Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances:
This is really happening. So much change, so fast is creating anxiety and weariness for many of us. What can we do as leaders to help others cope with the uncertainty around us during this dreadful pandemic? The mantra right now is "put your mask on first before you can care for others." As a leader, please make sure you are giving yourself time and are taking care of yourself.
After that, here are a few things that I believe we need from our leaders right now.
1. Compassionate connection
Sustaining connection with your employees (and colleagues) is more important now than ever before. In the midst of the uncertainty we're all feeling, your role is to show compassion and care to your team members.
Connect with them on a human level. Take the tape off of your camera on your laptop. Increase the amount of face-time you're giving to each person and your team. Connection is crucial right now. Your team will remember how they felt as a member of your team more than anything else.
2. Realistic expectations
Work performance has dramatically changed since the pandemic began. Some work has halted while other industries are struggling to keep up and cope. No matter where your personal experience falls on this scale, be sensitive to how external concerns will impact your team members.
We're all distracted and nervous. The most effective leaders are sensitive to the turmoil that this global pandemic has produced and are setting expectations that are realistic for their staff and the industry. Determine the basic output you need for the day and clearly communicate with your staff.
Be that calm influence that can help your team members better cope. Be gentle, patient and give people hope. Show thanks and gratitude to your team members as much as you can. Acknowledge good work. Accept the rest with grace. Practice forgiveness for anything short of normal. We're all redefining what normal is anyway...
4. Humor and honesty
We're all in this together, and it's helpful to know that our leaders are also battling boredom and trying to stay focused. Share what you can. Try to lighten the mood by offering personal anecdotes about how you're coping. Get a little silly and have a little fun with everyone. Do some fun team activities - have a funny hat contest on ZOOM, or "what really goes best on a triscuit" competition. Be in the moment and show your full self.
However you can, remind your team members (and your family and your friends) that while we're on a bumpy path right now, it's still, nonetheless, a path and we are making our way forward into the future. Discuss with team members how very different things are now but analyze "what are we learning from this?" and "what are the positive aspects of this challenging time?" Remind your team (& family) about your core values and how we are living them through this crisis.
I hope this gives you some ideas as to how to connect with your employees and keep the energy positive and focused. I'm not suggesting that we diminish the challenges that we are currently facing, as some are experiencing even more difficult challenges than others. No sugar-coating necessary. But leadership, as Ron Heifitz and Marty Linsky teach us, is about helping people through the rough patches. As leaders we can't necessarily eliminate the rough current, but we can help people navigate it.
Be safe and take care of each other. Until next time,