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  • Writer's pictureChris Templeton

Leading Through The Pandemic, Part 1

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

Join Carin Hewitt, Heather Piazza and Chris Templeton on their inaugural podcast where we discuss leading through the pandemic.

These times have the ability to create outstanding gains in leadership when we look at our organizations through this new lens.


Chris Templeton 0:00

Hi, I'm Chris Templeton, I'm one of the co founders of the engaged collective. Thanks for joining us for our inaugural podcast. Today, co founders of engaged collective Heather Piazza and Carin Hewitt, as well as myself will be discussing leadership in the era of COVID-19. Please bear with us through our growing pains of putting these together. And we hope, even with the funny edits, that you find this to be useful in your organization.

You know, one of the things that is probably something that very few organizations have ever thought about is what happens if something happens on in the country on the planet that requires us to shut down, or to change how we operate in the midst of something like COVID-19. And so I think it'd be really helpful for us to just do a quick run through of from a leadership standpoint of an organization, what is some of the things that I can be doing right now, if my organization has been shut down? Or is having to work differently? What are the things that I should be looking at both internally and front facing? To kind of frame up how we're doing as an organization, I think one of the things that, from my experience is the best way to create a lot of fear and uncertainty is to be quiet, and especially in a situation like this. And so my question to you guys and to myself is, how can we help an organization to think about the leadership of an organization to think about what they ought to be doing in the face of COVID-19, that's going to help everybody, all their stakeholders, be in a better place about our organization.

Heather Piazza 2:01

So the first thing I would do is going back to culture, is check in with the employees. And that should be the very first thing you do. Even if you're having leadership executive team meetings, meeting with a board, the first thing you need to do is check in with your employees and make sure they're okay. And let them know that you're going to be working on some solutions, and that you will keep them fully updated. And I think that's really, really important, whether it's a virtual call, depending on how your organization set up, or it's an all hands on deck team meeting, or if you know, if you have everyone on site, everybody goes to meeting, I think it's super important to check in with your employees first, and then I would not Stop the presses. But I would take a long pause on everything that you were working on, whether it's production, media, marketing, any kind of travel, any of that, pause it and have everybody in a leadership capacity, review those things and come back immediately, with a solution or a plan. Each emergency is a little bit different. But from a marketing perspective, I can tell you that the first thing I do is pause communication. And try and keep those channels of communication clear. So that we can communicate with our stakeholders about what's going on during the crisis. That's what we're going to do our helping our employees, how we're supporting the community, all those good things at which point becomes safe again, we unpause and go back to regularly scheduled programming. But one of the worst things you can do say you were, were a huge part of the tourism industry being in the Napa Valley. So one of the worst things you can do is promote coming in flying in a balloon over the valley when people are dying of a disease that just it does not translate. So pretty early on you make sure you pause all those things. Even though we do need some feel good posts in there. You can schedule that too. But there's nothing like promoting a great time when you're in the middle of a crisis just doesn't work.

Chris Templeton 4:12

No, no. So sell sell sell probably isn't the place that we want to start.

Heather Piazza 4:17

And don't send me an email that you're raising your prices either. I had that happen to me last week. That is not a good idea when people are in this particular crisis worried about layoffs and whether they're going to be able to make their next mortgage payment. When you send out a message to all your customers that you are working on a price increase timings everything.

Chris Templeton 4:41

Yeah. And that that does that timing doesn't get any crappier does it

Heather Piazza 4:45


or choices?

Chris Templeton 4:49

What do you think in common?

Carin Hewitt 4:52

My first thought was going along exactly what Heather said. And I think one of the things that's really important is making Making sure that you have good communication systems in place. And not waiting until there's a disaster to refine what those communication systems look like. Whether it's it's stuff I'm seeing my some of my clients have to do is gathering people's email addresses. They don't, you know, having lists, having communication, whether it's via email or in on the website, you know, trying to set up a plan for timely and regular communication with stakeholders, I think is a super important piece of the puzzle. Right.

Heather Piazza 5:38

And I'd like to add to that, that there's no time like during a crisis, when you're trying to find you have everything on pause, you're trying to find work for your employees to do a one of the things that we've been working on with my clients is just getting reorganized. Because of those things, we don't have lists or the organization isn't set up in such a way that they can contact someone really fast in no time, like the present, do it right, do it the first time. And then you have it for a long time. Now you just need to maintain it. So it's kind of a similar philosophy I had when we were working corporate, and we'd have a power outage, you didn't have your computer to work on, we still had tons of paper files. And we went quickly back to that and started re organizing those getting rid of the junk and making sure things were in order so that when we were back up and running, we were more efficient, because we're just reorganized and things were clean and ready to view and easy to find.

Chris Templeton 6:37

I think one of the things that we should be also talking about is really framing up that no matter what your organization does, that you're focused on the future and that we're going to get through this, I think a plan that is hopeful that recognizes you know, the tough times that we're in that sort of thing, those kind of communications where you recognize where you're at, ain't no fun to be here, and where you want to go and that everything's gonna be okay, in the end, we're gonna figure it out, I think is an important piece of what any organization ought to be doing. front facing. Certainly right now, any kind of messaging, that doesn't make it clear that, hey, we're part of what's going on. And we understand that it's tough for everybody, and we're gonna figure this out, you don't have that kind of messaging in place. And it sounds like business as usual. That's not not where you want to go either. Is it?

