Why the world needs leaders right now
What leaders can do to create opportunities for growth and connection within their companies
As a leadership coach, I have been observing our global crisis with a keen eye on business leaders — and what strategies and styles are having a positive impact on the current situation. Every person, leader and organization is in a different place now. Some organizations that I work with are busier than ever and others have extra time with no travel, no commute and a slower pace of business. Whatever situation you find yourself and your organization in, here are few leadership tips for both the short-term and long-term to help navigate social distancing and business in the “new normal.”
In the short term
Develop new routines
If you haven’t already, set expectations for your team and help them establish new practices – with everything from video and call etiquette to managing working from home and resource-sharing. WiFi is in demand more than ever, so it’s important to be thoughtful and deliberate on how to leverage and share technology in a work-from-home environment. Not everyone has the same technical capabilities, so communication and patience are key. The bottom line is, this is a new way to work and the old structures may not fit. Set a good example as a leader and listen and adapt your teams’ routines accordingly.
Balance self-care with care of others
Working from home can mean no stressful commute in traffic or travel for the near-term, but it also can mean long days in front of a computer or on the phone with kids, spouses, pets and/or other disruptions waiting in the wings.
Employees will need emotional support to help solve these new work challenges and help balancing their work-home life. Support for both your team and your self is critical. It can be more emotionally draining to intermix and prioritize care of family and employees, so leaders should find time for self-care. Consider short walks, meditation, cushion between calls, healthy eating and exercise. Find ways to create healthy boundaries and stay grounded.
Balance care with the organization’s objectives
Both caring for human beings and meeting the objectives of your organization have their place right now. For example, I have one client who gave her employees shorter work-day requirements so that they could share in the family responsibilities, because many of her staff is at home with young kids. At the same time, the organization continues to prioritize their mission and day-to-day tasks. People want/need to feel a sense of purpose, so holding standards while adapting to new routines is important. This will help keep your team feeling engaged and productive.
Communication is key
It’s important to paint a picture of the current reality and provide a sense of hope to your team. Keep people connected and up to date, while knowing that not everything needs to happen in a meeting or video call. One client that I’m working with is offering a weekly recap so that employees can hear what progress was made and obstacles were overcome. She also sets goals for the upcoming week in her communication, which helps keep her team focused and aligned.
Accountability is a must
Let’s face it, some team members will be challenged working from home. They need/miss office rituals and co-workers to keep them on task. Try starting Monday with a “what do we need to get done this week” call or ending Friday with a “what did we accomplish this week” message to increase accountability on all levels. These “huddles” can be quick and help to get everyone on the same page.
In the long term
Clean up and clean out
This can be literal or figurative. A good clean up might include everything from emails and old project files to refreshing your culture. This might mean shifting negative behaviors, such as gossip, into feedback for growth. This can also be a time to do more self-reflection at an individual and organization level. Review practices, schedules, meeting structures with the goal of shedding things whose time has passed.
Prepare for growth
When the world ramps up again, will your organization be ready? Now is an ideal time to create and/or refine development plans for your employees and actively work on growing their technical and soft skills. Suggest books or articles that the team can read and have calls to review/discuss key concepts and how these apply to the organization.
Also, consider retooling certain facets of your business practices or culture. The entire year may bring about more changes to how we work. Think about development as an ongoing process to help your team get prepared for growth.
It may seem awkward to address challenges within your team at this time, but it will have great long-term impacts. For teams with challenging dynamics, consider taking the discussions to one-on-one calls for a few weeks. This can generate respect and appreciation between previously distanced or disagreeing employees. The added bonus is that the team will operate more effectively and efficiently because of their work together.
This is also a time to reach out to people outside of your core team and across the broader organization. Whether you connect to solve a problem, complete a project or even in the absence of a specific reason, suggest a one-on-one check-in making yourself available to other employees within the company to broaden your reach and create connectivity.
It’s not easy facing the current challenges while staying positive and productive each day. However, the world is desperate for strong leaders who can help guide us through these turbulent times. Sharpening your skills as a leader and creating opportunities for growth and connection will make a difference in the lives of others.