Leading (and Inspiring) Your Team Through Uncertain Times

To say we are living in uncertain times is, admittedly, an understatement. As I discuss business issues with my own team and other CEOs across America, a common topic has emerged. Leaders want to know how to lead, and inspire, as well as to motivate and engage their teams through the collective challenges we’re facing as a society and as individuals.

If you’re asking those same questions, here are five principles I’ve found to be incredibly beneficial in leading my talented team as the CEO of Brokers International.

5 Principles for Inspiring Employees in Uncertain Times

1. Communicate.

The first and most important principle is to communicate frequently and transparently. While this is always important, it becomes more so during uncertain times. I don’t sugar coat much at Brokers International and my team appreciates that. Even when the news is not the best, employees respect honesty and expect clarity.

2. Instruct.

My military service taught me that what people need in a crisis is clear instructions. If a ship is on fire, people need to be told to get into a single file line, with women and children at the front, and walk in an orderly fashion to the lifeboats. When your business or our economy is on fire, so to speak, leaders must provide clear instructions that let their employees know what their role and responsibilities are.

What is their part in keeping sales volume up?

What can each person do to meet customers expectations around service delivery in a new and remote environment?

What does everyone need to do to keep expenses down.

Don’t assume your people know what to do. Tell them what they can do. Let them be part of your stabilizing effort.

3. Be patient.

“Patience is a virtue,” is what we’ve been told since we were young. It’s just as true today. Patience is critical when times are tough. It’s also more difficult to practice in stressful, chaotic situations.

People don’t handle stress well. They can become short, scared and not think clearly at times. Sometimes, they say things they don’t mean or later regret. Remember this when you’re tempted to lose patience with your team.

Attitude reflects leadership. As you practice patience with your team, they will be inspired to extend grace to each other, and your whole business will benefit as a result. It will flow out to your interactions with customers and will be reflected in your performance as a company.

4. Listen.

To be more precise, be an intentional listener. When times are uncertain, employees want to be heard. For inspiration and motivation to occur, trust must be present. Trust is built when people feel like they’ve been heard. Provide opportunities for people to express their feelings to you.

Consider creating an ‘open door’ time, even if it has to be over video conference right now, where employees can talk with you freely about anything. I’ve done this and have seen people embrace it as a way to share ideas, catch up, ask questions and share concerns.

It helps create an environment where employees feel respected, trusted and valued.

5. Laugh.

My dad taught me most of the important things in life, including when to laugh. Sometimes, the way through a troubling situation is, at an appropriate point, to inject a little levity into the situation. Lightheartedness has an important place in getting us through sustained difficult times.

So, don’t be afraid to encourage your team from time to time with a little appropriately-natured humor. At Brokers International, we’ve used video conferencing to let employees host breakfast and happy hours. They share recipes with us. We get to watch them cook (or make a cocktail) and have plenty of laughs during the process.

It’s helped our team stay connected and inspired as we work our way through these challenging times.

Wrapping it Up

Finally, I’d leave you with this word of encouragement. Remind your team of who you are as a company. Reiterate your mission, vision and values and remind them why you do what you do. Help them keep at the forefront of their minds what you do for your customers every day. Remind them why they matter and the difference they make.

That, more than anything, will inspire your team to pull through these tough times and build a brighter tomorrow together.

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