Historians give Winston Churchill high grades as a leader in crisis. Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the beginning of World War II. In his speech to the House of Commons, he didn’t proclaim that he had all the answers. He said the following:
I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”
And he did not sugarcoat the magnitude of the problem Britain faced in its war with Germany:
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
In the same speech, Churchill offered hope and vision for the future:
But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time, I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”
If I were to tell you that providing clarity is an important leadership role in crisis, you might laugh at me.
You would think, How can I have clarity when everything is confusing and no one knows what is coming next?
You’re right. We face a lot of uncertainty. Therein lies the reason you should offer your team as much clarity as you can. What does clarity look like in today’s environment?
Identify what has changed. Not everything has changed, although it might feel that way. Be specific in naming changes.
Note what is still the same. Many things are still like they were.
Clarity is a gift you can give your employees by being transparent and communicating well about your evolving situation.
Even if the news is grim, your employees need to know that you are being transparent with them rather than hiding something. It’s even okay to tell your team some of your uncertainties rather than sugarcoating facts or putting on a façade that they can probably see through anyway.
Uncertainties make all of us uneasy. Don’t become a source of uncertainty for your employees.
Develop a plan for staying in touch with your employees regularly. Your leadership in this way shows a steady hand on the wheel. It gives you opportunities to show compassion and keep your team updated on what is happening in the business.
Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. If you were your employee, what would you want to hear from your leader? Then develop your communication strategy accordingly.
Clarify what the unknowns are. Identifying known unknowns is surprisingly freeing.
Communicate often. Communicate transparently. Communicate with clarity!
Keep reminding your team of the reason you are in business and your service mission to your customers and others. Employees need to be reminded of the reason to keep pulling together.
You Can Lead with Clarity
Clarity builds confidence. You will become more confident as you develop clarity in your own mind. Your employees will gain confidence in your leadership and your business as you communicate that clarity to them.
You don’t need to be a Churchill to lead through this current crisis. Pray for wisdom, do your best, and give your team as much clarity as you can.
Coauthored by Caleb Crider and Roy Herr