Anxiety is everywhere. No one is certain about the future amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy, our health, the health of our families – everything is changing by the moment. Many employees are working from home. Toddlers and children are racing around the house while employees try to get work done.
In such uncertain times, we need a new kind of leadership – one that inspires, motivates, and provides calm. One that is courageous and helps move employees out of an anxiety-ridden state.
How does a courageous leader guide their employees during these unprecedented times?
Leaders need to move from a “make it happen” attitude to one of empathy. You need to meet employees where they are and acknowledge the stress everyone is feeling. For example, if someone on your team has children running around, accept the fact that they may be a bit distracted during a video call.
Leaders must build trust and assume positive intent during these challenging times. If you can’t get in touch with someone right away, don’t assume it's because they aren't working. Be flexible and offer alternative work arrangements. For example, if an employee is sharing childcare duties, make it clear that they can do their work during off-hours.
Communicate often to employees. If you can say you have the resources to support a slow down for five months, tell employees that. Do not communicate messages that create undue stress. Communicate ideas that provide certainty, like reiterating current priorities and tasks at hand.
For employees working from home, make things clear. For example, can employees set their hours? Which technology should they be using? Agree on the most effective methods of communication.
Find creative ways for people to connect, more than just using video during meetings. Try dedicating time each day where everyone gets on a video and does their own work, mimicking the in-person experience at the office to build connections. Have a virtual happy hour or even a virtual coffee with your team members. Now is a critical time to ensure you are authentically checking in with all your direct reports. This should be an authentic “How are you?” coming from the heart and with concern over the stress everyone is experiencing.
Focusing on work and providing guidance on expectations increases certainty and provides routine. Make sure your employees understand the most important tasks and projects. Build shared goals as a team. For example, how can we use our work to make a positive impact in this time of crisis? Building shared goals creates an emotional connection between employees.
Zoom out a bit and set a path for the next few months. Outline what will be standard practices to help people get into a rhythm and know what to expect. Try not to change the strategy day to day. You want to put in place sustainable practices that will be in place for the next few months. Planning creates routine, increasing everyone’s sense of control and certainty.
Given the reality of today, the leaders of tomorrow must rise up to get organizations through these stressful times.
About the AuthorMore Content by Lynne Levy