During times of stress or upheaval, instinctively we turn to our leaders for guidance on what to do, how to act and what to expect.
Whilst we often relish in finding fault in our politicians, now, it seems under the current climate, we have never been more attuned to what they are saying and how they are leading us. So, it makes perfect sense that employees will be seeking the same leadership from their managers.
Throughout these uncertain, complex and unpredictable times, the need for calm and trustworthy leadership is more important than ever. In light of this, and as we move further into working remotely with the possibility that this will be happening for months to come, we have put together some ideas that might help you to navigate these challenging times:
The most common trait in great leaders is how, when and why they communicate.
In times of enormous upheaval, effective leaders establish a communication routine that is deliberate, sincere and honest. Leaders who take the time to share information regularly are more credible and can, as a result, bolster loyalty, reduce stress and uncertainty which is a rare commodity at present.
During these times you will likely be confronted with countless questions that you don’t have all the answers to – this is ok; our PM doesn’t have all the answers either! Share what you can and be honest about what you can’t; vulnerability (not to be mistaken for weakness) is a very underrated trait in strong leaders even though it has the power to break down walls and build unity and trust.
There are many effective ways to communicate which is very much dependant on who you are targeting and why. However, none is more effective than a personal call to check-in and ask, ‘how are you?”, especially if they are working remotely. This simple act of sharing your time is very powerful. Take note of times or days when your team may be feeling more isolated and make the effort to reach out during those times.
The old-fashioned phone for a chat or FaceTime is a great connector as are platforms like Zoom, Google Teams etc.
Keep Your Team Engaged
Many businesses are now working remotely, which can present a completely different set of challenges for leaders. One of the biggest is managing productivity from afar.
It is important to establish clear goals and expectations, so you and your team members are in sync with what needs to be achieved each week. This clarity is equally important for your team members as it is for the business because it gives them a clear sense of purpose each day which will translate to tangible outcomes that add value to the business. Additionally, your team members will likely feel less stressed and isolated if they feel they are adding value and are communicated with regularly.
Whilst, even in these times, there remains an obligation for employees to perform to a required standard, it is important to maintain trust in your team, so keeping communication open and clear will give you the ability to manage productivity through engagement.
In our current climate, especially where employees are working from home, it is very much a two-way street:
- Greater flexibility should be discussed and permitted wherever possible for those who are juggling young children and schooling from home; and
- Employee performance can still be managed in keeping with compliant and reasonable performance management procedures.
Understand that employee engagement, especially as we work remotely is not an exact science, so be kind to yourself as you navigate the best options for you and your team.
Lead by Example
Your team will look to you during this uncertain time. For example, when you remain calm and deliberate in your actions, your team will follow suit. Alternatively, if you are the kind of leader who reacts to stressful situations emotionally, it may add to the stress and anxiety levels of your team.
- monitoring your stress levels and how you are exhibiting this outwardly; this will give you the headspace to monitor the stress levels in your team too;
- taking breaks to reset and refocus, even when you feel you don’t have the time and communicate this to your team – let them know it is ok to take a break;
- reaching out to others (mentors, peers, business leaders) to learn how others are coping and managing. You may get some great tips or ideas!
- remembering to bring joy or fun into your life and that of your team e.g. have a virtual lunch catch up once a week where you don’t talk about work or share a daily fun fact with your team or take turns in your team members sharing a fun fact daily.
Essentially, people will follow the examples of a leader they respect. Create respect in your team and your team will follow and support you, always.
Allow Simple Feedback
Your team will have questions and may offer suggestions at different times throughout this pandemic, and as circumstances change, and whilst you don’t have to agree with any or all suggestions, a great trait of a leader is to listen. For your team, sometimes just the simple feeling of being heard is enough. That being said, we’re not suggesting that you have to consider at length every team member’s suggestions or feedback, however, a good show of support for your team would be to provide simple channels of communication to enable the sharing of ideas. Microsoft Teams or similar have great tools where you can have conversations (one on one or in groups) that are visually recorded so those involved can provide feedback and feel connected.
The Final Word
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to not be ending any time soon, so the changes in our workplace will continue to evolve as we move forward. The key to strong leadership is to remain considered yet nimble in your actions, look to adapt and grow as necessary, and above all, keep the lines of communication open and real.