Leading With Empathy – Chapter 1 for Managing Through COVID-19

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Like many other industries, media is now managing through an unprecedented health crisis atop a financial crisis and we have yet to imagine the totality of its ripple effects. Against this backdrop, the dislocation it’s causing to our people and our clients are creating enormous challenges — mentally, physically, and financially.

While there is no blueprint drafted for this crisis, as a sales leader, my priority lies in helping our people manage through this uncertain time so they can be helpful to their families while at the same time keeping our business moving forward. The playbook remains unwritten, but I’ll start the first chapter with “Empathy.”

For me, practicing empathy by helping our people adapt and balance their work and family life during these times of uncertainty is critical. Recognizing that every person’s situation is different, I’m focused on staying close to team members and encouraging them to stay equally as close to their customers – realizing that each customer’s business has been affected, just like ours. And, when it comes to our customers, we realize that each of them faces a unique challenge. So, our approach is never cookie-cutter. Then, in addition to trying to assist clients who are working to protect their businesses, I’m working to ensure my team members are in the right frame of mind to keep their lives and our business moving forward.

One way I’m doing this is by encouraging our teams to stay focused on the long term. What’s happening now is tough, mentally. But, it’s a snapshot in time, and as the adage suggests, “this too shall pass.” It’s in times like these when the future is difficult to see, that I find steadying the course and garnering small victories is what keeps you on the right track.

As a company with a nationwide footprint, we have the good fortune to be able to collaborate at scale, unlike many others. That’s how we collect the wins that keep us marching along the right path, working together as a team to help our partners overcome their unique, market-specific challenges. Because of our scale and depth of knowledge, we’re able to tap into one another and help solve problems more quickly – and then share in each other’s successes.

Additionally, I realize that some things must take a back seat. I like to say, it’s better to start less and finish more. During this time, we’re realizing the need to pare down priorities. We’re concentrating on helping our brand partners by understanding their unique challenges so we can support them with individualized solutions during this crisis. This means eliminating non-essential tasks and redefining what it means to be a “seller,” in the short term.

Finally, I’ve been challenging our teams to “sharpen the saw.”

Right now, home improvement sales are accelerated because people have some extra time to knock off those projects they’ve been putting off. Similarly, from a professional perspective, improving our skills now while we have a bit of extra time on our hands will pay off tremendously when we’re back to a version of normal. Whether it’s taking a deep dive on a particular vertical, committing to write more streamlined emails or better mining our Salesforce tool to cultivate stronger leads, the skills we’ll be able to pick up now will most certainly make us more effective sales leaders in the future.

By focusing on these aforementioned areas and allowing empathy to rule the day, I’m finding we can actually move faster, maintain balance and make progress – not just for us but for our customers, too.

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1 Comment
  1. Bob your focus on a company’s greatest asset-people has been steadfast your entire career. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Companies need leaders like you.

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