Smart, empathetic leadership is important all the time, but especially during a crisis.
Creativity is always critical, but especially so as resources contract.
What we’ve seen is that everyday people are rising to the occasion.
We’ve watched everyday people innovate in ways large and small to bring value to their communities. To connect despite the distance. To bring each other light out of the darkness.
As the physical bounds of our lives have shrunk, our imaginations have expanded.
Even if your work does not help to fight COVID-19 directly, your leadership does help to combat its effects.
Keeping your family, your team, and yourself hopeful, connected, and working towards a shared goal does immeasurable good.
Here are a few tips to help you create a sense of purpose and continuity as we live through this pandemic:
Reassure and Refocus Your Team
Our emotional responses are contagious. Whether your leadership role at work is formal or informal, consider taking a two-pronged approach when talking with colleagues:
→ Yes, our current strained circumstances are difficult and stressful.
→ …But also – we can handle it. We can use our strengths to push forward.
“The best leaders take anxiety and turn it into confidence,” says Marcus Buckingham, thought leader on cultivating a strengths-based approach to work.
In uncertain times, turn your attention to what you CAN control. What is important for your team to get done this week? How can you aim their focus on progress? On steps to take toward shared goals?
Inspire confidence by shining light on the work that matters. Accomplishing those goals will sustain that confidence.
Reach out for more one-on-one time than you normally would. Especially now that most of us are working from home.
As Brightwing VP of Sales & Delivery Jonathan Gourwitz puts it: “How many times have you seen an employee in the building and, just from their body language, intuited that they were struggling with something? Well, that isn’t feasible when you’ve gone remote.”
You can’t expect your team members to reach out to you. Rather, be proactive. Ask your staff regularly and consistently: “What do you need?” and “How can I help?”
Gourwitz adds that the personal rapport between you and your employees may not feel as organic when you’re virtual. He advises: “Don’t overstep or push, but also make it a point to ask about their families, what they thought about the latest episode of the show you both watch, etc. To drive true engagement it is crucial that we demonstrate to our teams that we value them as people, not just as employees.”
Adjust Your Tactics for Remote Management
Make the most of all the technology at your fingertips.
The Brightwing team combines a few different tools to stay in touch and stay organized: Whereby.com for small meetings and interviews, Zoom for larger ones, Slack for instant message, Trello and Zenkit for project management and collaboration.
Video chat in particular can go a long way in times like these. It’s not quite the same as sitting across the table from someone, but it’s pretty close. Gourwitz comments: “You can still look each other in the eye and read body language. Something as simple as seeing your face on a consistent basis can make someone feel less isolated.”
Take your open door policy virtual, and consider holding “open office hours.” Stay available in your virtual conference room for a specific time slot and invite your team members to stop in for a brief chat if they’d like.
Give your team access to online resources, and make use of them yourself!
For example, LinkedIn made a full online learning path with 16 different courses available to all LinkedIn users: “Remote Working: Setting Yourself and Your Teams Up for Success.”
Make careful choices about when it’s better to discuss something over the phone, in a video chat, over email, or over instant message.
“Digital messages aren’t always easy to interpret. A boss who says, ‘I think you can do better’ in person can be either motivational or discouraging, depending on whether the comment is delivered with a smile or disapproving glare, with outstretched hands or closed arms. If you get the same message on Slack, it’s harder to read — unless you regularly interact with that manager in person.” (Dustin York, “Best Practices for Instant Messaging at Work,” HBR)
When people are stressed, miscommunications abound. Think about the best way to have the conversation you need to have, and proceed with caution when you choose to relay emotionally-laden messages through written text.
Get Comfortable in Your New Normal
Consider cultivating your personal brand.
Getting yourself out there digitally will stand-in for the usual networking events you might attend. Here are 3 rules for great personal branding:
→ It’s NOT empty self-promotion. It contributes value to your specific intended audience.
→ It’s NOT generic. It’s personal (and professional).
→ It’s NOT a monologue. It’s a conversation.
Ask yourself – what information or perspective can I offer that:
a) I know more about than most other people, and;
b) is helpful to my audience
Carve out a new daily work from home structure for yourself. And stick to it. If you don’t heed the boundaries between work and personal life, it’ll be tough to avoid burnout.
Usually, the commute home is a useful transition – it marks the close of the work day and the return to home life. It helps you shift mental gears.
Dr. Sara Perry of Baylor University says you need to preserve that mental shift even when you’re at home — “even if you’re just moving from one spot on the couch to the other.” Put your work things away and make room for home life.
Dr. Perry says it’s critical to do this because “you’re already being challenged in terms of your personal resources. You still have to take that recovery time from work.” (Jen A. Miller, “How to Work From Home, if You’ve Never Done It Before,” NY Times)
Now more than ever, take care of yourself and of the people around you. Be well and reach out to us if you’re in need of advice, a sounding board, or if you’d just like to trade stories.
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