Updated: Jul 6, 2020
As a leader it’s crucial to remember that people look up to you, and quite honestly - you may not always be up to that task. Now, in 2020 amidst a racial explosion is probably one of those times. One of the most important assets of any company are the employees. And today, many of them are hurting. Many more are trying hard not to show it. How as a leader can you help someone that’s hurting if you are hurting yourself?
It’s called engagement.
Engagement has been treated as yet another buzzword, when it much more than that. The simple truth is that everyone is hurting in one way or another right now. We did all just witness a black be murdered as people that vowed to protect us stood by and did nothing to help. How the hell do you have a conversation with your employees about something like that? There’s no perfect answer to that. But there is an answer: talk. Engage as a human being. Not as a boss.
The key is understanding that everyone was affected by this differently. And no one needs a generic letter from Human Resources. People are tired of the company memos stating they stand with Black Lives Matter. They need to know how you feel as a leader. So tell them. It will be hard. It will be uncomfortable. It is likely to be emotional. It will also be powerful and that is engagement. Connecting with intention. Don’t hideout by adhering to the standard company policy - engage.
Start with a simple, “I felt/feel…” and make it a safe place for them to respond to you. Again, although you’re a leader, you’re human first. Make sure they know that they can be “human” around you too. Avoid being pushy or proud, this isn’t the time. You want to make sure your employees know that if or when they need to talk, you will be there to listen, share, whatever they need. Without judgement. And if possible, provide information for support groups, chatlines, etc.
The goal is simple. Be present. Be open. Be sincere. Be intentional with your word and careful of your employees' feelings. This helps heal their pain and yours as well. There’s a big conversation to be had and we all have a role.