As leaders, very few of us have had to deal with a “crisis” of this magnitude in our lifetimes and in particular in our lifetimes as leaders. Talking with a number of my clients in executive roles across a variety of industries, there are six themes that are emerging as ways to navigate the far reaching challenges of COVID-19.
We have all been inundated with facts about the virus, about tips for working from home and yet there has been significantly less about how to lead in crisis. Below are the themes that seem to be emerging from those who are navigating well:
Remain calm. Your teams are watching you and taking their cues from you. Exhale. Remember and make use of the Power of the Pause.
Ensure that both your messaging and behavior remain consistent. Our teams need as much predictably as possible in times of unpredictability and insecurity. They need someone to count on. That someone is YOU.
“Beneath the hard tip of the glacier lies a deep reservoir of sensitivity and kindness — and each of us can enlarge that goodness and impact that lies there.” — paraphrased from the Dalai Lama.
We can and need to respond intellectually and compassionately. If we don’t include compassion and care for ourselves and others, we are missing the largest part of the equation for continued levels of engagement, especially in times where we need to be prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice.
This is a time for heart leadership. Your teams are scared, unsure and overwhelmed. Compassion requires the greatest emotional courage and wisdom we can muster. This is how you begin to differentiate yourself. Even in the hardest of times, when overwhelm and suffering feel like they are taking over, we have the choice to show up in compassion to ourselves and to others. To be witness to the best of ourselves and others. To be curious without judgement and assumptions. And to instill confidence that we have each other’s backs.
Not only are many of your teams working from home for the first time, they are working from home with aging parents, children, and/or perhaps extended family. Not only are they navigating their own feelings about what is happening in the world and trying to continue to accomplish goals for the organization, they are also juggling an entirely new way of working with different distractions. Even with other people around in their homes, team members can begin to feel isolated from you – their leader –as well as their other teammates. Find ways to remain connected with each other. Hold virtual team meetings that focus not only on the business but on how each of them is doing—how they are REALLY doing.
In times of fear and crisis, contingency plans matter. What types of contingency plans do you have in place? What is the coordination plan? How will you engage your teams in developing those contingency plans? Encourage your team members to lean into their own personal leadership, creativity, innovation, strengths and vision. Remember why the team exists – its purpose for being and its contribution to the greater good. Keep that purpose front and center as you develop realistic yet flexible contingency plans.
As leaders, have the courage to be authentic and vulnerable about how you, as a leader, are feeling. Have the courage to take a stand—about the health of your family, your colleagues, your priorities etc. How are they going to show courage when this is all over?
Develop these habits and skills now. To state the obvious and overused phrase, “We are in unprecedented times and uncharted waters,” never before has your leadership been so vital to the well-being of others. When the dust settles and we’re able to shake hands again, the six C’s will remain equally important as they are in the climate of crisis. There is an old Native American saying that applies perfectly here, “You are the ones we have been waiting for.”
I’d like to share with you some action steps to help you apply these C’s right now.
- Call a virtual team meeting.
- Prior to the meeting, ask that each participant find an image that represents their idea of: We are all in this together.
- Ask each team member to share their image and how it resonates with them.
- Ask each to then share:
- How they are currently feeling.
- What they need from the team to be supported.
- What is the mantra they will choose to live by during these times.
- Create a team mantra.
- Find some time to laugh. It truly is the best medicine.