Lead with Respect & Compassion
When times are difficult people can turn insular and focus on themselves; it’s understandable because events are happening “to us” as well as “around us.” There’s a layering effect that heightens negative emotions and stress levels and we need to combat those through respect and compassion.
Respect that on a stress scale of 1 to 10, most people are operating at a natural 7 these days instead of a genuine 4. It won’t take a lot for a can of soda to erupt if you’ve already shaken it. Everyone is being told to stay home, but each person’s journey is different. You may be at home, safe, and healthy; others may have sick family members or lost a loved one. Spouses may have lost their job. Tensions are high; acknowledge them. Allow extra time in your calls and video chats to ask and answer the question, “How are you doing?” While you’re at it, ask, “How can I help?”
Respect that homes became schools, daycares, offices, pet groomers, and cafeterias. If every TV anchor can have dogs, kids, and technical snafus, so can we. I don’t think I have client that hasn’t heard or seen my son over the years; he’s 12 and should know better, but when he’s crawling behind me in the kitchen in an attempt to stay out of camera range, it’s distracting! Life is real, and right now, more complex and, at times, terrifying for millions of people. Don’t be embarrassed. Let’s all be human first instead of judgmental – even when judging ourselves.
Respect that applicants on your website are more desperate than ever for a reply. Consider adjusting your autogenerated response to include verbiage that’s transparent about the pandemic and how it may impact your response times. If your current response is, “We’ll call you if we’re interested,” consider shifting it to a more compassionate note of, “Due to the pandemic, we’re unable to respond to every applicant, but please know that we have your information and will notify you of any roles that align with your skill set. Thank you for your interest in our company.”
Respect that tens of thousands of Americans have lost their lives and regardless of whether it was due to the pandemic, other health reasons, or accidents, we are not at liberty to properly mourn and honor their legacies. When we can move about freely, your employees may have multiple funeral services to attend. Think of how you may need to adjust your bereavement leave policies in the months to come. Consider your mental health or Employee Assistance Programs and if you should create and circulate communications highlighting the services available.
Respect that you may need to adapt your normal protocols surrounding EVERYTHING – hiring, onboarding, family leave, sick time, workday hours, security, remote access, procurement, promotions, and more. I have incredible respect for those employers who adapted their normal protocols and did their best to honor commitments when they had extended an offer and set a start date. They figured out onboarding and kept it moving forward. Whether clients met their new CIO or CISO in the parking lot to hand them their new devices, complete I9 forms, and then send them home, or mailed all the equipment and did forms with video authentication and digital signatures. Honestly, there were even a few who said, “Skip the steps, we’ll make it right on the backend when we’re through this.” The key factor is to know what steps were skipped, what protocols put aside, so that when you actually have a moment to breathe, you can revisit and remedy the policy chaos created by the pandemic.
We are in unprecedented times and there is no one correct approach, but if you keep respect and compassion at the forefront, you’ll better protect yourself, your employees, and your organization’s reputation.
Kristen Lamoreaux is the CEO of Lamoreaux Search and is a cultivator of talent who derives joy from helping others achieve their potential. Her integrity, candor, and focus on moving things forward ensure you will always get the hard truth from her mentoring heart. A woman of energy and action, Kristen is a self-proclaimed “Inclusionist” who dedicates her efforts, both personally and professionally, toward helping people and organizations reap the benefits from diverse leadership teams.