Even during the current crisis, I’ve seen a lack of brand leaders stepping forward to talk about what their own contributions must be when it comes to creating formidable alliances and resilient teams. Too often, the implication is that a CEO or CMO need only hire the right folks, after which it’s just a matter of other mid-level people taking care of management. But I disagree.
There are concrete things company leadership needs to understand and carry out in order to maintain a team that can see their way through any challenge or crisis.
These principles are important especially today. With the outbreak of a health crisis, and the added impact of social unrest, only the most well-prepared teams will transcend the chaos and continue to operate at a high level.
As a person who has specialized in branding for major national companies for 30 years, here are my 5 big ideas for fortifying your team against breakdown.
Listen. Understand. Support. Basically, show your staff that you’re human. No one can have all the answers to other people’s problems, but answers have never been as important as compassion.
This idea of empathy often gets overlooked because, really, it’s the simplest of all. Getting to know your employees, asking how they’re doing, sharing a story or a joke, expressing congratulations or condolences when the time is right—all of this is normal human interaction that other people, whether your employees or not, have a right to expect from you. So take the time, as busy as you are, to show them you care. Buy them lunch. Ask about their kids or how they’re doing with the stress brought on by Covid-19. Not only has research shown that this improves individual performance, it improves overall productivity and work environment.
Every employee comes from a different world—no one’s circumstances are exactly the same as another’s. And these differences are fantastically useful. In fact, hiring people from a diversity of backgrounds helps your team and your brand in a number of important ways.
One of them is creativity. With input from people with a range of experiences and understandings of the world, a brand has a certain edge over any competition that is dead center in the middle of the mainstream. You should always be in the market for people who look at projects and problems from an entirely new or unexpected angle. Hiring talented people who happen to speak different languages, practice different religions, and understand the world in a way you don’t also has benefits of camaraderie that are hard to pinpoint—in a sense, I guess it pushes people outside of their comfort zones in the best way possible. They strive to identify with each other and because of this they end up bonding more strongly. And I think it is this deliberate seeking of a sense of understanding that, in the end, can really make a team more powerful.
We all struggle with emotional issues or mental health on some level. For some, the issues just may be a bit more delicate or unique. Welcoming them and helping them as needed, communicating where to find available resources, can help staff feel comfortable at the office and help them see you and their coworkers as allies and friends.
If you didn’t know, May of 2020 was Mental Health Awareness month, and I see the reason why it’s so important, especially with what’s going on in the news these days. It must be true that right now, more people than ever are struggling with uncertainty, anxiety, and a host of other issues. In a situation like this, your employees will be seeking a sense of safety and comfort. So give it to them. Allowing your office to be that place where they can be themselves has an enormous payoff in brand strength and team unity.
“Working from home” is the phrase of the day. And though not everyone is on board with it, the fact is that most companies have become more open to it than they were three months ago. The reason you should consider being more flexible in terms of schedule, as well as with other aspects of work life, is that it will not only improve employee experience but also elevate productivity.
To whatever extent possible, let your team members offer a schedule design that works for them. If it doesn’t work for you, you can always adjust. But be flexible enough to allow them input. Also, allow room for hiccups, mistakes, distractions, and jokes. Right now, employees are working with kids, pets, and family members roaming around the house. Let it happen! The unexpected intimacy of the remote Teams call has been one of the best things for business, in my view, because it lets people bond and share quality time.
Open, transparent and clear communication reduces feelings of uneasiness, especially when times get tough. Why make rules and set goals if you’re not going to make them clear to staff? When you let your employees wallow in a kind of quiet confusion, in a situation in which many questions remain unanswered, all your gunning for is an eventual and potentially catastrophic string of avoidable errors. So let them know you’re there for questions and that your door is always open.
As we always say at TopRight, branding is a time to be clear, aligned, and ruthlessly consistent with everything you do—especially when it comes to internal marketing. Plenty of companies these days have internal newsletters, event calendars, and daily updates that ensure that everyone from the highest upper levels down to the parking deck staff has the same information. That makes for an informed and prepared when times get tricky. So stay on top of that. You’ll be glad you did.