The year 2020 has been a doozy to say the least. Just like you, your team is exhausted, frayed and trying to survive the day-to-day. As a leader, your ability to show up, problem solve, and effectively deliver difficult news in these trying times could mean the difference between a business that just gets by and one that truly thrives. So how do you ensure the latter? By following these 5 tips for leadership, and managing your team – and your expectations – with patience, empathy and a little humility.
5 Tips for Leadership in Times of Crisis
We often think of good leaders as intelligent, decisive and strong, but it times of crisis, they also need to be empathetic, honest and reassuring. Here are five recommendations from emotional intelligence experts on how to lead your team in the current climate.
1. Communicate Frequently
During times of crisis, leaders often make the mistake of thinking that they’ve got everything under control, so there’s no need to bother their employees with the details. When the reality is that employees actually want to be bothered with the details.
Action Items: Communicate more often, about more subjects than you typically would. Be quick to share updates, and be honest with your workers about any changes that may impact their roles or the company. When employees have timely and accurate information, they’re less likely to jump to their own conclusions.
2. Acknowledge, Reward & Encourage
When everyone is struggling with the mere day-to-day, it’s important to acknowledge the small things, like the fact that your team simply continues to show up and be there for their colleagues, clients and the company. Furthermore, if you have employees going above and beyond during difficult times, it makes sense to up your response from acknowledgement to reward.
Action Items: Make a point to stop and tell employees individually how much you appreciate the work they are doing, and highlight its value for the company. Remember, your team doesn’t own the business. They don’t have nearly the same investment in its success as you do, so if they are going above and beyond, small rewards – even a gift card for coffee – are a great way to show gratitude. By taking time to notice and acknowledge each individual’s contributions, it will encourage them to keep at it.
3. Allow for the Processing of Emotions & Stress
Employees need space to deal with their emotions and stress, particularly during times of crisis. Encourage your team to take time for themselves, and do what they need to do to avoid burnout. More importantly, back up your words with action.
Action Items: Regularly check in with employees to make sure they aren’t feeling overwhelmed, and make adjustments to their workload if they are. While you may experience a slight loss in productivity in the short-term, you’ll have much healthier, loyal, productive employees with you for the long haul.
4. Build in Time for Social Connections
The disruptive shift to remote work has taken its toll on employee connections. Leaders often think they can solve this by building social time into meetings, such as opening with, “let’s all share something happening in our personal lives”, but the reality is it feels forced and unnatural. Not to mention the fact that more video meetings are the last thing anyone needs. What’s really missing are the organic, one-on-one conversations that happen naturally in an office.
Action Items: Encourage your team to connect with their workplace buddies by scheduling time on their calendars once a week, or a few times a month, to pick up the phone and chat with a co-worker on a personal level. Knowing these “coffee breaks” are company sanctioned will help make employees feel better about connecting.
5. Make Well-Being a Priority
It’s important for your team to understand that you are looking out for their well-being during difficult times. Once again, actions speak louder than words. Telling employees you’re empathetic is one thing, showing them you care is next level. Some large corporations have made hardship grants available to their employees, or offered to pay for all COVID testing, but there are several, equally powerful gestures that small organizations can make, too.
Action Items: Expand your sick leave policy, or give all employees and extra “mental health day” in their allotted PTO. If employees are anxious about returning to the office, commit to allowing remote work through 2021. Acknowledge that employees may be balancing more responsibilities now, such as childcare, and work to accommodate their schedules by offering flexible work hours.
More Tips for Small Business Owners
In a world of increased uncertainty, leaders need to be patient and empathetic, while still being driven and success-oriented. It’s a tough combination, but how you lead now – and, more importantly, how you make your employees feel – is what will be remembered when we come out on the other side. If done right, you’ll have gained the respect and loyalty of your team, and opened the door for more productivity, openness and collaboration in the future.
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