7 Tips for Being a Leader in Trying Times

Elizabeth Macauley

Prosperous businesses don’t pop up overnight. Someone drives them to success. This means, when trying times hit, your company will need a leader more than ever. For example, 76% of small businesses have been negatively affected by COVID-19.

As a result, many have adapted, expanded their products and found new ways to engage their market. The good news is, you can too. To help guide your operation through crises, here are some leadership tips:

1. Provide clear direction for your employees

Difficult times often breed confusion, stress and low productivity in workers. To counteract this, you’ll need to give your staff clear directions. For instance, during COVID-19, many businesses have been:

  • Directing employees to government websites
  • Encouraging their workers to follow guidelines from their state’s governor and health professionals
  • Asking their workers to practice social distancing, wear masks and stay six feet apart
  • Reassuring their staff of job security
  • Communicating with their workers regularly
  • Posting signs and reminders in their workplace of new rules and guidelines
  • Re-defining their company’s goals and informing employees on how they’ll achieve them together

It’s also important for you to remain positive during rough times like COVID-19. If your workers detect worry or fear in your voice, it will only add to their stress. Instead, you’ll need to lead by example and stay calm.

2. Encourage your team

Supporting your team is always important as a leader. But in trying times, being more encouraging can calm your workforce and help them focus. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Continuing to praise and recognize hard work
  • Communicating with compassion and support
  • Giving your employees opportunities to express their concerns
  • Sharing your vision for your small business’ future
  • Being genuine and hopeful about the current situation
  • Giving your staff regular updates on goals and plans for your business
  • Checking in with your employees to see how they’re doing

3. Communicate through a variety of channels

When a difficult time hits, you’ll want to stay in contact with your employees. This is especially important if you have any remote workers. Some ways you can communicate effectively with your workforce and stay connected during times of crisis like COVID-19 include:

  • Sending regular email updates
  • Using video conferencing platforms like Zoom to get groups of people together
  • Posting information about your business on social media
  • Collaborating with online applications like GoogleDocs
  • Using instant messaging chat features like Skype or Microsoft Teams to talk during the day

As you contact your employees, remember to ask for their feedback. You’ll want to communicate in ways that work for them.

4. Embrace change

Sometimes you need to reinvent yourself to stay afloat even if it’s temporary. That’s why many businesses have started offering new services during COVID-19. For example, a lot of restaurants are now offering meal kits that allow consumers to cook their dishes on their own. This helps restaurants sell items from their pantry that they use for meals that don’t transport well with takeout. It also allows customers to continue to enjoy signature dishes they’d normally only be able to get while in the restaurant.

Many restaurants have also started offering carryout cocktails like “take-home margaritas.” This is a good way for businesses to continue to make money off their bar menus.

On top of this, some restaurants are even embracing social media trends like the hashtags #takeouttuesday or #carryoutwednesday. This helps promote their company.

Some other ways to be resourceful during rough times include:

  • Switching your employees’ tasks — For instance, if your store shut down due to COVID-19, you can have your cashiers switch to making deliveries to customers. This helps your business stay productive and profitable while giving work to your staff.
  • Cutting unnecessary costs — If you were planning on upgrading your equipment or re-painting a few rooms, you might want to hold off on that. You’ll want to find ways to save money during difficult times. In some cases, you may want to discontinue products that don’t turn much profit and invest in ones that do.
  • Improving efficiency — You can use slowdowns to make enhancements to your operation by:
    • Creating or updating your business plan — This can help guide your operation through tough times. It should outline your goals, processes and potential growth.
    • Upgrading your online presence — For example, many businesses are upgrading their website and promoting their online store during COVID-19 because their physical location is temporarily shut down. This not only improves your sales process during crises, but it will also help you out when things go back to normal afterward.
    • Evaluating your employees’ day-to-day tasks — You can help your employees become more efficient and reach long-term goals by reducing the amount of tiny unnecessary tasks they do during the day.

5. Celebrate the small wins

The idea behind this strategy is easy. You just need to set small milestones or goals for your team and when you reach them – celebrate. This can be anything from meeting a project deadline to officially re-opening your business after COVID-19’s shutdown.

You can show your appreciation in a variety of ways. For instance, you can give your employees extra time off or throw a pizza party. This helps boost morale and excitement. It’ll also keep your employees motivated to work toward your company’s bigger goals. These celebrations can also help your staff:

  • Remember their passion for your business
  • Gain confidence
  • Feel valued

Some other ways you can boost morale in your company include:

  • Team-building activities
  • Encouraging breaks
  • Asking for feedback and making adjustments to your business
  • Offering discounts and sponsored programs for employees

The key to getting your team through a tough time is to energize them with positivity.

6. Stay in contact with your customer base

A loyal customer base can help your business rise through tough times. The best way to maintain this is to continuously communicate with your following. You can use social media, email and your website to:

  • Post updates
  • Offer discounts
  • Address what’s going on in the world and relate to your audience
  • Announce company changes

It’s important that you don’t make customers hunt for information that they need. For instance, if you’re reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown, you’ll want to let your customers know when and how you’re planning to do so. You also want to ask for feedback during difficult times. Customers will appreciate you listening and accommodating their needs.

7. Evaluate your expectations for your business

Often, when a crisis hits, you need to alter your expectations for your company. For instance, you might have had goals for developing new products that you should put on hold. Your budget may also no longer be the best for your current situation. In many cases, you may need to redirect funds to other areas of your operation to stay afloat.

It’s also important to loosen your grip on employees’ time off. For example, during COVID-19, many children are home from school. Allowing your employees to have flexible time off can help them take care of their families. This will help boost morale and productivity in your business.

Getting your company through a crisis takes adaptability, strength and focus. But remember, even the best leaders can make mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. Just don’t give up and continue to always learn.

Next Steps: Want to learn more? Sign up for the Small Biz Ahead newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of the latest tools, trends, and resources.

7 Responses to "7 Tips for Being a Leader in Trying Times"
    • Ellen H Munroe | July 29, 2020 at 7:21 am

      Thank you for all the great articles and information you provide. It has really been helpful, Again THANK YOU!!!!!

      • Chloe S. - Small Biz Ahead Staff | July 29, 2020 at 9:40 am

        We are so glad to hear that you found this article helpful! Thank you for reading!

    • Jennymarie Mattero | July 29, 2020 at 8:57 am

      Awesome read. I actually found it uplifting to me. Everyday I look for ways to positively motivate staff. Thank you.

      • Chloe S. - Small Biz Ahead Staff | July 29, 2020 at 9:40 am

        Thank you for reading!

    • Jerry Houston | July 29, 2020 at 10:24 am

      Excellent article and very much in line with what our company, HPISolutions, is advising clients. Don’t forget about offering online training opportunities for your employees to keep them focused on learning new skills that would enhance their value to themselves as well as to your organization. Now is the best time to show the employees their real worth through all of the suggestions that The Hartford provides and put the ones that grab your attention into practice.

    • Ashley S. | July 29, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      This is a great article! There’s a lot of good content in here. Thank you for sharing.

    • Onyeka Ignatius Nwoha | July 30, 2020 at 8:12 pm

      I enjoyed the aspect of Evaluating Your Business in light with the new reality.This gives your new direction a meaning.
      The challenge remains that most businesses won’t find time to do the needful in order to move ahead at this time!Their focus is revenue not morale/productivity!

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer: Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Please do not include personal policy information; if you have questions or concerns regarding your policy with The Hartford, please log into your account or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative.