Leaders' Speeches Before and After the Spread of Rumors.
When rumors about bad news like layoffs or salary cuts are spreading, leaders need to have a clear strategy of what they need to communicate to their teams. And the more you delay that speech, the bigger the consequences.
Before addressing what you need to focus on in your next team speech in that situation, let's first discuss the proactive steps you should be taking before such problems arise, besides having an agreed crisis communication strategy.
1) Develop trust - sustain your credibility.
I repeatedly reiterated that your great speech would never solve your bad leadership. The actions that follow your speeches or any communication with your team could sustain or ruin your credibility.
Why does this matter? Because during the chaos, people tend to search for a model to follow out of fear, when you sustain your credibility as a leader, your team members will be able to adapt to your new directions faster and calmer.
2) Be transparent about possible future challenges.
Usually, leaders avoid opening up about topics they know will trigger stress in their teams, but it’s way better for your team to hear it from you first so you can address the challenge properly and in a way that avoids confusion. In addition, the more your team will be able to see where they are heading, the easier it becomes to handle their own stress. This will also sustain their trust in you.
3) Communicate a crystal-clear vision.
It's vital to promote the central vision and the agreed goals occasionally during your speeches, meetings, or any speaking engagement with your team members. This will help them stay grounded and become able to focus on what matters when they need to act on their own.
Now let's imagine this: Rumors about the layoffs in your company have been spreading, and you, as a department manager, weren't notified yet about whether you will or will not have to let go of any of your team members. In that situation, will you open the topic with your team despite the fact you have yet to receive the official direction on this matter?
Let's figure this out.
1) Top management checkpoint.
The first thing you need to do is to speak to the top management to check whether the rumors are true and what you are allowed and not allowed to share.
2) Explain before questions and concerns arise.
As I've mentioned at the beginning of this article, the longer you wait before communicating with your team, the harder you'll be able to contain the situation. So prepare your speech to address the questions and concerns you know your team has in mind. This will help control their stress before it gets out of hand and show them how you care for them, and foster their trust in you as their leader.
3) Communicate your main message repeatedly.
Even though most leaders get busy with on-ground actions during problems or crises, one of the most critical leadership roles is to contain their teams' feelings. That's why it's not enough to deliver one supportive speech when crises arise and expect them to stay motivated and stress-free. Instead, make sure to take the extra time to confirm the main actions you've agreed on with your team members along with the situation's update during your different speaking engagements, to avoid them getting dragged behind rumors or negative news.
4) Show empathy and understand the validity of their worries
I understand the burden you carry in enduring to sail smoothly through the crisis, but remember; your team is the main factor that will help you achieve this. And human nature doesn't like vagueness and uncertainty; that's why accepting and respecting your team members' worries is essential. They are valid feelings, and showing empathy, in both your speeches and actions, will let them feel heard and appreciated.