3 tips for leading during COVID-19—from an agency president who contracted it

by | Apr 14, 2020 | Analysis, Covid-19, Public Relations

Like so many others, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned my world upside down. As a business owner, communicator and mother, the past few weeks have been among the most challenging of my career.

Even when the world isn’t in crisis, my first priority is always my 22-year-old son, Grant. But his health and safety became even more imperative when I learned about the seriousness of coronavirus. Not only was he living in another state when news of the virus first began, but he’s one of the many Americans with an immunosuppressed system. I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure his health was monitored. So I made a cross-country trip to Colorado to bring him back home to Ohio.

Another top priority is my communications agency, MediaSource, and my amazing team.  I want to make sure that they and other communicators have the tools they need to succeed. In that spirit, I agreed to host a national webinar, where I shared with communicators the need for our industry to adapt our approach to working with the news media during this historic pandemic.

But it turns out I had one major surprise in store

I hosted the webinar about dealing with COVID-19… while I was infected with COVID-19. In the days following the webinar, we learned that both my son and I had contracted the virus.

So there I was, quarantined in my house, facing the unique challenge of running a business, caring for my son, and fighting off this illness. Unfortunately, there is no manual to guide a mom or a business owner through handling such an unprecedented situation. So I made the best decisions I could using my experience and my advisors, while at the same time listening to my gut.

3 tips for leading during COVID-19—from an agency president who had it

The road since my diagnosis hasn’t been easy, but it has been enlightening. Here are some tips that helped me lead my company through these chaotic times.

  • Be transparent, and ensure lines of communication are open

The moment I thought I might be COVID-10 positive, even before I received my test result, I told my leadership team that it was a possibility. Once I received the positive result, I immediately shared the information with the full staff,  assuring them that my case was mild and that I was recovering.

Communication is crucial,  especially in times of crisis and with teams working remotely.  It’s not just about strategizing and checking in on work — creating an open and honest work environment helps everyone feel informed and included.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help

As I was awaiting my son’s diagnosis, I was juggling a major sales presentation, planning a webinar, guiding our team through these new work-from-home circumstances and trying to keep everyone calm. Thankfully, I was able to rely on my leadership team and business human advisors to ensure each of those points moved forward smoothly.

Don’t be afraid to tap into the knowledge of the people around you, whether that’s working with your human resources department to ensure a seamless transition to a working-from-home environment, or reaching out to your CFO to discuss the potential impact of the crisis on business..

When times are tough, it’s important to keep your cool and trust your team.  There’s a reason you hired them in the first place.

  • Think positively, while preparing for the worst

My son  and I took all the necessary precautions prior to our diagnosis. We washed our hands, we practiced social distancing. Still, we were realistic, and made sure we were prepared with a plan should either of us ultimately be infected with COVID-19.

Lisa Allege Powell and son Grant

Lisa and her son Grant

The same is true for businesses. Be optimistic when looking toward your company’s future and work to position your business to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever. However, you need to be realistic and take every scenario, positive or negative, into account. Having the foresight will ensure that your business is equipped to deal with whatever challenge you might face during these uncertain times.

This experience has been a great reminder of how uncertain these times are. COVID-19 doesn’t care how hard you’re working or how cautious you’re being; it will do its best to find a way into your life and, as I have learned, everyone is vulnerable.

I feel incredibly lucky that my symptoms were not serious and that my immunosuppressed son recovered quickly from the virus, suffering only a mild case. As we all navigate the new normal, it’s important that we continue to be patient with one another, help your family, friends and business partners and be sure to take care of your own health.

Lisa Arledge Powell
Lisa Arledge Powell is the president of MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency that specializes in helping brands reach their business goals through strategic communications. Known as an industry thought leader, Lisa trains other communicators on best practices for how to use content to meet business goals. Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @LisaArledge


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