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Craig Groeschel: How to Lead Effectively Through the COVID-19 Crisis

global crisis

This is a very real global crisis. It’s not the first in the history of the world and it won’t be the last. We will get through this. Will it be hard? Yes, it already is. Will things be different? Likely so! Will we get through this? Eventually!

It’s important to remember that while every major crisis creates unexpected problems, it also creates unprecedented opportunities. So, while we have more and different problems today than a month ago, there are more and different opportunities than we had a month ago.

What Kind of Opportunities Might a Global Crisis Present?

There are three different types of opportunities we should be looking for:

  1. Practical – now you have an excuse to make some changes you should have made before
  2. Financial – those who can see needs and respond quickly can create value, build businesses and develop ministries
  3. Missionalpeople are more open spiritually than they were a month ago; it’s an opportunity to speak into their lives

Now that we know how to look for the opportunities, we must clearly define the problems we are facing. Some leaders just start diving in without clearly defining the problem, but it’s important to step back to be proactive instead of reactive.

We see at least four different problems with COVID-19. These are different for all of us depending on what country, state or industry we’re in, but there are some similarities. The virus itself is the first problem – we don’t want people to get sick. The second problem is fear or panic. Cascading economic impact is the third problem, and finally, public perception that may not mesh with reality is a real problem. Make sure you are clearly defining the problems that you and your team need to address.

Next we must set priorities and it should become clear that there are only a few things that really matter. These four tiers of effectiveness can be a good guide:

Four Tiers of Effectiveness:

  1. What is mission critical?
  2. What is strategic and important?
  3. What is important but not essential?
  4. What is externally initiated?

Clearly define your tiers. Keep focused on tier one and tier two priorities right now. Focus on mission critical activities. You’re going to be tempted to do lots of things. Don’t. Everyone is going to have ideas—good ideas. Focus your energy toward the biggest priorities.

Create a plan around these mission critical things.

Communicating During a Global Crisis

When it comes time to communicate, there are three things you must do:

  1. Communicate Empathetically

Unfortunately, most of your team members’ first thought isn’t about your business, your nonprofit or your church. By nature, they are asking, “How will this impact me? My family?” They are understandably afraid.

You will want to acknowledge their fears and speak to them. Help them know you understand what they are feeling. Don’t be afraid to say what people are thinking. Do everything you can to value your employees. They won’t follow you if they don’t believe you understand. Help them know you genuinely care about them!

  1. Communicate Truthfully

Tell the truth, even when the truth is negative, uncertain or scary. This is so important.

As leaders, we don’t motivate through a crisis, we lead through a crisis. This is not a time for motivation, this is a time for wise decisions, and leading through the crisis. Be realistic and truthful.

So, tell them when you don’t know or when you aren’t sure. The only thing you want to promise them—whatever you decide—things will change. So, adjust. That’s why you speak confidently, but not definitely. You are certain your team will make wise decisions as you know more, but you don’t know enough to project way into the future today. We’re not making promises. We’re confident, calm—we’re leaders.

  1. Communicate Frequently

You cannot over-communicate. Every day, things are changing, sometimes by the hour. Every day, your team will have new questions, concerns and fears. Our various campus staff normally meet all together four times a year. Now we are meeting online every week—sometimes twice a week. Our church normally worships on the weekends, but we also added a midweek online service and our normally monthly communication is now weekly. Our campus staff team is calling every member of our church asking them if they need prayer or assistance. We’re increasing the frequency of communication.

With every communication explain “why” as often as possible. People will go along with the what when they understand why! You’re going to make a lot of decisions based on the information you have, but your team might not have all that information. That’s why you need to be clear about the why before the what.

Finally, some practical advice:

  1. Cut any unnecessary expenses. Cash is king during a crisis. We have no idea how long this will last or how bad it will be. Cash to your business is like oxygen to your body. If your team is going to need to make sacrifices, you go first, and you sacrifice the most. If everyone is taking a 10 percent pay cut, you take 20 percent.
  2. It may seem obvious—take care of yourself! Like many of you, I haven’t had a real day off in weeks! So I’ve scheduled time to rest and recover. Sleep, unplug, walk, laugh, see your kids! Put your own oxygen mask on, and then put it on others.