October 20th, 2020
I can’t help but think about what’s left of this year. We’re heading into the winter months and for many of us in North America, that means moving into hibernation, more time with those we live under the same roof with, all while working through an extended crisis.
Working from home may be something we’re all used to by now but many of us are still trialling and testing ways to keep things fresh. Whether that may be moving to a new spot in the house to work in or switching up the time of day you get your workout in, the challenges are there and you can be sure they’re affecting our motivation at work.
This time last year certainly looked different. Maybe your sales were through the roof. Or you landed a major client and brought in a $1m in new business. Maybe you got promoted and gained a new team to manage.
On the personal front, holiday planning, travel and celebrations were well on their way. The contrast to this year with lay off’s, reduced or divested businesses and financial losses are enough to have leaders and employees on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
Although research has shown the impact of the pandemic will be with us long after it passes, no one can predict how it will affect the way we work. Yes, rest and taking care of our well-being ARE a part of being productive. While some of you might have a handle over reality, many others are struggling with finding that balance and consistently keeping their mojo.
As a leader, how do you support your employees through an extended crisis?
There’s no one tried and true way and you certainly have to adapt to the needs of your employees which will vary from each individual. If it hasn’t been stressed enough, I’ll say it again. Nurture your relationships with your employees.
This goes beyond how to motivate them and help them get their za za zoom back. It’s leading with an empathic and personable approach that’s sustainable and holds relevance whether you’re in a pandemic or not. Connection with your employees will be vital in supporting them through change and any extended crisis whether brought on by circumstances out of your control (a pandemic) or within your organization.
Here are 3 recommendations to consider:
- Acknowledge what your employees are going through.
- If it hasn’t been directly communicated, what do you observe in your employee’s performance or in the way they show up to meetings? You might say something like: “I noticed you weren’t yourself in the last meeting, is everything OK?” OR “You mentioned having a lot to juggle at home the last time we spoke. How are things going? Is there anything I can do to support you?”
- Alternatively, your employee may be managing well and that can equally be an opportunity to ask, “I noticed you have such great energy in our meetings, what’s your secret?” This suggests that some may be managing differently than others. It doesn’t mean this doesn’t warrant a conversation or asking how someone is doing. The idea here is to turn your 1:1 and even team meetings into meaningful dialogue and go beyond the basics of your agenda without drawing conclusions or assumptions. How can you relate to them that helps build trust?
2. Flexibility and showing grace.
- Flexibility has been the name of the game during this pandemic. It’s a part of what every organization has had to look at when considering where to draw the line and trust employees to do their work all while juggling multiple priorities including a family and other responsibilities. Has the ball been dropped? A deadline been missed? Can you show grace before assuming the worst?
- Check-in more frequently on project-related work to see where flexibility may be appreciated. Is your employee on track to meet a deadline? Do they need more flexibility & time to get the work done?
- Perhaps they missed a deadline and were late to complete a project. What did your follow up sound like? Was it met with a direct yet kind approach? Can you offer grace and find out what prevented the deadline to be missed?
3. Recognition and reward.
- During a time where so many people have wavered with feeling insecure about job loss and worrying if they’re still cutting it at work, recognition no matter how big or small, plus reward can go a long way.
- Is there a particular project that you can consider someone from your team to lead? You might say, “I know we spoke about the upcoming project with X. I think your skillset in Y could be really valuable in this project. Would you consider leading these efforts when we kick-off?”
- This may sound insignificant, however, recognizing a direct reports skill set including those less obvious to the eye holds meaning. It could be just the kind of feedback someone may need to hear from you as their leader.
- Rewards can also go a long way and doesn’t have to break the bank. This comes down to knowing what your employee’s value and what would be meaningful and supportive to them.
- Non-monetary options could include flex time for an extended period of time, extra time off or even a discounted service your employee could use. Get creative!
Leading with more empathy and a humble approach while in a crisis mode may seem obvious, yet it’s also one that will outlast this pandemic or any extended crisis for that matter.
Behaviours that cater to fostering more meaningful and deeper employee relationships, developing trust and showing your people you care are worth developing today for tomorrow.
What have you struggled with as you continue to lead through change and an extended crisis? Which of the 3 recommendations if any resonates the most?
Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you do find yourself struggling as a leader, remember — what your employees are looking for from you the most, is to feel like you care about them. So show them.
With all my appreciation,
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