In a recent CNBC segment titled Markets in Turmoil: Coronavirus Crisis — Impact on Sport Gambling, Jason Robins, CEO and co-founder of DraftKings, a fantasy sports betting company, was asked: “with all major sports shutting down, what are you doing? How are you making lemonade with all these lemons” It’s a great question that faces leaders at all levels and within virtually every organization today.

Jason’s response could be the stuff of legend because it’s simple and powerful: “From a resource perspective, [the shuttering of sporting events] really hasn’t changed what we’re focused on. In fact, in many ways the team has rallied around this. They’ve said, ‘Let’s really work hard so that we have a bunch of new stuff to bring back once sports resume their play.’ That’s actually energized people. In many ways I think we’re going to produce our best in these moments.”

Managing during this crisis requires that leaders first step back and survey the landscape and see this as the unique moment it is. What if no one could travel? What if all work took place at home (except, of course, things like trades)? What if we couldn’t congregate? Or meet face-to-face? What if we had to work while taking care of our children who can’t go to school? Certainly, there’s been fleeting consideration of these questions over the past decade, but now we’re forced to deal with the issue head on; a significant factor in the equation the “what if” has been removed since it’s no longer “what if” but “now what.”

Seeing the crisis as an opportunity is the first step. Taking care of your people is the next step. Provide reassurance. The “nice” thing about the COVID-19 crisis, is that we know we’ll recover and that at some point things will return to normal, a new normal for sure, but still normal. We can see through this, so talk to your team about the other side.

Reassuring your team is important, but during trying times, it’s the individual who most needs reassurance. Specifics matter.  “My children’s school has closed for the next four weeks. How can I work?” “My husband is quarantined in California; I’m a single parent for the foreseeable future.” “My daughter has respiratory issues and I’m monitoring her closely.” Asking how each team member is coping and knowing what each team member is dealing with is important.

Being flexible is critical during this time. Once this crisis has moved on, people will soon forget the detail and the hardships, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Working different hours or a reduced work schedule may be the flexibility people need. 

Keep communicating; during times of crisis, things change quickly. If you don’t provide information, guidance, and direction even if it’s the same information, guidance, and direction you provided last week people tend to make up stories. (Look at the panic over toilet paper. When people aren’t clear on what to do, they tend to do what others are doing, even if it doesn’t make sense.)

In summary:

  1. Provide a vision of opportunity: this is a time when we can build new and better things. 
  2. Reassure the team and each employee by understanding and helping them cope with their unique challenges.
  3. Be flexible. Team members will remember how you reacted.
  4. Keep communicating. The same story is better than no story.

Help your people produce their best during these uncertain and challenging times. That's leadership.