A full year has come and gone since the world was sent reeling by the global coronavirus pandemic. While we await widespread access to the vaccines that promise protection and a return to normalcy, I think about some of the lessons learned during the pandemic, particularly for those of us in leadership.
I think about the lessons learned around communications and the importance of understanding our own communication style, determining what works best for our audiences and colleagues, and how a range of tools and technologies have helped us stay connected.
Certainly, the widespread use of videoconferencing has been essential to linking us during a time of necessary distancing. And we’ve taken to communicating via a host of apps, chats, texts, emails, blogs, and vlogs.
But as leaders, we must under-stand that the “personal touch” is also necessary. In times of stress and confusion, our email and text communications may fall flat or be taken out of context. Many of us have transitioned into new roles and responsibilities in the past year, so we may not be able to rely on the long-standing relationships that traditionally buoyed us through demanding times.
More than ever, we must pause and reflect on the best methods to build trust in our communications while conveying our message with authenticity and honesty. This goal, in fact, is a priority for NSBA as it transforms into a more responsive and effective organization for its association members.
Early on in the pandemic, LSA Global, a business consulting and training firm, offered communication advice for excellent leadership during challenging times. Several of LSA’s recommendations continue to resonate with me for their ability to speak to the work of school board members and school leaders:
- Be vulnerable. Share the facts, admit to mistakes, involve others, and ask for help. Recognize that vulnerability as a leader is not a sign of weakness but signals confidence, courage, and trustworthiness.
- Tell people what you do not know. In times of a rapidly evolving crisis, leaders rarely have all the information or answers. Do not be afraid to share what you do not know so far. Acknowledging what is still unknown builds credibility.
- Tell people when you can fill in the gaps. Be honest about when and how you will fill in the crucial gaps and address critical problems that you are still working on solving. In sharing the next steps, be as specific and tangible as possible.
That last bit of advice, about the need for honest and transparent communication, strikes me as particularly valuable as we continue to confront the uncertain days ahead. Under pressure, even the best of us can be overwhelmed and miss key nuances in a message.
As leaders, we must do our best to overcommunicate during times of stress and change, be humble enough to own it when our communication fails to hit the mark, and work to inspire others to do the same.