Real Leaders

How to Lead with Sensitivity During Trying Times

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Coronavirus has affected us all, from small business owners who have been forced to shut their doors, to individuals that have postponed major life events, to companies that have completely shifted or cancelled major plans — we’re all feeling it. But we’re in this together. And now more than ever, it’s important to ensure that leaders move forward with sensitivity.

What that looks like can vary depending on your industry and circumstances. But let’s look at One Tree Planted, an environmental nonprofit, as an example. 

Typically, we’d be focused on organizing dozens of volunteer events right now for Earth Month, or promoting reforestation projects that need financial support. But the social environment has shifted, and that calls for an entirely different strategy.

Our founder and Chief Environmental Evangelist, Matt Hill, aimed for a new approach that the team implemented quickly. A video campaign that shows who we are, acknowledges the current situation, and has a final message of safety, rather than asking for anything during this challenging time. This, coupled with simple and home-friendly sustainability ideas throughout Earth Month has created an inviting and positive message aligned with a new normal we’re all trying to navigate.  

And while we experienced cancellations of high-value campaigns and a drop in donations, we also reached out to many partners to ask how they’re doing and offering creative ways that our partnership plans could be revised. Rather than dwelling on the loss, we saw an opportunity to connect and refocus on what is important now

So how can a leader embrace the idea of sensitivity both internally and externally during these turbulent times? It’s simple, just be real.  

Show Your Human Side

This is a time to be genuine, compassionate, and down-to-earth. People are sharing photos of their home offices, trying to balance work while homeschooling kids, and using digital media to share behind-the-scenes or unpolished glimpses into businesses more than ever. And that’s a good thing. Use this time to show the people behind your business and talk about how you as a leader are weathering this storm. Convey your humanity with an essence of calm that will help put others at ease. It may be a bit more raw and vulnerable than you’re used to, but the response might surprise you.  

Share Your Brand Message in a New Way

Evaluate how your business is communicating in light of what your customers or employees are experiencing in daily life, and create content to connect with that. This could help strengthen your business identity. If you have solid core values, consider a way to revisit those to share your unique message in a new way. This could be through a video series, a charity partnership, a heartfelt email or social media campaign. Revisit your central brand message and create something new that will resonate now during this unique time. If you can bring your customers along, or help them make a positive impact thanks to your business, all the better – because it turns out that 88% of consumers want you to help them make a difference.

Lean on Your Team and Community

Good ideas flow both ways, and leadership should never really be a purely top-down approach. Ask your team, colleagues, mentors, or leadership groups for recommendations on how your business can harness this moment. As a leader, you can decide which ideas have legs, but the task of coming up with a brilliant new strategy doesn’t need to be your responsibility alone. 

Leadership wouldn’t be a skill if it was easy, and adaptability is what will carry you through the hard times. Take this opportunity to elevate your business with wisdom, compassion, and creativity. 

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