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Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. What decisions helped some businesses survive and thrive during the pandemic? Nicole Walters, founder and CEO of Inherit Learning Company and star of USA Network’s She’s The Boss, asked Georgene Huang and Romy Newman, co-founders of Fairygodboss, what they did to keep their company functioning during these tough times.
“First, we just started talking to everybody. And more important than talking, listening,” answered Huang. She and Newman reached out individually to all 50 of the company’s employees with no other agenda other than checking in to see how they were doing. In doing so, they were able to see just how much outside stress their employees were dealing with, from homeschooling to elder caregiving challenges, and were able to make adjustments to their workloads and schedules to keep them productive without burning out.
The calls also gave Newman insights into her pre-pandemic managerial style. “I didn’t realize how much I relied on non-verbal communication as a manager before,” she explains. Whether it was a friendly smile in the hallway or someone looking tense at their computer, she says she had a much better grasp of how team members were feeling. “I feel like the rug was pulled out from under us in terms of seeing how people are doing, so it is very important to be deliberate about checking in with team members through video chats.”
Besides providing a barometer of team members’ mental health, constant communication also helped signal to employees that the co-founders were doing everything in their power to control every aspect of the business that could be controlled during this uncertain time. “We focused on sharing our business results, staying close to our customers, investing in product and technology at a time when sales and revenue were out of our control,” says Huang. “And we made sure that everyone at the company zoned in on the top three things they had going on.” Being able to focus on goals that were attainable, she says, helped all members feel more secure about the future.