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Navigating murky waters

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One thing that’s abundantly clear about our world at the moment is: there is a lack of clarity just about everywhere you look.

How much disruption will Omicron cause?  Can I visit our customers in China this year? Are property values diving? Will my kids ever be able to buy a home? Can I cope with another round of online schooling?  Should I order Christmas presents now to avoid shipping delays?

As a business owner or manager, how do you run a business, manage a team, sell products, recruit new staff and maintain a semblance of calm in such uncertain times?  Well, I’m sorry to say there’s no magic bullet. But there are a few communications actions you can take to make the journey smoother as you navigate these murky waters.

Keep Talking
When you’re not sure what the future holds, it’s easy to put off communicating or just shut down completely. That’s the worst thing you can do. 

The act of communicating to and with your team can, in itself, be a calming influence.  Look for ways to maintain regular communication, even if you don’t always have something major to say. Staff, customers and your community will appreciate you for taking the time and putting your relationships first.

Say What You Know, Admit What You Don’t
As a leader, people want to see you try to make sense of things. That can be stressful, especially when you are uncertain of the future yourself.

A good rule to follow is tell people what you know now while freely admit what you don’t know. People respect an authentic, honest and vulnerable leader and communicator.

Simple and Often
When people are dealing with uncertainty, there is a lot of ‘noise’ you are going to be competing with.  At the moment, people are dealing with health worries, schooling issues and work stress while the media bombards us with fear-mongering headlines.

This requires leaders to communicate often, which means regularly repeating important messages.  And it also requires simplicity, which can be the most difficult aspect of communication delivery.

Put Systems in Place
If you didn’t read my article in the last issue of Waikato Business News, go find it online.  I talked about putting together a few regular channels and systems for internal communication. If you don’t put some rigidity around your communications timelines and channels, it just won’t happen.

This also extends to external communication, with your customers, suppliers, stakeholders and community.  Plan out your communications timeline and stick to a schedule.

Offer Light Relief
Remember that a little fun goes a long way. We’re all in this boat together, so we may as well have a few laughs along the way.

Prioritise staff team-building, give your customers something for nothing, or donate to a worthy cause in your community for instance. We all need a little something that makes us feel happy during uncertain times – something a bit healthier than that Friday G&T.

I reckon we’ve got around 12 more months of unprecedented uncertainty ahead.  So, hopefully a few of these tips will help you get through.

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Heather Claycomb

Heather Claycomb is director of HMC, a Hamilton-based, award-winning public relations agency.

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