Leading Your Team Through Unprecedented Times

Running your own business is tough.  Even under normal circumstances, keeping a small business team energised, upbeat and enthusiastic can be difficult.  In challenging times, people feel anxious and fearful of the uncertainty ahead and this can have an impact on colleagues and customers. 

In the current working population lifetime, never has there been a need to step up and lead the team then now!

If you want your team to continue as usual where possible, then you need to wipe down your attitude and polish your leadership skills.

Because we do things in sevens, here are our top 7 tips to keep your team calm, prepared and engaged in these challenging times.

  1. Keep everyone informed

Everyone needs reassurance that the are ‘safe’ and that the business has plans in place.  In short, where do they stand?  Be honest from the outset.  If you are worried about the impact on your business and the employment levels you can sustain, discuss the situation openly with them. Your team will already be talking about this amongst themselves – and in the absence of clear and frank discussion from yourself, they will make up their own communication and messages.  On a practical level, could you consider reducing peoples hours in the first instance rather than force a redundancy?  How will you retain your staff when the crisis is over if you haven’t treated them with respect?  Make use of your HR support and any advice from occupation health teams if you have access.  We live in a wonderful world of technology at our fingertips – make use of online systems.

  1. Keep going

When the workload eases don’t become apathetic! Don’t fall into an unproductive habit.  Use this time as a gift!  Think of it as an opportunity to catch up on all those important but non-urgent tasks you’ve been avoiding for ages!  Why not get the team to use any ‘remote’ time completing their mandatory training, updating their professional competencies, or getting themselves up to speed with the latest sector information.  How about giving them a creative task that some much needed quiet and reflective time would suit?  – things like articles for your website and social media channels, a complete review of your website, coming up with marketing ideas etc.  How about completing any CPD portfolio requirements?  What about some of the more mundane and formal stuff that you just never seem to get around to – like writing up protocols or Standard Operating Procedures.   For your supervisors and management team, what about writing up training manuals, planning appraisals etc.  This could be ‘golden nugget time’ – use it wisely. 

  1. Celebrate teamwork

Now more than ever.  If this doesn’t come naturally to you, then make a conscious effort.  This will test your metal.  How about doing a ‘skills audit’ to ensure you have sufficient skills, knowledge, talents within the team to draw on so that they can cover one another.  How about reviewing peoples shift patterns?  Could ‘natural pairings’ now become ‘opposite’ shift buddies to ensure business continuity?  If you haven’t already, it is worth reviewing and defining everyone’s responsibility so there are: a) no gaps and b) no duplicated effort.

  1. Be imaginative

Now is the time for reinvention: of systems, processes and delivery of business!  Look for opportunities – possibilities that you have never thought of before may be endless!  Are there  alternative ways of delivering your product or service?  Are there any expansions to your portfolio or offer?  What remote service or support can you provide for customers?

Your team are the experts!  Value their opinion.

Ask for their ideas and suggestions.

Look at other businesses to see how they are coping and adapting.  Can you learn anything new?

Stay on the radar – reach out to your customers feeling just as anxious and fearful of uncertainty.  Ask them what they need.  Tell them how you are changing your approach.  Explore how you can share learning together.

  1. Be clear on your support

Support the team by sending a clear message for them to remain in isolation if they have symptoms in their household.

Share your plans for paying people so people they are not anxious of financial uncertainty when being sick. Where possible, maintain basic pay for hourly staff who cannot work because they are ill.

The UK Government response regarding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):


(SSP claimable from Day 1 for those unable to work because they are diagnosed with coronavirus, or self-isolating according to Government guidelines).

  1. Be present

Being able to provide the support required when times are challenging is so important.  Be connected.  Listen, observe and act quickly. Your team members may not always reach out – worry more about those that don’t than the obvious ones that do! Even if all you can do is to be empathetic and acknowledge their situation you are still better being a presence they can touch base with.

Being able to build resilience and tolerance of the fast pacing change and messages as we live through stressful times is key.  Be accessible and listen so you can provide support when it’s needed.

  1. Be the role model

Lead by example and be a role model. People will look to you so ‘step up’ and lead!

Be present, be positive, be proactive!