Though the pandemic continues, many things are changing in the workplace. This means your work as a leader is changing too.
While there are clear signals of hope on the horizon, this stage of the pandemic may be the hardest of all. Everyone is tired, and workforce capacity and operations are being challenged like never before in almost every sector of our economy. This puts even greater pressure on organizations, leaders, and their decisions.
The bottom line? Your role as a leader has never been more important, or more volatile.
So, as you wrestle with how best to lead your team, here’s my take on the three things you can count on to make a meaningful difference.
1. Clarity: Clear, consistent communication offsets anxiety and fear.
When so much is unknown and out of our control—including ‘when will this pandemic ever end?’—it’s easy for negative emotions to set in for leaders and those they lead. Left unchecked, uncertainty and fear are often the result.
When your people know they can count on you to communicate—clearly and consistently—your leadership becomes one of the ‘certainties’ that anchors everyone during periods of significant volatility. That’s particularly apparent when you provide clear direction about the current situation, the priorities that matter now, and what that means for everyone.
While that might look a little different for every leader and organization, ensure that everyone knows three things:
- What are the facts about changing internal and external circumstances?
- How are those changes influencing organizational thinking and decisions about priorities and responses? (On everything from areas of emphasis and deliverables to staffing supports and scheduling changes.)
- What does that mean for everyone’s role and what’s expected right now?
Whether your situation requires weekly, daily, or even more frequent ‘communication huddles’ (virtual, in-person, or a hybrid of the two), when you keep the information and dialogue opportunities flowing, your people have the clarity they need right now.
By communicating in ways that keep everyone in the know, you will be helping to build awareness, understanding and certainty when it matters the most.
2. Caring: Kindness goes a long way to show how much you care.
Our current reality means that everyone is hurting in one way or another. As well, emotions are running high. The more you can do to appreciate and acknowledge that context, the better able you will be to double down on the leadership qualities that truly matter to people—such as kindness, caring, empathy, and heart.
While there are likely important and supportive resources you’ve already made available to care for those you lead, pay attention now to the personal, informal things you can do to demonstrate your kindness and concern. As you do, never underestimate the power of a smile, a few heartfelt words of encouragement, or the value of a genuine ‘how are you doing?’ followed by taking the time to listen and acknowledge someone’s circumstance.
John C. Maxwell said it best when he wrote: ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’
‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’John C. Maxwell
For example: how frequently are you ‘checking in’ with each team member to ask how they’re doing, and what may be on their mind? Do they have a nagging question or fear you can address on the spot? Or do they simply want to take a few minutes to chat about what they may be struggling with right now?
Knowing you’re prepared to take the time for individual conversations and personal touchpoints goes a long way to show how much you care.
3. Flexibility: When volatility thrives, match it with radical flexibility.
As you’ve met the challenges of each stage of the pandemic, you’ve likely already done lots of ‘flexing’ internally and externally, so start with your experience.
For example, whether you’re thinking about the most relevant approaches for meaningful team connections or mental wellness supports now, what’s already working well? What would benefit from more, or less? What else might be needed or possible now?
Do the same as you consider staffing, scheduling, and response times—extreme pain points in most organizations at this time.
As well, take the time to check in even more with your team, and be curious: What do they need right now? What ideas can they offer from their unique vantage point?
You do not need to have all the answers, so enlist the whole team in determining what makes sense for your current situation. As you do, be prepared to listen, learn, and adjust your approaches accordingly. As this stage of the pandemic is different, don’t be surprised if your emphasis and efforts need to change as well.
You can’t control the pandemic and the volatility it creates; however, you and your team can control how you think about it and choose to respond.
In times of extreme volatility, you will always be well served by doubling down on clear, consistent leadership communication, frequent acts of kindness, and radical flexibility in addressing the challenges you and your team face.
Each of these approaches goes a long way to providing the guidance and care everyone needs to find their way through sustained periods of volatility and uncertainty.