Carin Hewitt 7:38

right? Correct. You also don't want to look like the sky is falling, and you're panicking. And I, you know, I was talking with an executive director earlier today, and she was expressing that she hasn't slept in two weeks. And I said, Well, that's not you know, and I'm always This is my role not that's not really going to help you because this is a this is a marathon and a lot of times disasters are more marathon than they are Sprint's and so we have to take care of ourselves as leaders. And, and I agree with you, Chris, it's super important that we meet we meet the issues are, we can't sugarcoat and pretend and send out red hot air balloon messages. But at the same time, we don't want to be running around looking really stressed out because it it makes all of our employees more nervous. They look to us as leaders. And that's true, whether we're a nonprofit in a community or whether we're a leader, managing a bunch of employees, I think staying calm and being practical. And demonstrating care for ourselves is really important.

Chris Templeton 8:48

Yeah, I frame that up as I want to be thinking thoughts that serve me and if they serve me, hopefully, that allows me to take in the good, the bad and the ugly, and really focus on you know, honestly where I am and honestly where we want to be and thoughts that don't serve us thinking that doesn't serve us boys hat carry to all kind of to everybody else. That's that's hearing what I have to say.

Carin Hewitt 9:23

I think another important thing is is being strategic about what you can tackle like one of the things that I did pretty well I didn't do it early enough, but I'm sure like you guys. I'm getting 20 emails a day on COVID-19 I mean it is just so it's so and then you have your social media and your people calling you so it gets a little overwhelming. So what I did is I created a folder, and I just started taking everything that was COVID-19 that I thought I might want to look at this right now but I don't want to look at it in my I don't want to go through 50 emails. To get to the one, that's the thing that I got to do, because I'm not being productive, and I'm stressing myself out by looking at these, so I just started pulling them over to the side. And that, I think, because a lot of those tools that are being shared right now are super valuable, there's like, we're all gonna have to create protocols for how to handle COVID-19. In our workplaces, we're all going to have to have new ways that our employees treat our environment, the new way for remote workers. I mean, there's all kinds of new materials that are coming out right now. So I think just putting them in a, in a stack to be tackled when our brains can handle that, for me has been a helpful approach. Absolutely.

Chris Templeton 10:47

pushing forward in a really resistive place does not help us, does it? No, no. What else should people be thinking about in regards to the situation we're in and where we're headed?

Heather Piazza 11:03

I think it was just constant checking in. But I think this is also a reminder that many organizations are not as prepared as they thought that they would be in times of crisis. So you do need to one things normalize, which they will. Organizations, especially those, as I call them, heads of state, executive directors, CEOs, need to go back with their boards, or with our leadership teams, and work on what a crisis looks like for your organization, and how it's going to be handled short term crisis and long term crisis is and start developing those plans have a debrief on this crisis and how it affected the organization and what you did right and what you did wrong, because we're all stumbling through this together, what could work better allied agencies that you want to be able to work with and align yourselves with, and just truly how to take care of your employees and your customers and yourself. At the end of the day, I think if you can answer those three questions, then the plan will be successful. But and, yes, we can figure out in the midst of our houses, but it certainly makes us feel so much more confident and stronger, when we already know what we need to do.

Chris Templeton 12:22

You know, I think the other thing that that's really worth taking a look at is right now as I'm in it, what can I do to make this to make this better? And so how do I talk to what do I do, I check in with my board members about where they are, how they're doing what they think we can do, to set that stage of, you know, being competent, and where we are in this moment in time checking in with employees, like you said, Heather, but also asking employees, what are the things that we can do as leadership and managers to support them through what they're going through so much of what I think the those answers are going to be are about communication, chatting with, you know, putting together a meeting with employees, just to have a debrief of you know, how you're doing those types of things can go so far, in not only helping me to understand what as a leader, what I should be doing, to handle this kind of situation in the future. And there's a really good chance that we're going to go through something very similar in a year from now, isn't there? I mean, that yes. And so, you know, using now, is that is that Proving Grounds, to look at the different groups that you need to communicate with and, and see what you can do to support them. Nine out of 10 times it's not monetary, I at least I don't think that that's, I mean, obviously, monetary is going to be a big issue. But being able to be there in a way that sets you apart from other organizations, I think is huge right

