The past 1.5 years have been exhausting. Every day there’s a new issue, a new deduction, a new variant…. it seems to never end. How do we lead during these “uncertain” times? How do we show our clients and our employees that although we are learning in real-time, that we will make it? How do we even know that we will make it?
The tough truth is, we don’t know. Most of us are living one day at a time, month-to-month or even quarter-to-quarter. There’s a lot of factors that we cannot control, but there are a lot of things that we can. So, let’s start with those.
Whether you have started moving back to part-time in-person work or are still 100% virtual, team morale is an important thing to consider. Are your employees showing a lack of interest in their work? Exhaustion? Less motivation to get things done? Say something. Don’t criticize – but reach out. Ask them if they are doing okay or if they need to take some time off to recharge. Maybe even offer them an incentive like a free dinner or maybe even a bonus. With all of the extensions these last 1.5 years, tax season 2019 turned into tax season 2020 which is slowly but surely turning into tax season 2021. Everyone is tired. Do what you can to help your employees feel appreciated, heard and valued.
As I said above, there’s a lot of factors that we cannot control. And being transparent about that literal fact is not a weakness, but a strength. If a client is struggling to understand something, be honest with them about it. Say things like, “At this time, these are our options. And in 3 months we can reevaluate those options to see if anything has changed.” Using phrases like “at this time,” “I understand your concern,” and “Because of ….” can help you deliver difficult news in a way that explains the situation as timely, temporary and/or explaining why/how it’s happened and how to avoid it in the future. Choose your words very carefully to not induce panic or anxiety by looking them in the eye when speaking, speaking directly and confidently, and being transparent when there are issues will help your clients/employees trust your judgement and ability to lead in a difficult time.
You have no idea what’s going on in the personal lives of your employees and clients. Maybe their child is high-risk for COVID. Maybe their dad has dementia and doesn’t remember why his family can’t come visit him in his nursing home. Maybe one of your employee’s spouse lost their job and now they’re living with half of the income they’re used to. Maybe one of your clients is struggling with depression. You have NO IDEA. As much as you think you do, you do not. So don’t pretend to. Give the people around you grace.
To be a good leader is to demonstrate that you understand and pursue the goals of your firm, but not at the expense of your employees or clients.