There are events in life we can never foretell. The community you work in is hit by floods and some of your former clients are suddenly homeless. Or a house your company is remodeling burns down. Or a child of one of your key employees, someone who has been with you from the beginning, dies of a disease you have never heard of.
How would your clients and employees want you to respond to events like this? What would they expect of you?
Take Responsibility of What You Can
People in a crisis want to hear that the person they are looking to for help understands what they are dealing with.
Regarding your clients whose house has burned, you want to tell them you are horrified, can't imagine what they are going through, and will be by their side doing those things that only you can do to make things right again. You will also be helping them get done those things that they will have to do, insofar as you can and that for which they would welcome your help.
What would drive your clients crazy is to hear from you that what happened is not your fault in any way. And a horrible situation would then get much worse for all involved, because they would feel abandoned and then likely start lashing out in frustration.
You will never be able to fully comprehend what it means to have a child of yours die unless that actually happens.
That said, you can feel some, if not all, of the pain your key employee and his family are experiencing. And they need to hear that from you.
As do your other employees because, after all, you are still all in this together. You see one another regularly, you are aware of one another's lives outside work, and you depend on one another to create the success of all of you and the company.
Speak from your heart. It doesn't have to be long-winded. It just has to be true.
Do What You Said You Would Do
With your clients, take the lead on what you said would happen. Arrange the needed interactions. Stay in touch with the adjusters. Talk with your subcontractors about how you'll all work together to make things right, whether or not the fire was actually the fault of your company doing the remodel.
The absence of follow-through creates a sense of abandonment in your clients. And that makes them feel scared and frustrated. Which then gets them looking to make your life miserable, just like they feel theirs is.
Stay in Touch
In both the situations, whether it is the fire or the loss of a child, the thing those you are working with want the most is to know that you care and that you will continue caring.
Checking in regularly builds trust and eases their pain. I'm not talking about an email once a month. I mean calling them or stopping by. Keeping them informed of progress when you and they expect something to happen.
Nothing is as powerful for them as you showing you continue to care.
I hope none of the situations I mentioned here ever happen to you or those you feel close to. But if they do, by simply responding as a responsible person who understands all the duties that come with your position, you will inspire those you work with and for.
Empathy is essential in any person in a leadership position. There is no substitute for it. And expressing empathy can make a bad situation much easier to bear.
Be who you would want someone you depend on to be.