As I write this piece exactly after a hiatus of 2-months, what I see around all the hell broke loose. All of a sudden so-called second wave hit us. None were prepared, neither the administrations with their crisis management abilities nor the common public. In the last two months, every day I have received news of someone dying in my close quarters. And, I am sure this was true for every Indian citizen, going by the painful incidents being reported every day around us.
Most people battle with uncertainty in times of such crises, and they aren’t sure how the events will unfold, what will happen next, what kind of problems they will encounter, how helpless they will be, etc. There are clouds of uncertainty built up by the unpredictability of the environment, relationships, and events that may unfold. It is something that only makes the public stressed, paranoid, and a lot of restlessness creeps into their minds.
For any entity, be it Government, local administration, corporate, or head of an individual family for that matter, the first thing is to assess and share the most realistic and honest picture to all its stakeholders. This will allow everyone to connect and be at par in the understanding of the situation, irrespective of their individual biases, likes, dislikes, choices, and preferences.
Even if there is a lot of negative news to be shared, honest communication will only build trust in the leader among the stakeholders. It will reassure the audiences, about the ability of the leader to manage and overcome the crisis efficiently and effectively.
Another most important issue that most forget is consulting the experts. In any given situation, there are domain experts, which with their specialised professional experience have far deeper insights into the issues and the evolving situation. A piece of advice from them, a view from their side, an opinion, a recommendation need to be sought by the leader, even if he is confident of his ability to manage the situation.
A good conducive, open-minded, feedback-oriented, receptive, the channel of communication is always the need of the hour during such crises.
Empathetic communication with a personal touch and caring mindset becomes the next most important part of such communication. Remember, almost all your stakeholders haven’t been good and they have been affected by the crisis in some or another manner. The first thing they need is a helping hand, which can assuage their fears, understand the situation from their perspectives, humanely relate to them, and then hear them out as much as possible.
Next comes the ability to present truthful information and offer practical solutions to the affected stakeholders. Also, visualizing the current situation and sharing with them the predictive inputs for better management of things to come, planning ahead of potential crises, implementing ways to prevent such crises, is something that makes up a true leader.
Optimism and hope are something that needs to be shown constantly; however, they should be in alignment with the real situation and not an imaginary fairy tale world. To prevent a small crisis, leaders often make large promises into the future, which they cannot fulfill, and the crisis only deepens. Such events can have a multi-fold impact on the crisis, which usually escalates beyond control and there is a loss of trust in the leader about his/her ability to provide realistic and timely solutions to the crisis.
Rigidity, fixed views, opaqueness, stubbornness, closed mindset, and non-willingness to listen can be strong deterrents for a leader and these are signs of losing hold on his/her publics in the time to come. Having shown flexibility and adaptability during the moments of crisis can be the biggest asset for leaders while communicating to their publics. And this probably applies to every one of us in some or another situation.
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