By Kathy Spearing | April 21, 2020


To say that we are going through an unprecedented time right now is an understatement. We are experiencing a global pandemic that is impacting everyone—no matter your profession, industry or nation of origin. Because of this, changes are occurring in the corporate world (both public and private sectors) at a rapid pace and many businesses are being forced to operate at modified levels.

This type of moment calls for a special type of leadership. One that seemingly saves the day. One that is akin to a protagonist in a movie. But, for most of us, we are not actors and have not been rehearsing for this unique role the entirety of our careers only to take the stage now.

This type of crisis (hopefully) only comes along once or twice in a lifetime. And, what you have been doing to build your leadership skills up to this point is what you will need to call on to help you succeed.

So, my fellow accounting, finance and IT leaders: How are you maintaining normality with your team in this not-so-normal reality right now? How are you handling your 15-minutes of leadership fame?

We must all step up and champion our teams now more than ever. While we do not have all the answers to resolve the emergency we are facing, I do have what I think are 4 critical tips to lead your team during a crisis that can help. Please take a look at the list below, and do your part to keep your employees calm, safe and productive.

  1. Communicate
    Now is not the time to go silent. You must communicate over and over to your team members of all levels. From your entry-level AP Clerk to your Director of Finance and everyone in between, communicate with your teams how the business is holding up and what the plan is for your organization moving forward. Even if you do not have a ton of details to provide to them, give them some type of update and be sure to keep your tone and messaging consistent. Your team likely just wants to know that you are accessible and are there for them. Remain positive and concise in what you say and do. Provide resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, for credibility, whenever possible.
  1. Be empathetic
    Now that most of the country is under some type of social distancing mandate—whether that is an order to stay home if you are not deemed an essential business, or the shutdown of major school systems, the new remote-working environment is challenging. Your team members might be home-schooling their children at the same time they are trying to complete a spreadsheet for you. Or worse, they are caring for a sick partner, parent or child. It’s important to be mindful of what everyone is going through and proceed with caution during this sensitive time. Ask your team members how they are doing before asking about a deadline. They will likely thank you for it and will be more inclined to put in the extra energy and work.
  1. Get creative
    Some of the best leaders can showcase humor, creativity and/or innovation during a crisis. Try to be one of them. It does not take much to put a smile on someone’s face—which is often much needed in times of uncertainty. Keep conversations light when you can. Crack a joke when it is appropriate. Run a contest among your team members to encourage production. Celebrate small wins and send a companywide email when the month-end close actually happens. Whatever clever technique you can come up with, will not only show everyone that you care about their happiness but that you are serious about moving the business along even when the future may be unknown.
  1. Leverage technology
    If there is a silver-lining in the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is that the recent technological advancements that emerged over the past decade are allowing all of us to stay connected no matter where we are. And since most of us are at home trying to simulate our office life, having the tools and resources to do so in comforting. While more professionals have started working remotely in recent years, there has never been this large of a scale of tele-workers before. Be sure that you are communicating with your teams across various mediums. Start by sending emails. Hold meetings via a video conference so you can still see each other. Schedule phone calls to recap projects or deadlines. Sign up for an instant messenger system, so your team can get quick replies from you. Most of us are fortunate enough to have access to such tools—many of which are free to use at basic level packages. So, no matter the medium, stay in contact with your team members and everyone will get through this unique time with their leader at the helm.

These are just a few of the tips we could all use to get through this global crisis as leaders. What are some other methods you have found successful so far? Let us know in the comment section below.


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