There is a popular adage by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, stating that, “The only constant in life is change.” This has never been experienced in quite the same way as in our world today as we adjust to the new normal in leadership brought upon by the global pandemic.
Governments, organizations, institutions, teachers, small businesses, leaders, entrepreneurs, and managers have had to shift to a remote work model overnight, with no time for preparation. As leaders around the world continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, we must remember that, in times of undue chaos, anxiety and stress, we must be adaptable and flexible. We must continually change the way we lead.
And how do we do this? We pivot. We invent. We improvise. From the outset of 2020, leaders have been scrambling to cope with change as we faced a highly uncertain and rapidly evolving landscape. Approaches have varied, as have the results. The most effective leaders and managers have paused, reflected on our “new normal” and embraced the change.
What happens during change is that it forces people out of their comfort zone and completely disrupts expectations of the future. It quickly breaks down their sense of control and they become fearful of what will happen. It makes them uneasy. But it also forces people to live in the moment and to stretch their imagination concerning all the possibilities for growth during this time. If left unchecked, change can have a severe impact on overall performance and will too often compromise quality and productivity. But change can also be a good thing with the right perspective.
Just because the way you normally conduct business and interact with your team has greatly changed, that doesn’t mean that job performance or results have to be hindered. Here are some suggestions for leaders to consider as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times.
Personal One-On-One Time
Even though you’re not necessarily physically together in an office environment, it’s critical that you seek one-on-one time with your team. I often remind leaders that regardless of how much they are currently communicating, chances are it’s not enough. The most efficient leaders are making it a top priority to not only engage with their team on a more frequent basis, but they truly understand the power in personalized one-on-one conversations. Make it a priority to have frequent one-one-one check ins with your direct reports throughout the week.
There are two best practices that I have seen from leaders in the Covid-19 pandemic that should never be underestimated. Overcommunicating and listening more than ever. Listen to the fears and needs of your people. Ask for feedback, suggestions, and ideas for moving forward. Increase the two-way communication channels whenever possible, and then listen. It’s not enough to just give employees an opportunity to speak their mind, leaders must actively listen and then deliver on those needs/wants that will help them do their job to the best of their ability.
An integral part of effective listening is having empathy for individuals and your team. It is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their point of view. In other words, put yourself in that person’s position. Everyone is dealing with the pandemic in a different way, along with all of the emotional challenges that come with it. Just because you may be perfectly fine, I can guarantee you someone within your organization is struggling to cope with the stress and uncertainty of the future. Maybe a team member has lost a loved one over the past few months on top of having to worry about job security. As a leader, it’s your duty and obligation to show up with a heart and mindset full of empathy.
Continue to be brutally open and transparent about the Coronavirus response and what the organization will be doing as far as mitigation plans moving forward. The more transparent you are in your communication, the more comfortable your people will be as we get closer to normalcy and returning to the office. Be crystal clear about what you expect from your team and what resources the organization can offer them to help increase the efficiency of remote working. Transparency drives organizational performance.
There is no doubt about it that these are deeply challenging times. But we can rise above the challenges and succeed in a world that is always changing. We must continue to nurture flexibility and creativity on how to best connect with our people. We must continue to reinvent ourselves as leaders, as well as organizations. We must embrace this change and know that deep down we will be better because of it.