Patterns of leadership behaviorstem from the clear prioritization of these three most importantthings: employees, business continuity and company performance.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Employees will be turning to their leadership for many thingsduring the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking guidance and support foreverything from tech support to benefits assistance. Under normalcircumstances, it's important that every organization's leadershipcreates and maintains predictability to drive performance. However,when predictability simply does not exist, as with the ongoingimpact of COVID-19, it has to be replaced with clarity,decisiveness and consistency.

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Why is the distinction important? Being predictable means"capable of being predicted: able to be known, seen, or declared inadvance," while consistency is "steadfast adherence to the sameprinciples, course, form, etc."

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Related: Don't look now, leaders: Your human side isshowing

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Here is guidance on how leaders can deliver on consistency andthe two other key principles during a time of crisis anduncertainty.

Clarity

Patterns of leadership behavior stem from the clearprioritization of these three most important things: employees,business continuity and company performance. We are in a uniquemoment in time where economic uncertainty is high and fear andmisinformation are widespread. Grounding in your core principlessets a foundation for providing clarity, decisiveness andconsistent leadership.

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Employees' health and well-being should be the first priority.Your employees want to know that the company is doing its best topreserve the basic elements of their lives. For instance, do theystill have a job? Are their benefits and pay in place to sustaintheir families?

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Companies like Salesforce, JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft deservekudos for their early work in guaranteeing pay for hourly teammembers or providing bonuses to help employees. Can they accesshealth care as needed (which puts an enormous amount of pressure onHR and benefit teams)? Can they easily work from home? Companieslike mine (Grand Rounds) and Workday provided a stipend toemployees to establish a workspace at home. Is their work importantto the ongoing success of the company?

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Work hard to keep the message simple and, if needed for clarity,communicate large amounts of complex information in stages.

Decisiveness

It's time to enact your business continuity plan and be ready toadjust as the situation evolves. If you don't have a plan in placealready, build it out and ensure leaders know theirresponsibilities. Be sure to take a look at the prioritiesmentioned earlier i.e. your employees, business continuity andcompany performance. Examine your practices to ensure they arealigned and stay aligned with your priorities as things evolve. Asthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other publichealth agencies gather and distribute critical data and insightsabout COVID-19, you and your leadership team need to be collectingand processing all forms of data related to your company to ensureits ongoing strength and sustainability.

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Clarity of decision making is paramount, so use the plan toestablish that accountability. If time is of the essence, considerdelegating and creating a team (and applying a responsibilityassignment matrix) to achieve the same outcome.

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Decisiveness can be a slippery slope, so don't try to move tooquickly; our biggest mistakes can happen in over decisiveness;don't let the desire to communicate entice you to make decisionsbefore you have the needed facts.

Consistency

To address company performance, meet daily or as frequently aspossible with your decision making body to understand the latestdata, assess and mitigate risks, and determine the best pathforward. Surround yourself with people who are comfortable managingthrough ambiguity, who demonstrate good decision makingcapabilities and overall calmness. They also stay focused on makingdecisions in the best interest of your employees and customers,despite imperfect data, adjusting the strategy as new informationbecomes available.

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One thing we have done in our organization is to create aconsistent cadence of daily, weekly and monthly communicationsacross a variety of channels. This will ensure our leaders andemployees (including our leaders) are aligned and aware of how thecompany is responding to the given changing conditions and enablethem to lead and contribute at the highest level.

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Find a spokesperson or two so people consistently know thesource of truth and be straightforward and honest. For us, we arefortunate to have extraordinary clinical leaders on our team,including a CDC-trained epidemiologist. Our clinicians have beenable to share our perspectives on how to navigate this crisisthrough weekly Facebook Live and internal Zoom meetings to helppeople get the clinical answers they need from a credible source.It's not hard for folks to figure out if what's being told isauthentic or the "company speak."

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Thinking about long-term consistency at this stage is importanttoo because, at this point, we know this is not a drill. We mustall set some precedents that may become our new normal. Continueinvesting in building community and enhancing productivity as morepeople are working from home. Research and implement new tools tosupport collaboration, such as virtual whiteboarding, and determinehow to leverage all the tools you have today, like Slack's videocalling capability. This is a time when investing in your employeesis critical to weather the storm. Make sure they are connected,healthy and productive. That will be what makes all thedifference.

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As we all weather and wade into the unknown, I have taken greatrefuge in the collaborative spirit that has stretched acrossindustries. This is a new reality for all of our teams. I'm proudof the work our team is doing to support our employees andcustomers and the above tips are just a few of the practices thathave worked for us. I encourage all of my peers and colleagues inother industries to do the same; share techniques you are tryingand the unique assets you have so we can help all boats rise.

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Peter Navin is chief humanresources officer, Grand Rounds.

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