The other day, a CEO I am currently coaching asked me for guidance on communicating during this global pandemic. 

I told him that Winston Churchill set the standard when leading in unprecedented, and difficult circumstances. 

Here is what I assert any leader can learn from Churchill:

  1. Communicate regularly—At least weekly, even if the situation goes unchanged.
  2. Put your people first—Act in ways that demonstrate your commitment to your people, even at the effect of the current bottom line. The sacrifices you make for them today, they will remember and appreciate. 
  3. State clear expectations—Offer clear guidance. What should your people do to help improve the situation? What can they do to avoid making it worse? Make your expectations clear to your supervisors and managers of what they can be doing to support their people.
  4. Make your people the hero in this story—Churchill once referred to this as “The Lion.” He responded, “The British people are the lion. I have the honor of doing most the roaring for them.” Make it transparent to your people that you are grateful for their sacrifices, and their cooperation is essential to the company overcoming the current crisis.
  5. Express confidence in ultimate victory—State your belief of there being a bright light at the end of this tunnel. Be confident in communicating that the company and its people will overcome this challenge and emerge as strong as ever.
  6. Be transparent—Openly and proactively share relevant information about what is happening, what the impact is, and how the company is handling it.
  7. Be authentic—In unprecedented, uncertain times, it is perfectly O.K. to admit you’re not sure what to say or do. In this circumstance, you are not expected to be an expert or have all the answers. Don’t hesitate to say, “I’m relying on government and medical officials for direction and guidance.”
  8. Be factual—Share what you know to be true and accurate. Never speculate. Only share the best information available from experts.
  9. Include FAQs—Consider surveying your people regularly to learn their concerns. Include a FAQ section at the end of a communication, including the questions people are asking and your answers. When people have questions, leadership has not answered; they tend to come up with solutions on their own, which can be negative and may not be based on the best information. In this case, no news is not good news; no news is likely to generate harmful and inaccurate news.
  10. Express empathy—The impact of the situation is effecting your people. Let them know you understand and appreciate what their dealing with. Tell your people exactly how you are feeling about the situation and the effect it is having on “us and our loved ones.”
  11. Encourage help-seeking—If your company has an “employee assistance program,” encourage your people to seek out support and give clear directions on how they can do so.

I hope this advice helps you lead your company in a way that shows empathy while also allowing you to continue operation. Let me know if you have any other tips that are helping you lead in your organization.