Conscious Holistic Leadership in a Crisis

Posted on: Tuesday 16 June 2020 | Shruthi Chindalur - Executive Managing Director of EMEA, Criteo

Criteo’s Executive Managing Director of EMEA Shruthi Chindalur shares advice on how to support employees during uncertain times 

The need for crisis leadership has reached an unprecedented global scale. Between ensuring the health and safety of internal teams during the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting employees in conversations to stop racial injustice towards BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) communities, there’s a lot to consider when helping employees through uncertain times. 

There’s no single “right way” to address these crises, and we can’t possibly have all the answers. These current events are not isolated incidents with clear and concrete ends that employees can move past and heal from — both the novel Coronavirus and Black Lives Matter movements are ongoing topics that deserve continuous support and action.  

So, how can leaders consciously and holistically support employees to rapidly adapt in an uncertain situation? Here are several ways that myself and my fellow leaders at Criteo support employees:  


1. Enable open and honest communication 
It’s crucial for leaders to focus on providing transparent and continual updates to your teams, even if they’re not “perfect.” In a recent webinar on leading employees through uncertainty, Khalil Smith, VP of Consulting at the NeuroLeadership Institute advised that leaders “embrace the clumsy conversation.” This shows that employees know that leaders don’t have all the answers, but they still need and want to hear from you on these vital world events.  

For example, COVID-19 has completely shifted how people live, work, and communicate. When it first began to spread, the leadership team at Criteo quickly communicated with employees about closing our physical offices and provided instructions on how we would help set them up to work from home (if they weren’t already). We also noted the things we were still working to address, but we did not wait to have all the answers before sharing these updates. 

These transparent communications with the senior leadership team also need to happen on an ongoing basis during a crisis. It helps to deliver them in a variety of formats, including conducting company-wide Zoom calls, as well as sending weekly (or daily) email updates. Just as leaders don’t have all the answers, our teams don’t have all the answers, so it’s also key to encourage employees to be kind to each other. This situation is new for everyone and we should give each other grace to promote positivity and emotional well-being.  

A time of crisis can also provide a moment for you and your fellow leaders to step back, reflect, and connect to your company’s higher purpose. This allows your organisation to use unique capabilities to create good in times of crisis. With COVID-19 for instance, Criteo launched social contribution campaigns with the APHP Foundation in Paris, raising funds for research and to improve the working conditions of medical teams.  


2. Ensure the mental well-being of your teams 
A crisis can evoke many thoughts or feelings for any employee, making it all the more important to support the mental health of your teams. This can be done by partnering with healthcare providers to offer 24/7 online counselling. You can also encourage every manager to regularly check-in with employees to ensure they are finding ways to balance work and home life. Just as importantly, encourage managers to lead by example; such as taking walks during discussion-based meetings that don’t require their laptops, and setting these types of meetings with their teams.   

Leaders also need to keep their employees engaged — both with their teammates and with themselves. For instance, offer group e-learnings and wellness courses for colleagues, including yoga, language courses, and sleep expert sessions. You can also go beyond the standard Zoom happy hour by offering regular “virtual” entertainment: including pub-quizzes, cooking classes, scavenger hunts, or even magic shows.  

It’s important to proactively address employees’ concerns about job security by sharing steps your company is taking to weather the storm of an economic recession without furloughing, if this is applicable to your company. Assuring teams that your organisation has a culture of adaptability and resilience can calm their fears and inspire hope.  


3. Prepare for the future 
While it’s necessary to take immediate and short-term actions, it’s equally important to create a long-term plan to navigate your (and your employees’) new world. While your organisation may have always offered a flexible working environment to attract and retain top talent before COVID-19, it’s now reached a whole new level. You may need to re-imagine and re-define the mission of your in-office workplace support teams to enable them to gear their skills towards remote environments, rather than those in the office. 

Furthermore, to build a successful work-from-home culture, you need to find engaging ways to get new employees onboard, as well as support current employees. No matter if they are brand new or have been with your company for years, all employees need ongoing support from their leaders and their organisation. 


4. In all stages, foster a positive mindset towards change 
No matter what stage of a crisis you are in, it is important to recognise that even though you are a leader, you are also navigating new challenges that do not have a playbook. You no doubt have incredibly talented teams working with you, so reach out and really listen to them in order to make better, more informed decisions. Fostering open and inclusive discussions will help lead your organisation to a better future, no matter what the crisis. 

Whether you are adapting to a long-term work-from-home environment, or creating a more diverse and inclusive organisation, collaborate with your teams to create a plan to help adapt and implement ongoing change wherever necessary. Understand that positive growth is often the outcome of discomfort, and as a leader — we need to lean into those uncomfortable conversations. That is how we will learn the most. In short and as with any situation, do not assume you have the answers, do the work, listen and communicate openly, consider all feedback, and take both short-term and long-term action to move forward.  


Last but FIRST, be inclusive 
Conscious holistic leadership has inclusion woven into its fabric. Lead with inclusion at all times. When people are already sensitive to multiple crises at the same time, this takes top priority. As leaders we need to make an active effort to learn about inclusion and make this attribute second nature. This can be a life-changing step towards being a better leader and better human being. 


Written by

Shruthi Chindalur

Executive Managing Director of EMEA, Criteo


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