For a small business owner, leadership skills have never been more important than they are now, while running a business in the era of COVID-19. Your employees are counting on you for their livelihoods, and that's a major responsibility even in normal times. These tips may help you lead at the top of your game through this crisis and beyond.

1. Lead by example

If you want your team to have your back, don’t ask them to take risks or actions that you wouldn't yourself. Show them that you are putting your money where your mouth is, that you're ready to make sacrifices when you have to, and that you’re willing to take the first jump into uncharted waters.

2. Develop razor-sharp focus

Set aside projects that don't help the business thrive in today’s environment, and focus on areas that do. You’re probably working on a much smaller margin than before, so it’s more important than ever to focus on the bottom line and avoid getting distracted by unimportant tasks. Make sure your team knows your new priorities and where they should be devoting their time and efforts.

3. Look forward rather than backward

The past is the past. What worked for your business simply may not any longer. For the vast majority of small businesses, long-term changes will need to happen. Whether that means internal changes, such as remote work or office modifications, or changes to your business model itself, it's time to focus on how you can succeed going forward, as opposed to how you can get back to the normal you enjoyed before the pandemic.

4. Embrace your team's humanity (and display your own)

The pandemic has affected every person on some level, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This is something to keep in mind as you lead your business going forward. Be empathetic to your staff and show them that you experience many of the same feelings they do. Have open conversations that show that you're all in this together and share common goals, but also share common anxieties. Find ways to support your team's mental health as well as your own, while ensuring them that you are doing everything in your power to make the best of the situation. Keep your cool under stress. Understand that disagreements or frustrations may increase due to stress, but don’t let them destroy your cooperative team spirit.

5. Be as flexible as possible

It’s never easy to make changes in midstream, especially when those changes involve a team of people with different personalities, circumstances and needs. Be willing to adjust work hours, allow remote work when practical, and loosen long-standing restrictions if it will help morale. Listening to requests from employees and making changes to help them adjust to the “new normal” will go a long way toward increasing productivity and well as attitudes.

6. Delegate, but maintain accountability

Require regular updates or status reports, even if you’re not meeting with team members face-to-face. You're still steering the ship, so always make sure that you remain on course. If things aren't getting done, find out why, and make the necessary adjustments. Your business needs to maintain top efficiency to get back on track.

7. Concentrate on communication

Communication is an absolute must, especially in a socially distanced work environment. That communication starts with you. Reach out to team members regularly. Check in individually and hold regular team meetings. Take advantage of solutions like Slack® or Microsoft® Teams that let the team communicate with one another and stay on the same page. Be clear that you're always looking for feedback on how to improve any aspect of work life or the business itself. Make yourself available.

8. Be transparent

Part of open communication is being transparent with your employees. Keep them in the loop and be real with them. If there are specific problems, talk about them honestly. Don't hide the truth in an effort to reduce anxiety. Your team deserves to know the current state of things, and what their leaders predict for the future. You're in this together, and the more up-to-speed everyone is, the more your team can come together to find solutions.

9. Stay in the know, make decisions accordingly

As the leader, it's also your responsibility to understand the industry and the market. Make time to keep up with the latest information to help inform the decisions you make and the actions you take. That doesn't mean having knee-jerk reactions. It simply means staying in the know and having a greater understanding of the state of your industry.

10. Recognize good work

Finally, take the time to recognize when team members are doing work that helps the company thrive and survive. It makes a person feel good when their work is appreciated, and it makes others want to show their own value. Both of these things can lead to a happier and more motivated team.

It's never been easy to be a true leader, and with the pandemic, the challenges are even greater. Still, the traits of great leadership are no different than they were before COVID-19. It's just that now, they may matter more than ever. 


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC