Effective leadership is a source of organisational competitive advantage and the importance of leadership remains indisputable, more so under the current circumstances. Most leaders believe that they are capable of leading their team through a crisis, but many have never really encountered one. Definitely not one like we are all going through right now! Things are certainly unfamiliar.
The influence leaders have on their teams and organisation is enormous. Their behaviour determines outcomes. Leaders are presently facing their own emotional roller coaster ride as well as that of their team members. This is a challenging situation that requires deeper self-awareness and certainly more self-regulation. It is easy at the moment to focus on and be overwhelmed by the problems, the challenges, that which is going wrong causing stress and anxiety. Our brains are naturally geared towards protection and survival; therefore, it can be expected that decision making and actions will be in line with these basic needs.
As leaders it is important at this stage to reduce the fear and anxiety that your team members may be experiencing. How you treat your team members now can have a long-lasting impact, especially once employees go back to workplaces.
How can you support and lead your team during this uncertain period?
1. Ask questions and make sure everyone gets heard
This is really important. To only focus on results and outcomes at this stage is not a way to support team members. You need to lead from within and use empathy to engage with your team. Ask how they really are. Just listen and if you can alleviate anxiety or concern then do so with empathy.
If you mostly conduct online team meetings and sense that you are not getting genuine answers about the team members’ wellbeing, it is sensible to engage one to one. They may not want to open up in front of everyone on a Zoom call. Understandably, frustrations may be high. Many employees may not have anyone they can talk to about how they are experiencing life at the moment. They may have difficulties right now impacting on their work output from home since this is not normal circumstances for them or their family members. You need to create the space and time for them to share their feelings.
2. Be transparent and consistent with communication
Building lasting trust relationships now is crucial. Being open and honest in your communication creates a sense of support and reduces fear. Employees may be wondering about how the future will unfold. You may not have all the answers yourself, but it’s important to share information that can support wellbeing and a sense of safety. Consistent and continuous communication is key. Our minds are free to focus on being productive when we are not worried and anxious. It is the leader’s role to create this condition for their team members.
3. Focus on what is going well
With all the negative and sad news bombarding everyone’s social media feed it is hard to stay positive and optimistic. Here we need to look at appreciating what is working for us under the current circumstances. Ask your team members: what has been positive outcomes personally and workwise? How can we use what is positive and working well to build on and design our future? What would be the best possible outcome for this team right now given the situation we find ourselves in? How can we utilise our time to create this for ourselves?
4. Show your own vulnerability
Everyone is going through ups and downs in general, but more so now. As a leader you are not immune to the emotions and thoughts that are characteristic of the world at the moment. Sharing that you are experiencing similar feelings and how you are dealing with it helps your employees to identify with you and feel supported. This also is a way of building trust. As a leader you are not removed from your team by position, you are part of the team and showing your human side is valuable.
5. Motivate your team
Our work still has to be done as best as we currently can! Many organisations are struggling and many have laid off employees. Productivity and focus are important. Minimise distractions and too many changes to work schedules and content at the moment. Your team has enough change taking place already. Set goals and ensure accountability, while communicating realistic expectations to the team. Perfectionism at this time is not necessarily useful and can slow decision making and reactions down. Emphasise that their work is important and that they are being appreciated for their effort and commitment.
This is an unprecedented time. We do not know for certain what to expect when we return to what can be deemed normal again. What we can do now is focus on the moment and take action where we can. As a leader you are an influencer and your own behaviour determines the tone and atmosphere created within your team. It's important to reflect on this. What do you want to create for yourself and your team? How do you want to manage and lead your team through this crisis? What changes do you need to make to move forward with what you have right now?
Leading with consciousness is now more important than ever.
If you or any of your team members require focus, support or specific development contact me for Leadership and Team Coaching on firstname.lastname@example.org