How can we grow our workforce and organizations during times of uncertainty and change? In the past couple months we have experienced federal and state mandated closures, unplanned work slowdowns and layoffs, and devastating financial losses during a global pandemic. What have we learned from government and business leaders that were forced to make tough decisions in a time of uncertainty and how can we use those decisions to guide our own leadership and organizations? Managing through crisis and forced restructure can be difficult, but it can also be a time to grow and transform. Here are six lessons learned from managing through changing times or a crisis like COVID-19.

1. Culture Creation      

Take a hard look at your organization’s culture. Do it with fresh eyes, maybe including mid level managers or an outside resource all together. Remember that culture is shown, not told, and it is an action and a choice. For employees it is an experience, and more often than not, it is something that is felt. Culture creation is intricately woven from our professional life to our personal life. Transparency and connection is key. This is true for an organization’s mission statement, value propositions, and its safety culture. Be clear in times of change what the goal is and how your organization will reach it.

For any culture to shift or to be long lasting, robust, and teachable, it has to be modeled through living the ideal(s). It must be cultivated and tended to.

For any shift in our organizations, our families, and our intimate circle we must be committed to modeling what we wish to see and be a part of. This could be safety behaviors, purposeful actions that are inclusive and celebrate diversity, and what our organizations reveal as their true self during times of prosperity and crisis.

2. Strategic Patience

We talk about having patience and grace during tough times, but is COVID-19 an excuse for poor decision making, the lack of courage to communicate tough messages or simply having an ugly attitude when we’re all in this together? Probably not.

We absolutely need to be understanding during these unpredictable times, but you must also be strategic with your patience. We all know someone that is frustrated with company decisions, unsustainable workloads, and family members that are cranky and losing motivation because they’re expected to do more with less. These are the moments that we need to be strategically patient – watch how our peers, managers, companies, and customers are reacting – and then make a plan to surround yourself with positive energy while exploring companies that have a culture in line with your values.

3. Flexibility

Especially in times of change and crisis, it is imperative to remain agile and open to new opportunities. Making the best of a bad situation is just not for when you forget an ingredient at the super market for that night’s dinner, it is really a skillset. The most successful stories involve leaders and organizations that are able to bend in hard times and not break with rigidity. Get to know your team, your clients, and customers. Embrace the “start up” mentality where you are ridiculously committed to your vision and values. Consider the transferable skills in your team to create support plans for shifting business needs and market climates and then cross train. A strong, united team will nearly always navigate crises effortlessly.

4. Discover & Evolve

Professionally this is an excellent time to assess your business’ health by examining your workforce, financial performance and cash position, systems and processes, and brand messaging internally and externally. It’s a great time to invest in safety programs, leadership training, transferable skill assessments, and personal development plans. During any time of crisis or uncertainty it is best to reassure your workforce that they are a valuable asset to the success of your organization. Top level management can use the time to creatively find ways to adjust teams or processes to streamline efficiencies, safety measures, and development of the next generation of leaders.

Personally? Use this time to discover your passions and evolve! Maybe starting a new business during a pandemic seems a bit risky, but how about taking on a new hobby, committing to a healthy goal, or just starting a new habit? It’s all really the same… make a solid plan, find an accountability buddy, track your progress, and be willing to adjust when needed.

5. Courage to Communicate

It is better to over communicate than under communicate, especially in a time of crisis. Create a plan for communication that takes into account all the facts and circumstances surrounding the need to connect. Make sure to speak or write in a calm manner so that you are heard and do not shy away from the tough conversations. To avoid creating anxiety in those we are communicating with, be clear and timely instead of vague and illusive. When we do not communicate we are still communicating. Be hyper aware of both the messaging you want to avoid penetrating your organization and what you want your workforce to know as certainty; Have that guide the who, what, where, when and why. And remember: Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.

6. Done Beats Perfect

We are all hyper conscious of the details and the impression we make on others. If we’re going to evolve and make a big change, we want the result to be perfect! But speaking from our experience, in these tough times you will find success if you just do something while remembering that it can always be a work in progress.


And by doing this you will show your employees, family, customers and community that you have the courage to be flexible and able to evolve in these tough times.