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Stakeholder Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Stakeholder Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic
We’ve certainly seen a broad range of stakeholder engagement efforts from various sources during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve all watched or listened to national and local government leadership, other community leaders, leaders of our own. And other businesses, family members, advocate groups, hate groups, anonymous groups, and the list goes on. Information is come at us from everywhere. For many of these individuals, you are a stakeholder. As you have watched and listen to these people talk, what have you learned? Which have provided clear, compelling, and useful information? Which have you decided you just aren’t going to believe? How many of you simply switched off? Because they actually made you more frustrated and angry. And perhaps even more fearful.
How have you decided, who or what you should believe? How did you sort through the noise? Well, I’m with you. It’s been really challenging. It’s been difficult sifting through the cacophony of information to find the facts. And equally, it’s difficult sorting through the political positioning and spin. As we all have seen, when there’s great complexity and limited evidence. It’s really hard to find the truth. I have two pieces of advice to share with you in response to what we’ve seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. You may find this helpful as a stakeholder with a value proposition in someone else’s organization.
Or is a crisis leader looking to ensure your own stakeholders that what you have to offer is reliable and worth believing. My first suggestion is to ask yourself, what does the evidence tell us? Are facts and data available that are compelling? That are supported by multiple sources. That could be validated through testing or by some other means. If so, then there’s a very good probability that what you’re hearing is true. That what you’re hearing is worth believing. And if not, it doesn’t mean that the claims are automatically false. But I tend to give them less credence until more could be learned or discovered. As a crisis leader, when presenting information be very thoughtful.
And careful about how you present the insights you are drawing from the evidence. Is what you were sharing fact, or is it your opinion? Are you coming to your conclusions because you’re doing the best you can with the information that you have? If so, share that. Don’t be afraid to be transparent. Your stakeholders won’t hold it against you. Which brings me to suggestion number two. Later in this course, we’ll examine the nature of the crisis environment. When we do, we’ll learn that a characteristic of the environment is that it will be almost impossible to know everything that you’ll want to know during a crisis. You simply won’t be able to build an airtight picture of the situation, the ideal solution.
And the ultimate impact of the crisis until well after the event if ever. Because of this, you’re going to have to rely on limited imperfect information, both when you’re engaging stakeholders. And when making decisions during a crisis. This means that quite frequently, you’re going to be wrong. Your insights are going to prove mistaken. Your decisions will have to be modified or reversed. This won’t feel good nor will it be great for your confidence. But these errors will largely be a function of the environment not your flaws as a leader. So, knowing that you’ll never have a crystal clear picture of everything during a crisis. It’s okay to admit that.
It’s okay to tell your stakeholders that this is how you’re making sense of the cloudy picture that you’re working through. You’ll find that your stakeholders will appreciate your humanness. Think about your experiences as a stakeholder during the Covid-19 pandemic. What did you want to see from crisis leaders? Did you want them to share the facts as they became available? Of course, you did. Were you looking for leaders that you could trust? Of course you were. What did these leaders do to appear trustworthy to you or to convince you that they weren’t? I am certain that your judgments here weren’t just a function of the availability the facts.
I bet it was much more a function of the way that they engage with you. As you think of your answers to these questions and reflect on what you saw from leaders of all varieties during the Covid pandemic. Decide for yourself how you wanted these individuals to provide leadership. How their actions would have been most useful to you. Then take your answers, and use them to inform your own approach to high-stakes leadership. We can learn a lot by studying the actions of others. And the recent pandemic gave us a lot of action and inaction to study.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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