By Todd Lytle and Kimm Lytle
How do you lead during a pandemic?
It’s a question we have come back to many times over the last few months, and it served as a compass to how we would intentionally lead our people.
As a freight management partner based in Sumner, Washington, we were one of the first regions in the United States that was faced with the realities of COVID-19. Early on, we qualified as an essential business under Washington’s governor orders, and this meant our operations and buildings have remained open.
Obviously, there hasn’t been a playbook to follow in how to manage a business during a global pandemic, but we knew we have to be mindful about how we lead our team. It’s critical for us to get through this together as a team. For us, this leadership approach means one thing: take care of our people.
It’s a decision, we believe, that is best for our organization. Here’s how we put our humans first during the last few months:
1. Listening to their Unique Individual Needs.It would have been easy for us to say, our business is open and therefore, we expect you to come into work to keep operations humming. This message just didn’t work for us. We knew we needed to look at every individual and their specific situation. Some of our team members had kiddos at home and no options for childcare. Others weren’t comfortable being in the office. We gave each individual the flexibility to do what they needed to do for themselves and their families, no questions asked.
2. Encouraging Community Support.The last few months have been rough for many locally run businesses, especially restaurants. Since most of our team are still coming into the office, we have turned Fridays into Support Local Restaurants Fridays and cater in lunch. Some of the team has even dubbed it as FunBun Friday – wearing fun buns in their hair! It’s been a win-win: we get to reward our hard-working team and support the community.
3. Giving Them a Vision Worth Celebrating.As business owners, we feel it’s our responsibility to make sure everyone not only feels valued, but feels their jobs are safe and encouraged about what’s to come. We’ve made a huge effort to be transparent about the future of the business, how we’re growing and all of the plans we have in place to continue to serve our amazing clients. We recently shared progress on our new warehouse building that will open on schedule next month. By communicating our long-term vision regularly, our hope is they feel secure in their jobs and the trajectory of their careers. One of our standards is “We’re Building This Together” and it’s important that our team feels like they’re along for the ride.
Just like every business owner, we’re learning as we go in navigating this new world. However, our hope is by investing in our people, they will feel valued, energized and motivated to continue to bring excellent service to our clients when they need it the most.