We are in uncertain times.

None of us have been through this before, but you have been through other challenges and you’ll come through this one as well, if you stay clear and calm and take action to move forward.

Of course, one of your biggest concerns right now are your team and how they’re feeling in the midst of all the change.

Now more than ever, it’s time for you to step up and lead.  To set the tone for the mood, the mindset, and the morale. To point out the priorities and opportunities throughout this phase and show a clear path forward of how you are going to manage this, how it will affect them and even just… what happens next?

Keep in mind that people react to change differently and not everyone will take it in their stride so what you may think is a temporary adjustment could completely knock someone else’s sense of confidence and certainty send shock waves through your team. If you’ve done a good job of earning the hearts and minds of your team and have developed trust, they will be looking to you to show them what to do and even how to think, but most of all, they’ll want you to reassure them that this is a crazy bump in the road that, with effort, we’ll all come back from at some point.

This all comes down to how we choose to think; who we choose to be in this situation and how we’re going to use this time.

Here are 8 tips to help you manage your people through this time of change.

1. Communicate. Talk about what’s going on. Talk about how everyone is feeling. Talk about what you’re worried about, what you’re grateful for, what you need to know and how this has impacted each of you.

Stress or worry need to come out, but….keep an ‘Above The Line’ perspective- that means, don’t get stuck in the ‘poor me’, ‘this shouldn’t have happened’, ‘the government needs to save us’, ‘we’re sunk’ kind of thinking which is sure to escalate anyone’s stress levels! Yes, get your concerns out there, but then approach each of them with, ‘so what can I do?’, ‘what are my options here?’, ‘what action can I take that will move me to even a slightly better position?’

Taking even the smallest of steps moves you forward and shows you that you do have some control over your situation and can take steps to improve it. That begins to lower your stress levels, clarify your thinking and help you to see the options available to you that you couldn’t see while clouded in panic. “What’s one thing I can do right now to move forward?”

2. Surrender. Now, my personal belief is that I always have options and I refuse to be a victim of any situation, but there are definitely some things that none of us can change- so why waste energy worrying about them?

There is truth in the mantra, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things we cannot not change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference”. There will definitely be elements of this period that we cannot change and also elements that we can. The key is in your willingness to accept uncertainty in your life. Do you need to control every aspect of your business for you to feel ‘safe’? Or can you accept that, even though some things will knock you sideways and you won’t see them coming, you have a good head on your shoulders and a heck of a lot of determination, so whatever the situation, you’ll make good decisions and you’ll get through it.

Back yourself.

You built this once, you’ll build it again and so much faster than last time because you don’t need to re-learn all the stuff it took to get you here. You’ve. Got. This.

You don’t need to have all the answers to lead your team confidently. It’s OK so say, “Guys, none of us are sure exactly how this will play out, so we’ll take this one step at a time, but what I can promise you is that I will be open and honest, I will help you as best I can to access the help & support you might need through this time and I’ll be here through this period, even though we might be closed to keep you learning and growing so we’re ready to jump straight back in when this thing turns around”.

Let’s not lose our skills or knowledge because we are going to be CRAZY busy when our clients start flooding back!

3. Listen. Listen with your ears, your eyes, your mind and your heart. Understand other people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. What cues are they giving you? What is their behaviour, their tone of voice or their facial expression telling you? Listen to their fears and concerns without judging or making them wrong.  This may be the first big challenge they’ve experienced in their working life or business to date, so of course, they may be scared. Their feelings are valid to them even if they seem at odds with yours, so always hear them out. Talk it out and if there’s still anxiety, keep talking.

Acknowledge your staff’s feelings and make it safe to express them. From their perspective, their concerns are quite valid and ignoring or calling them ‘silly’ won’t make them go away. Worries, concerns and anxieties are ‘better out than in’ so just listen until they’ve let it all out and then ask if they’d like you to address their concerns. Sometimes people don’t need you to ‘fix things’, they just need to be heard.

4. Keep them focused and on track. Even the best of us are likely to lose a little focus right now! Expect that and be patient, but guide them gently back on track, whether that’s in their mindset, their actions or their behaviours. You’ll need to model the behaviour you’d like to see in them and show them a different way to be. Lead, but lead with compassion.

5. Nurture yourself and others. Change can carry an unconscious stress on your body, and you can be experiencing stress and your body reacting to it without consciously realizing it. Find outlets to give your mind and body a break, whether that’s a bit of exercise & fresh air, or a virtual coffee and chat. You could even watch relevant TV shows or educational videos as a team then jump on a Zoom call to talk about what you learned. Your team can be more like a ‘work family’ and whilst you might not physically see each other at the moment, you can definitely take steps to stay connected. You’re used to spending 8-12 hours a day together- there’ll be withdrawal symptoms!  

6. Help. If someone isn’t coping and you’re worried, help them find the support they need. There are great support groups, counselling services or assistance programs available and many with additional government support right now. There may be other personal factors at play in their reaction or thinking which are impacting their behaviour, even if you don’t know what they are.

Don’t leave anyone behind. Make sure they’re OK and help them stay part of the team and come with you in their own way and time. They’ll remember that you didn’t leave them behind when they needed you.

7. Be patient. This thing may take a few months to resolve and your business may look a little different at the end of it. That’s OK. You’ve coped with change before. You’ve worked through a crazy Christmas week with staff off sick, had a key staff member injure their cutting hand and had VIP clients turn up expecting to have an appointment when you’re absolutely slammed! You’ve survived through post-Christmas months when your salon looked like a ghost town and again through the public-holiday-laden Easter, Anzac Day holiday period with almost no income when you felt like you were barely open!

You’re stronger than you think and more resilient as an industry than any other I know. This won’t stop you if you decide to make it so.

This process will take time and there’ll no doubt be times when it will really try your patience. Even as you begin to come back to work, it may take some time for the dust to settle and while your people adjust and find their ‘new normal’. Be patient both with the process of change and with the people who are affected by it. Your patience will make them feel more secure and give them confidence that it’s all going to be OK.

8. Get proactive. But most of all, use this time wisely. Whilst it’s not ideal and none of us would have chosen it, it’s looking like there’ll be protection against rents and leases as well as income subsidies in place to get us through. That leaves you with possibly a number of months with time on your hands.

How will you choose to use it?

Will you sit on the couch binging Netflix or will you get to work on all the things you know you should have been doing but never had time to do before, like tidying up your database & updating contact information; planning and scheduling your social media or creating ideas for a marketing calendar to kick off when you reopen; or doing a skills assessment for each of your staff to create a training plan that will use this time to get their skills up to date.

There is a plethora of tools and resources out there to educate your team – many of them free! What if at the end of this time, you had your staff exactly where you needed them to be, so they were even more productive than before?

I doubt that you’ll ever get an opportunity like this again with the time to work uninterrupted on your business. Use it!

Opportunity is knocking …….