Like millions of Americans - perhaps like you - I sat in front of the television on January 22nd, watching the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. I listened with rapt attention to the speech of the new Commander in Chief, eagerly awaiting words of strength, direction, and hope.
While the President's stage was grand and his audience vast, his task was that of every leader facing uncertain times - to convey his vision of a promising future, while remaining grounded in a daunting and uncertain present. Challenging times demand unparalleled communication. Here are some pointers for doing it right:
Be honest. Although it might be tempting to play cheerleader and paint a rosy picture of the future, don't promise what you can't deliver. People are savvy enough to read the writing on the wall. To maintain credibility and trust, be honest, straightforward, and realistic in all communications.
Be clear. In an environment of uncertainty, people long to know what's going on. What's happening now, how might the future unfold, what can they expect and what must they do? Remember: ambiguity and evasiveness only serve to increase anxiety and fuel the rumor mill. Avoid unwanted speculation by communicating clearly and unambiguously.
Be consistent. Don't hold one-off conversations when a group discussion will allow you to cover the same ground more efficiently. Make sure you're giving the same message to everyone who needs to hear it.
Be available. Challenging times are busy times and you will likely find yourself pulled in more directions than ever before. Avoid the temptation to hunker down with your office door closed. Make it clear to your stakeholders that you are there to answer their questions and address their concerns. Then be there to listen.
Be inspiring. Rally your people around a promising future. What opportunities lie in the changing landscape? Where can strengths be leveraged? Set a course for your people and engage them in the process of getting there. Working together toward a shared vision will inspire hope, action, and true collaboration.
Last but certainly not least:
Be strong. In uncertain times, people are anxious about what's to come. Here's where strong leadership and powerful communication are absolutely essential. Let your constituents know that you are unflappable, an anchor in the storm. This will help them feel grounded, safe, and able to bravely face what lies ahead.