By Oko Buckle, vice president, general manager of the Atlanta offices, Burns & McDonnell

The coronavirus pandemic has all of us doing business as unusual. Each situation is complex. The questions are hard — and the decisions harder. Leading people through such an unpredictable, stressful time is no easy task. Below are five strategies I’ve found to be incredibly impactful in transitioning from reacting to a crisis to leading through one.

Put safety first, always.

At Burns & McDonnell, our very first core principle is “safety is first.” This really translates to “people are first.” We are all accountable for safety — accountable to our families, our coworkers, our clients and ourselves. Especially now, safety measures and protocols should be strengthened in even greater ways to protect our communities.

Focus on problem solving.  

Crises bring forth a lot of unknowns, uncertainties and rapidly evolving challenges. They also open doors for innovative, creative problem solving. Rather than focusing on what you can’t control, identify those challenges you can help solve and move forward.

As a company supporting all 16 critical infrastructure categories, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, our firm is quickly adapting to how we support and solve challenges to keep essential projects moving forward. By putting clients and communities first and focusing on creative ways we can alleviate pain points, we’ve been able to swiftly take action to help clients navigate a constantly evolving environment.

Stay true to your core values and principles.

A company’s core values and principles reflect what a company believes or represents, where a company has been and where a company is heading. During a time of crisis, they solidify what a company stands for. Spotlight those within your company and let them be your guiding light through a crisis. It’s important to reiterate those core values to your teams and reflect on your company’s purpose within society. At Burns & McDonnell, employee ownership and entrepreneurialism are at the heart of who we are as a firm. Those qualities have motivated our workforce, given all a strong sense of accountability and allowed us to deliver innovative, efficient solutions throughout the pandemic.

Stay connected.
Maintaining a sense of connection and camaraderie is critical to keeping morale high and employees engaged. Go out of your way to check in on your team and communicate regularly. Technology has allowed us to stay connected while we all safely social distance. Schedule virtual happy hours. Set up video meetings. Follow up with potential hires virtually. These points of connection are especially meaningful now.

Be empathetic and transparent.

Throughout crises, show your respect and care for others — your teams and your clients. Be empathetic. Be transparent. Be vulnerable. Be honest. In short, be authentic. You’ll develop and deepen trusted relationships by being “real” with your employees and clients.

Learn more about solutions for challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.