Leadership Communications and COVID-19

We have a favorite expression on this blog: communicate early and often. While it’s of value in normal circumstances and during an average crisis, it’s never been more important than during the pandemic we face now.

But good communications can seem like hard work, especially when time is tight and distractions are high. Don’t overthink it. Here are six tips to help.

Keep it short. We lived in a tl/dr (too long/didn’t read) world before coronavirus. Has time ever been more precious? Frequent, short, valuable communications get read and have impact.

Think about what’s in it for them. We live in a “what’s in it for me” society, but truly effective communicators crawl into the skin of their target audience to consider “what’s in it for them?” What’s weighing on your nurses’ minds? What’s keeping your medical staff up at night? What’s making your ER director’s day longer than it needs to be? If you don’t know the answers, read on.

Be present. This one is tough. Leaders are being pulled in 20 directions every five minutes … literally. Here’s where structure and discipline – two friends that are hard to make time for these days – are critically important.

  • Make the rounds. Block time on your schedule, put on a mask and engage. Even if some check-ins need to be held by video or phone – protect this activity like it’s sacred.
  • Prioritize. You cannot visit every department every day, so calendar your visits and enlist help.
  • Have a checklist to guide your conversations: “What is your priority today?” “What do you need to do your best for our patients/customers?” “What does your team need to stay healthy and committed?”
  • Move quickly and take notes. Everyone is busy, so make the visits meaningful. Write down or transcribe takeaways and action items.
  • Look for trends. Debrief with your team at least once a week on material observations gleaned from rounding.

Don’t be retaliatory. Everyone – in the world – recognizes the shortage of PPE. Now is not the time to fire hardworking, healthy employees for sharing concerns and an errant social media post is not the event to justify a long-brewing “for cause” termination (lest the next unappreciated comment come from a beloved, long-tenured team member). Engage the poster – odds are strong that you share some part of their perspective. You may be able to harness and redirect their energy to help advance your organization’s messages with both internal and external audiences.

Embrace technology. In-person communications are just not as practical as they were even four weeks ago. While most larger hospitals and post-acute providers have already established COVID-specific communication channels, many providers have not. From something as simple as a dedicated (and well-monitored) email box to secure EHR channels and encrypted chat rooms, seek the thoughts and concerns of your workforce. Show them you’re listening through regular communications and updated FAQs.

Be grateful. As dark as these times seem, our better selves are still showing up for work and caring for patients and colleagues and strangers. Almost everyone is sacrificing something, but health care workers are sacrificing and risking more than most – often at the expense of their families and loved ones. Take every opportunity to express gratitude, recognize that sacrifice and honor the heroes you work with every day.

THANK YOU! From everyone at Lovell to all of our clients – and the 18 million dedicated health care workers across the country – thank you for your hard work, dedication, perseverance, compassion and ingenuity. This uplifting video thanking the caregivers at Owensboro Health says it best!