Businesspeople with masks (Photo: Shutterstock)

There are no two ways about it — given the economic impact of COVID-19, we are going through tough times and probably will be for a while. We at Carson Coaching are fielding all of the expected technical questions from advisors about the best way to communicate with clients, what to say and when to say it. However, a new question is popping up, too: “My team is really stressed — how do I best lead them through this?”

Due to the extreme nature of the situation, advisors are beginning to realize that this is a time when financial planning skills need to be equaled by leadership skills.

Leading a team during a time of crisis is amazingly similar to leading clients. It requires clarity, focus and sensitivity.

It is important to understand that individuals on your team — including you — might be experiencing anxiety and stress that can affect their work. Even as I write this, I am uncharacteristically worried about my daughter, because she has asthma. I can’t get it out of my head that an otherwise healthy 16-year-old could become seriously ill, even die, if she gets COVID-19.

Even though I am still working, this personal issue is consuming at least some of my mental energy. Similar worries about the coronavirus are likely invading your team’s mental space, too.

With both team members and clients, you need to address both personal and market concerns, or you will only be addressing half of the problem. Being empathetic, while staying focused on the work that needs to be done, goes a long way toward keeping team members engaged as they attempt to balance their work and home lives.

Here are some guidelines that can help you lead your team through the situation.

  1. Self-monitor. How are you feeling? Your team will likely mirror your emotions. Try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  2. Reconnect yourself and the team with the mission and vision. A reminder that your firm is designed to help clients weather just this kind of situation can help turn stress and confusion into purpose!
  3.  Decide on the activities you and your team will put into place to best support clients through the situation. Get input on the important activities from your team – it will help engage them in a positive way! It is very important to share the priorities with team members, so they know what and how to communicate with distressed clients.
  4. Create an internal communication plan, including virtual daily huddles and processes for storing new information in a sharable, central location. Keep everyone connected and on the same page.
  5.  Create collaborative solutions as team members have personal issues, such as children out of school or sick family members. Shift work as necessary to get the most important activities done. Work from home or extra sick leave can help in these instances.
  6. Note that the concerns your team members are hearing from clients could negatively impact your team, so reassure them that you are being proactive in how to work through the situation in a way that strengthens the organization and preserves jobs. (Team members who fear for their jobs aren’t going to be a positive influence on clients or each other.)

People actually want strong leadership during times of crisis — they crave it! A balance of focus, determination and compassion will set up you and your organization to thrive through this situation.


Dr. Gerry Herbison, Carson CoachingDr. Gerry Herbison is an executive business coach at Carson Coaching.