content came together, it seemed more appropriate than ever to use questions for headlines and introductory paragraphs. The COVID-19 outbreak has left most of us with more questions than answers, and the answers we get change weekly or even more rapidly.

The synonyms for “uncertainty” provided at thesaurus.com include “anxiety,” “concern,” “confusion” and “uneasiness.” Those resonate.

But leaders are called to rise to meet the demands of a crisis. That’s as true in business as it is in government, medicine or other aspects of life. As workplace consultant Kim Scott says in our cover feature, “Everyone will remember how their boss responded during this time.”

No doubt, there are numerous critical and difficult decisions ahead for business leaders at all levels. For now, a key tenet can be summarized in one word: connect. Ironically, the novel coronavirus that has all of us distancing physically has many of us connecting intensely emotionally — and also with ourselves.

The musician David Byrne wrote in a Wall Street Journal article, “In its own terrible way, the virus is showing us how intricately we are connected. It’s revealing the many ways that our lives intersect almost without our noticing. It’s also showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance ourselves from one another.”

If we hadn’t realized it before, we’re learning that leadership is more quiet than boisterous; more genuine than flashy. And it’s often effective not in spite of being simple, but because of it.

We’re also learning the importance of communication. When every third sentence seems to be a question, strong leaders provide the important information that workers need to reduce stress and learn as much as possible about future plans.

This publication writes a lot about recognizing stellar performances with non-cash rewards, including gift cards, merchandise and incentive travel experiences. That’s always a good idea. But the strongest focus right now and when workers start to come together again should be on connecting and communicating.

That will go a long way to solidifying you as a leader.