Updated: Jul 23
For leadership at any program or organization, COVID-19 will fundamentally challenge how you engage with your team and cultivate a strong culture. In the long term, this situation may present an opportunity to think about how to elevate communications, create a more resilient workforce, and build more focus on health and well-being for employees and clients. Given the importance of people, having a plan to respond to employee and client needs during this unfolding crisis is essential.
It is also important to remember that this crisis will pass and that there will be others in the future. We can prepare, be rational, and even altruistic in response. There is and will always be disruption, AND there will always be recovery. How we (program leadership) act in this time of crisis will inform the long-term impact we have on our community.
Programs can and SHOULD review their “Ways of Being”, Mission, Core Values and Guiding Principles to help to guide decisions while navigating COVID-19. With this in mind, start with identifying how culture and/or values or identity will be challenged and what adjustments can be implemented.
For example, at Legacy we created an additional mission statement to help us navigate this crisis: We will SAFELY do everything within our power to continue to admit clients and to keep all of our team members employed.
Culture aspects that help navigate COVID:
In moments of uncertainty and concern, it’s not only what leaders do but equally HOW they do it that matters. Leaders who can embrace, promote and role model the following will likely see increased investment from employees and clients:
1. Intentional Community: Prospective employees are invited to take a good look at core ideology and how leadership practice and model the stated mission and values to clients, and then chose in and embrace it as their own.
2. Outward Mindset: Putting the needs of the community ahead of a personal agenda.
IE: I wear a mask to protect MY community.
3. Resilience: Stay focused on what is IN your control and accept with serenity what one cannot control.
*It is important to acknowledge that for many of our programs, the ability to successfully manage COVID-19 began long before the pandemic. It begins with culture, and a strong culture cannot just be created overnight.*
Responding to the immediate challenge:
Your people must come first in a time of crisis. A clear strategy and plan focused on your community’s well-being is essential. Even for programs that have not yet been adversely affected, we recommend leadership teams actively anticipate challenges and develop strategies to address employee needs and concerns in advance.
A framework to view crisis impact on your people:
1. Establish a crisis response leadership team
2. Confirm critical roles and contingency plans
3. Evaluate the format of your program and how it might be changed by the crisis
4. Understand what work is mission-critical and what can be deferred or de-prioritized temporarily
5. Set the tone at the top: model showing up for the WHOLE team, not just leadership
6. Define your communication strategy and make it visible
7. Educate employees about crisis (IE: COVID-19 symptoms and prevention)
8. Establish employee support procedures
Following this framework here some examples of steps Legacy Treatment Center has taken:
Established a COVID organization response team
Response team then established firewall protocols
Utilized guiding principles and values to create safe space for routine discussion and open dialog
Secured housing for critical staff
Prioritized mission critical work
Made program adjustments: (RTC rotation, Universal CDC precautions, etc.)
Established mission critical quarantine groups for incoming clients
Increased communication. (Leadership meets with guides and clients weekly to facilitate discussion around how the pandemic is affecting the world and our program)
Created financial incentives to honor and acknowledge additional work or stress on team members
Established remote family therapy workshops so this important work may continue uninterrupted
At the end of the day, a crisis like COVID-19 has the potential to have devastating impacts on work-place culture. Recognize that these are moments that matter: how we lead now has the potential to leave a legacy over the long term.
Always put people first in a time of crisis.
Always put people first!
As we collectively navigate COVID19, Legacy Treatment Center (Legacy Outdoor Adventures for Men & Juniper Canyon Recovery Center for Women) is committed to caring for the health and well-being of our employees and clients and playing a positive role in supporting industry programs, colleagues and professionals. For more information about how we are navigating this crisis please feel free to contact us directly.