Heather Piazza 13:59

now. Well, sometimes it's just listening. Sometimes it's connections, providing connections, outside agencies, and sometimes it's advocacy. So being able to go to your state government, your reps, your local government, to another agency and saying, This is what my employees need to feel supportive, or we need to expedite xy and z, can you help me take care of that for my employees? It's Yes, all of what you just said. I'd also add to that, this situation has actually brought up some really interesting work situations for many of us working from home. And for those of us that are not used to it, I would urge organizations to not judge this time as a way of evaluating the idea of this working in the future because I think that there is some weight and some positivity and some great productivity that can come out of working from home or Having a different work week working at different times, alternating hours, I think there's so many creative ideas that have come out during this time. But to really evaluate them fully if you're interested in doing so, not during a pandemic. But one we can actually all be working with our head screwed on straight. So I love the creativity that I'm seeing come out of organizations I'm loving watching, even how restaurants are pivoting from, you know, selling their day to day in person meals to working on takeout and delivery. and everything in between, I just saw a restaurant offer it an Easter offer, actually. And it was a pack of a carton of eggs with coloring for kids and stickers and a whole thing had nothing to do Oh, and a pack of toilet paper, nothing to do with selling their regular day to day meals or even takeout is what they're doing right now. It's something totally different. And that has to be because they were listening to their employees or to their customers, but just as a different need that needs to be filled right now. They can get back to regularly scheduled program once this is over. So that creativity is really inspiring for me. And hopefully it is for other organizations as well, that you can still thrive, and you just have to be able to work quickly. And that that's another good point in terms of culture is you know, how quickly can you work within your organization to pivot, that may be something that you need to be able to do something that we can work on, as well as a client in terms of culture.

Chris Templeton 16:47

And and I think, you know, now is a good time to be playing with those things to involve employees. And hey, what are the things that we could do? That would be a contributing to what we're dealing with right now versus just getting another sale in the door? And and I think I think one of the things that I've heard more than and just about anything else is employees not feeling heard. And we know always have great, great ideas when when we kind of work with them to pull them out.

Carin Hewitt 17:21

Yeah, one of the organizations that I'm working with the the concept that employees would work at home, in in this particular environment would there would be never a thought that this would be able to happen. And yet, what is happening is that the employees are being asked to work from home. And I think what I would add to what Heather said is checking in with plays, and also not forgetting to include them in the work. You know, rather than, like I've seen this with managers where they're sitting in their homes, and they're furious because they're not sleeping, and they're running around. And they're kind of mad at their employees because they're home not getting paid or getting paid. You know this, unfortunately, most of my clients, all of the staff are getting paid right now. So they're just sitting at home. And there's like this frustration on the part of managers that they're getting a free ride in a way and it's like, well, all you have to do is ask them to do something. So one of my clients, we started talking brainstorming, like what could we have employees doing? And so we've reached out to them. And I've had a lot of thought after this because what happened is one of the one of the employees who's actually on the floor, quote, unquote, on the floor, not one of the strongest employees because he I think what it is, is he's an introvert, he's not extroverted. So out on the floor, he doesn't get people to follow him around, and he doesn't get all these things to happen. But when we asked him to make phone calls to people in his home, and document how people are doing, he was the first one to turn everything in and his work is really good. His documentation is great. And his follow through with people is great. So it's like, the home environment and the the working by himself works for him. So I think like you say, you know, we may learn that there's actually some ways to do work where we're better at it when we use people's different types of skillsets. You know, and I've thought about this a lot. I think introverts have an easier time working at home. It's the extroverts that are having a hard time. And I'm an introvert, it's not a challenge for me, you know, but people have been told many

Heather Piazza 19:46

times to check on my extrovert friends.

Carin Hewitt 19:50

Cuz I think those are the ones who are having the hardest time the rest of us are like, Hey, I could you know, so I think That that is, I think reaching out to your workforce and engaging them. Because what when we did that, they were like, thank God, I have nothing to do all day, I'm bored out of my mind, and I want I want to help they want and part of the mission. Right, that's part of the mission. So

Chris Templeton 20:17

this is a fabulous time to really examine so many aspects of organization. And, and, you know, I think that that's one of the things as a leader that we really need to be able to do with employees is say, you know, look, there's so much that you can bring to the table in the face of this. And, and, you know, asking them for their input and for their ideas, I think it should be something that is happening all the time. But if this is that window, to really start that process, if you haven't been doing and you'll be shocked as, as a manager, or a leader in an organization, what kind of ideas can come in?

Heather Piazza 21:01


Chris Templeton 21:03

What else should we be talking about in regards to COVID? Anything that comes to mind for you guys?

Carin Hewitt 21:10

I think it's, it's a lesson in adaptability. It is, it is making me so much think about how do i do my work? How do I do it anywhere? You know, how can I not get stopped up by things. And then in the end, I think, you know, as Heather said, there's, there's opportunities to thrive through this, it doesn't necessarily have to mean the downfall of our businesses, even though it's scary. And there's a lot of messages that tell us that, you know, the economy's scary, the health of our workers is super important to us. And yet at the same time, there is the chance that we that we can come out of this stronger than we went in, because like the wind that blows a plant, our stock grows stronger, you know. So that's kind of where I'm choosing to be with it right now, today.

Chris Templeton 22:04

And that's really what it's about as a leader is to help people to find that. I think that that adaptability is core to who we are as as the human race. But you know, pointing that out and helping to foster that, I think is really, really important and can go a really long way, way beyond when this thing gets solved. Well, that was a bit of an abrupt ending, but we hope you enjoyed the podcast and found it useful. We'd love to hear your comments, love to hear your feedback and what you'd like us to be talking about. Thanks so much for joining us. See you next time.

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