We spend most of our days getting by. Every morning, we knot our tie, eat our Wheaties, pin back our hair, push through the office front door, and before we know it, it's time for our 3 o'clock cup of coffee. The day is mostly gone, ticked away task by task in the noble pursuit of getting things done. And it is a worthy pursuit—the honest work of moving business along.
But now and then, life decides we'd be better served if it chucked a wrench in our typical day to day work. Maybe it's a change in management; perhaps it's a failed product that was sure-fire, or, in today's case, it's the entire world screeching to a near halt in the face of a global pandemic. If we're lucky, we'll spot the flare of a silver lining out the corner of our eye. And, more often than not, that silver lining will look an awful lot like the opportunity to H.E.L.P.
It has been said that "...to lend each other a hand when we are in need, is perhaps the only work which matters in the end."* H.E.L.P.ing is an impact we can make all around us. That means hearing the need, engaging your audience, leading with confidence, and promoting responsibility and empowerment. You just have to be ready to be the one to do the H.E.L.P.ing so that when upheaval does hit, you're ready to hit the ground running.
That's why today, we're zeroing in on each of the action steps that make up the acronym. If you understand the steps, you'll find they're malleable actions that can be applied across any challenging time, long after the dust of the pandemic has settled.
Hearing the Need
They say the best conversationalists are good listeners. But listening is more than just letting someone talk. It's participating in the conversation by actively processing what's being said, asking clarifying questions to ensure that you are understanding rather than assuming, and showing empathy.
This is true of both your clients and your internal team. One of the best ways to get a grasp on the needs of both parties is to merely ask. If it's your clients, it's as simple as a phone call, email, or poll on Instagram may yield an area they need help in. The same is true with your internal team; you'd be amazed at what they'll tell you if you ask — what they need, how they're feeling, where they're stuck, and so on. Realize ahead of time that not everyone's needs will look the same.
You have numerous tools at your fingertips that you can act quickly on to gather data fast and begin developing a path forward. There will be legwork in helping at a critical time. It might be doing market analysis for a particular client to understand industry needs. It could look like exploring the different personalities that make up your team. Hearing the need, understanding the difficulty, and having empathy toward the solution is the right place to be when you need to help.
Engage Your Audience
Fact: It's kind of impossible to know how your people are doing if you don't engage with them. And we get it. When the going gets tough, it's tempting to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm in solitude. But that's not what your people need from you. Whether it's your clients or your team, you've got to keep engaging.
This is especially true when the going gets tough. Often, when there's no good news, we'd rather opt for silence so that no one knows there's some sort of unrest within the business. But there's a reason that the top business accounts on Instagram are the ones audiences deem "authentic." When you're honest and engaging about how current circumstances are affecting your company, it goes a long way with your people.
In truth, this tactic has saved some companies in the face of a major catastrophe. When Domino's was slipping, they asked their customers what needed to change. What followed was an entire add campaign dedicated to their focus to be better. Wells Fargo took a similar route when they faced a major fraud scandal. Instead of slinking into the shadows, they consistently proved to their customers how they could be better.
Amid COVID, we've seen this sort of engagement more than ever. People are looking to combat fear and prevent freefall by digital engagement. This season hasn't been rife with advertising, as much as it has with considerate talk, respecting distance and trying to stay positive. Engaging your audience this way shows the outside world how we respect others, while working hard to make the impacts we can, while person-to-person contact is limited.
Especially as a business owner, you know that the first place this sort of engagement needs to take place is within your internal team. Odds are every single one of your employees is facing a hurdle they never dreamed of just three months ago. Maybe it's financial, or the struggle of working from home, or the loss of child care or concern for a parent.
It's your job to keep business running as much as possible to ensure the stability of the company for the greater good of all employed. But you can't do that without healthy workers who feel supported and taken care of. And you can't help them in you don't engage with them. Now isn't the time to hole up in your office and put your head down. Instead, leave the proverbial door open and keep asking the right questions.
Leading With Confidence
Significant change typically comes served with a big, heaping side of the unknown. Perhaps nothing is quite unnerving to human beings as the unknown. Whether you're facing a downturn in business or a global pandemic, your business and your team are likely to navigate elements of the unknown. It's this time that clients and team members alike will turn to management for a sense of security.
If you've done the first two steps of the H.E.L.P. plan, you'll be outfitted to give them what they need. You will also probably have the margin in your process, to devote the time required to meet those needs. When you listen and actively engage, you know what your people are craving during these times and can serve them appropriately.
Let it be said—that doesn't mean you have to have all the answers. Good leaders don't pretend they know everything. Instead, they're honest about what is known and what they feel is the best course of action, based on the information available. A manager or business owner who says, "I don't know, but here's all the information I do have, and here's the plan I'd like to do. What are your thoughts?" is a rock to employees who feel they are adrift in change. Your confidence through leadership will develop confidence in those you lead.
Promoting Responsibility and Empowerment
People don't want to be told that they're victims. In the long run, telling a non-victimized person, that they are one, leaves them feeling stripped of their power and helpless (when in fact they are not). This approach may seem empathetic, whether geared towards your clients or your team, but in the end, it pulls the rug of possibility out from under them.
Instead, empower people with the tools they need, charge them with responsibility, and watch them flourish. This is true all the time, but in no time is it more important than when facing a major challenge. Very rarely does anyone find the strength they didn't know they had in cushier times. After all, diamonds are forged under pressure, tea bags become strong in hot water, and gold takes its shape under fire. Your people are no different.
When things seem out of control, encourage them to find the things they can affect, ask what tools they need to make an impact, and permit them to take up that responsibility. If you've been hearing their needs, engaging, and leading with confidence, your people will feel supported to follow you in this pursuit. That might mean offering an opportunity for education. You may find that working closely with someone may yield growth in their work and in there character. The same is true for your clients. There is no better time than that of adversity to inspire them to follow the call to be their best selves, feel connected to and responsible for their fellow man, and empowered to make a change.
Times like these can be more than trying, but they are never wasted if you're using them as an opportunity to H.E.L.P. your people. We'd love to hear how you've been doing just that, big or small. Share how you've been H.E.L.P.ing in the comments below. As always, if you are a business owner and you need some H.E.L.P. reaching your goals in this ever-changing time, contact us today to partner with us toward success.
*Quote attributed to Frederick Buechner in his novel about friendship called Brendan.