During times of uncertainty and distress, emotions go into a flux, and it becomes incumbent on the leaders to step up and carefully navigate a variety of sentiments within their teams and organisations.
As we continue to find innovative ways to manage ‘life’ from home, people leaders are faced with a unique challenge—one they were never quite prepared to contend with.
During times of uncertainty and distress, emotions go into a flux, and it becomes incumbent on the leaders to step up and carefully navigate a variety of sentiments within their teams and organisations. Feelings of fear, insecurity, frustration, demotivation, isolation and overwhelm are rampant. Whether it is increased uncertainty over their jobs, feeling let down on account of pay cuts, low increments and withheld bonuses, or being stuck at home managing their kids and families, the emotional challenges being faced by executives is having a direct impact on the workplace.
A unique challenge
While it is no easy feat to be a leader, today’s environment places a particularly unique challenge to those in people leadership positions. Organisations and leaders have to be prepared to not just look at key business and planning components, but also provide the requisite support to carefully balance elements of mental health, performance, and productivity for smooth functioning. They have to manage difficult situations, sentiments, and conversations in a difficult environment.
For many of us, being able to find that consistency to survive, maintain and thrive while inspiring others, can seem arduous to achieve. And for the best of us, even with the right tools at our disposal, it is natural to question this very test that we are being put through
As a leadership and performance coach, I see a number of clients going through a series of emotional challenges. And many of them oscillate between feelings of overstimulation to slack and back.
For the leaders, it has become imperative to self-manage, unlock capacities, build capabilities, make difficult decisions, have hard conversations, while still looking ahead in an evolving environment.
Ways to support teams
1. Empathy: In trying times, as teams look to balance competing interests of work, life and family, it is imperative for leaders to demonstrate greater tolerance and understanding. Being empathetic to individual challenges, understanding the impact of the environment on their team’s mental health, and being reasonable about their demands during this time will be essential to maintain productivity and performance. Going away from the expectation of ‘perfection’ to getting comfortable with just ‘managing’ and ‘surviving’ will help build endurance to ride the tide.
2. Social Sensitivity and Communication: As each one of us navigates the world of ‘life from home’ not just ‘work from home’, it is the individual and not just the colleague that is showing up to work each day. For leaders, it means greater insight into each person’s life, and the ability to successfully demonstrate that social sensitivity to provide the requisite support during such testing times. The world of work from home has also highlighted a common platform of the challenges that we all face, be it is your kid coming into the frame during a video call or the internet buffering during a pitch or needing to rush out on an emergency grocery run during work hours. It is important for leaders to dial up the communication, personalise their approach to their teams, and demonstrate authenticity. This only serves to make you more real and connected with your teams at this time.
3. Trust: As each person works from their own zone, core values such as trust and responsibility come to the forefront. With colleagues no longer being next door or easily accessible, there is little room for micro-managing. People leaders now need to give their teams more leeway to complete their tasks. Using the time to build a circle of trust and assuring teams of how much they are valued will be key in building loyalty and team spirit that will serve you well in the future. It is a great time to let go of the uncontrollables, and just trust and believe.
Using such the time to build a circle of trust and assuring teams of how much they are valued will be key in building loyalty and team spirit that will serve you well in the future.
4. Psychological Safety: In the ultimate VUCA world, as teams and organisations grapple with feelings of uncertainty, insecurity and anxiousness over their jobs and the future, it is the responsibility of leaders to address and help manage these sentiments. Communicating regularly, being transparent about the situation, being real about the task at hand, setting small and manageable goals, providing the requisite support, while demonstrating an understanding of individual difficulties is essential to creating a sense of security at this time. Working in gratitude can enable you to create an environment of appreciation and camaraderie that will serve to support all at this time.
5. Culture of Collaboration: In trying times, the value of the system over the individual becomes particularly relevant. Collaborating while working independently requires each of us to buy-in to the organisational purpose, imbibe core components of our culture, live the values and make it less about the individual and more about the collective. For organisations and leaders, dialling up the communication and finding ways to simulate the fun components of the workplace—coffee catchups, office chat, Friday lunches, etc can ensure greater team spirit and integration during work from home.
Times like these require all of us to fix the car while driving it. While things may not seem to be in our control at the moment, what we can do is ensure that the new normal has more empathy, understanding, appreciation of ourselves and the others, as we look to do our bit to support our teams, organisations and the humanity at large.
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