One of the most inspiring characteristic of a leader is what they do when it’s time to pivot.
You are now leading virtually. You didn’t get much notice. You didn’t see it coming, but you are here. This is the way it is now.
As I work with my clients, I remind them:
“You must know who you are as you lead people through this challenging time. How will you adapt, navigate and manage well? You must remember the people around you, who have brought you to the place of peak success prior to the pandemic storm. The rubble is crumbling around all of us; very few are immune. Everyone is asking the question, ‘what are we going to do?’ There’s nothing special or unique about that and it’s a very reactive approach to the situation. It’s not these circumstances that will define you, but how you walk through the rubble that will define you.”
Your team may be scattered across the city or the country, and their only connection point with you is through technology. Leading virtually will require you to connect and be present in a different way than you did before. Remember, you don’t need to go out and get new leadership skills. You just need to use the skills you have in a different way. More than anything, displaced workers around the globe are asking this main question of their leaders, “Do they care about me?”
Before the pandemic, they probably felt pretty secure about this, but now that the world has shifted, they may need to be reminded. How you lead today will answer this question for them, not once, but again and again. Here are a few ways that you can do that effectively.
Check in with Yourself
How do you check in with yourself during a crisis? What are some ways to ensure that you lead from a place emotional health and mental sobriety? One quick and simple method I do to connect with myself is to take a moment to answer four questions by filling in the blanks:
I think __________
I feel ___________
I need __________
I want __________
For example, the other day I answered this by saying…
I think I am tired. I feel like I cannot handle making one more decision. I need a better sense of where the future is going. I want my clients to know that I care about them.
Although in the moment, there was no resolve, walking through that exercise helped center me before I jumped on a call with a client who is navigating his own set of business challenges.
As a more outward facing form of checking in with myself, I’ll reach out to a couple of key people I trust so we can share one another’s burdens. And, I definitely need to take brain breaks by doing something fun – we are not machines! I love to garden, feed the birds, take a brisk walk and play with my pup. Recently I have taken up playing guitar.
Hitting the wall is normal. But how hard the impact is partially determined by how you care for yourself as the leader during this time.
Understand their Anxiety
You may think that your people are blowing kazoos or celebrating that they can wear their slippers because they can work from home, however you may not be aware of the anxiety they are experiencing. With this COVID-19 shelter in place mandate comes a lot of anxiety and discomfort. Not only are they working from home, the kids are home and most likely the spouse is home too! We’ve got two things going on: we’ve got a crisis and sudden disbanding of the team and daily routine. These sudden changes can contribute to anxious thoughts and feelings. Your people may need to connect with you now more than ever and the sad part is they may not know how to ask you for it. I’m asking for them.
Connect with them daily. Daily messages are imperative right now. You know what’s happening behind the scenes, but your people don’t know how you or the company is doing unless you inform them regularly. You don’t have to share all the facts, because you may not entirely know them, but you do need to address the matters that are most important to them:
· Is the company safe?
· Is my position safe?
· Will I have a paycheck this week?
· Who do I reach out to if I need help?
If those questions are hanging around unanswered, it will reduce productivity and lower the morale and stamina of the team. Plus, it will keep them from moving forward in a healthy way. Even if there isn’t new news to report, check in to ask if they have anything new to share with you.
As leaders during a crisis, it is vital we check in with ourselves and our people regularly within this virtual world – what does this look like for you?