Leading Through a Crisis

Why effective communication is key for business leaders in tough times


For many business owners, leading through a crisis is challenging while running day-to-day operations. But in stressful times, it’s more important than ever for business owners to be capable leaders for their employees and customers alike—and effective communication is one of the most valuable tools in the leader’s toolkit.

Here are a few communication strategies for the difficult times, so you’re on good footing when it’s back to business as usual.

Woman referencing documents while sitting at her desk in front of a computer.

Acknowledge the Situation

Whether your whole team is working from home, you’ve had to lay off employees, or your company is closed indefinitely, be proactive in addressing the situation with your stakeholders. Show you are informed of the problem and working to find a solution. This transparency reaffirms your commitment to doing the right thing for the business and customers as much as possible. It instills trust that you’re working quickly to manage the situation to the best of your ability.

Communicate Your Response

You’ve addressed the problem, but your customers and employees want to know what you’re doing about it. Time is critical. Move quickly and communicate your decisions across multiple channels to keep everyone in the loop. Think customer emails, social media and in-person signage. Share resources that are available to customers, whether it’s an FAQ page or servicing contact info in case they have questions. 

As your responses and reactions change, share regular updates and be honest about your decision making. As situations can shift quickly, changes to your plan are inevitable—it’s okay, just be transparent.

Update Your Team Early and Often

The news is evolving rapidly, and it can be hard to keep track of the latest and most useful intel. To keep employees informed, establish a regular cadence of news updates, such as phone calls or daily email blasts. Help your employees feel involved in the process by giving them background information on why you’re making certain decisions.

Set the Example

Now’s the time to be flexible and adjust your team’s priorities according to the business and the broader landscape. Give your employees—and your customers—as much flexibility as possible as they adapt to the new normal. Reinforce your dedication to their success by giving them behind-the-scenes looks at how your day-to-day has changed.

Take Care of Yourself

While you’re likely being pulled in a hundred different directions right now, now is the time to maintain your healthy habits, or even add new ones to the routine.  Consider scheduling the time on your calendar to make sure it doesn’t fall off of your to-do list, whether it’s exercising, taking a nature walk or using a meditation app.

Be Supportive and Available

Your employees are likely feeling stressed and anxious during this time, so it’s important for you to be supportive and available to them. Do your best to make yourself accessible to answer questions or address concerns they may be having: If one person feels this way, it’s likely that others do too. Remind your team of internal and external resources available to them and encourage them to reach out if they need help. 

For more information about leading your business through the COVID-19 crisis, reference this Harvard Business Review resource

With the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Capital One recognizes that business owners are facing an unprecedented set of challenges. Visit this page for more information on how Capital One is supporting our business community during this time.


We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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