Honesty, communication and vulnerability – leading in a time of crisis

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Jo Rix, Senior Learning and Performance Consultant at Curium Solutions
Mark Saunders, Professor of Business Research Methods

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Leading a remote workforce, perhaps for the first time, can be daunting and even more so in these uncertain times. As social distancing continues, this unprecedented way of working; in the ‘new normal’, seems set to become standard practice for many businesses for the foreseeable future.

Jo Rix, a Senior Learning and Performance Consultant at Curium Solutions, offers advice for leaders dealing with nervousness in their workforce and how they can support employees to stay focused.

“Everything is evolving at the moment. At Curium Solutions, we’ve come up with four ways leaders can support their teams to adjust and feel confident during this uncertain time. These tips relate to providing clarity, structure and a plan that looks to the future, as well as highlighting the importance of staying connected.

We are noticing current trends are moving quickly, as people become used to the current environment, they are looking to their leadership for increased clarity and structure. In the first couple of weeks of remote working, it was all about staying connected. Once these communication patterns have been established leaders should act to ensure their teams remain focused and ultimately, move onto more long-term planning and a vision for the future.

We reached out to our own teams at Curium and asked ‘what do you need from us to stay resilient and on track’ which established four themes:

  1. Communication – Check in regularly, offer support and guidance with calm leadership.
  2. Direction – Know what you are trying to achieve, have a purpose and realign your goals.
  3. Clarity – Have a clear structure and a plan. Prioritise tasks and focus on the important ones.
  4. Empowered – Trust your teams, allow them the freedom to get one with tasks without micro-management.

The best leaders know how individuals are feeling during times of change by asking what is important to them. Listen, then coach them on how to respond. And yet it is important to remember that as leaders, we can be guilty of trying to support everyone. Still, when we are helping everyone else, we often forget about self-care. To support our teams and maintain the things that will keep them going, you must also take care of yourself. This isn’t selfish; prioritise nutrition, fresh air and anything you need to feel good so that you can give the best version of yourself to your team.

In an environment where everyone feels safe enough to reveal their vulnerabilities, work will be better and more efficient. Treat teams as individuals and recognise that everyone is experiencing this very differently; what worked yesterday might not work today. Allow yourself the freedom to take each day as it comes.”

Professor Mark Saunders, Professor of Business Research Methods, Birmingham Business School, and co-leader of the Trust research stream for the Business School’s Workplace Inclusivity Research Centre confirms that clarity of communication and openness is the most critical factor in creating and maintaining trust at this time.

“The need for regular communication is so important. Even if an employee doesn’t say anything in a meeting if they’re listening then it’s all part of feeling involved; being a part of something.

Leaders should be secure enough to say when they are not sure, not as a way out, but to be open and honest. In doing that, in maintaining honesty and openness, their trustworthiness is demonstrated and modelled in their practice. Our research has shown that employees trust managers who demonstrate an’ employee-centric’ leadership style, supporting the employee both personally and professionally. Right now it is exceptionally important to show such care and concern.”


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