Like many people these days, I’ve been closely following media coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. Although keeping up with the latest developments can be exhausting, I’ve also found moments of inspiration and comfort. For example, I am moved by leaders who have had the courage to be human and compassionate.

Here are three examples of great leaders and what we can learn for our employee communication efforts:

A leader who wasn’t flustered

The Global Head of Internal Communications shared a story during a webinar I attended in the early days of the stay-at-home orders. She said her CEO didn’t miss a beat when his son ran into the room during a virtual meeting. He scooped the little boy onto his lap and continued.

This led to a conversation about working while family members are home. It also prompted a discussion about dealing with loneliness among those living alone. So the internal communication team focused on providing employees with wellness and mental health resources.

This matters because:

  • This leader showed his soft side and gave employees a view of his family.
  • His warmth gave his team permission to relax during web sessions and not sweat the inevitable interruptions.
  • The moment resulted in gaining insights into employees needs during this difficult time.

The emergency medicine physician who admitted being scared

A doctor at a New Jersey hospital tweeted advice for other health care providers and the public after he intubated a young and healthy colleague.

“As scared as I was, I knew that I owed it to my colleague to be calm, focused and collected. We’ve trained for this and with a little courage and vulnerability, we can meet any challenge,” Dr. David Zodda wrote. “When it’s over, it’s OK to be human. It’s OK to show emotion, for in doing so, we show that we care, we grieve, we love.”

This matters because:

  • As his hospital’s Assistant Program Director of Emergency Medicine Residency, Zodda “empowers residents to become the next generation of great leaders in the field of emergency medicine.” By sharing his experience he’s making it safe for residents to show emotion.
  • He’s provided a glimpse of what it’s like to be on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
  • It takes courage to be vulnerable, and Zodda demonstrated this by example.

The governor who has emerged as “a sort of national shrink”

When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the executive order that closed non-essential businesses statewide, he also announced “Matilda’s Law.” Named for the governor’s mother, the measure provides protections for New York’s most vulnerable populations. During his frequent digressions at his daily briefings, Cuomo has shared his concern for his 88-year-old mother, daughters and brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo who has COVID-19.

In her “New York Times” opinion column, Maureen Dowd noted that the governor has become “a sort of national shrink, talking us through our fear, our loss and our growing stir-craziness.”

“Call it psychological,” Cuomo told Dowd. “Call it feelings. Call it emotions. But this is as much a social crisis as a health crisis.”

This matters because:

  • By sharing family anecdotes, Cuomo humanizes his office and reminds viewers he’s like everyone else—concerned for loved ones.
  • Again, it’s OK to be emotional and it’s getting noticed.
  • We’re hardwired to respond to stories. Sharing family anecdotes makes Cuomo relatable.

Encourage leaders to embrace humanity and empathy when communicating with employees. You’ll set them up for success—and employees will be as inspired as I am.

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