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There is no ‘Leading though Coronavirus’ playbook for leaders. This crisis has been unprecedented. What we can do now is employ strategies that cater to the situation and the needs of the employees.

Now restrictions are beginning to ease, many businesses are starting the long process of re-opening and relocating staff back to the workplace. Leaders need to understand the impact of this for staff. According to the Harvard Business Review on ‘Leading your team in a Post-pandemic world’, considerations include:

 

  • Defining the conditions that will ensure a safe reopening of operations.
  • Bringing back as many people as possible.
  • Conveying that the world is changing, encouraging the organization to “reset” vs. just “restart,” and highlighting that some things are not changing such as the company’s core focus and values.
  • Paying special attention to the ongoing communication with employees still working remotely.  
  • Celebrating inspiring news. Good news helps workers’ mental health.  
  • Highlighting how the company’s activities contribute to the common good and are making a difference in people’s lives.

Further to these considerations, Gallup’s research shows that staff have four fundamental needs for leading through Coronavirus – trust, stability, compassion and hope. So how do we use this information practically for leading through Coronavirus?

1. Communicate

Any kind of change or crisis evokes emotional reactions which can be amplified by uncertainty. Regular, open, unambiguous communication is key. Think about what concerns your staff may have, ask them, listen to them and try and work through these concerns as clearly as possible.

Take time to walk around, interact with staff, and engage them in conversation. If you’re not able to meet in person, make sure you check-in over the phone or in a video chat. This helps to create trust.

The five Cs of communication can help when communicating during a crisis:

  1. Concerns—Acknowledge people’s concerns and deal with them directly.
  2. Clarity—Leave no room for guesses or assumptions.
  3. Control—Remain in control of what is being said. Rumours and inaccurate information can take on a life of their own.
  4. Confidence—Your message and delivery must assure staff that your actions are in their best interest.
  5. Competence—Convey the message that you are able to handle the situation

2. Modify your leadership style

Good leaders must be able to judge what tone best suits each occasion. At the start of the pandemic, a commanding style was needed to provide clear direction. As restrictions ease, it maybe that a more affiliative style which creates connection and a feeling of safety is a better option. Using an inappropriate style during times of uncertainty can be unsettling, confusing and counterproductive.

3. Relax the rules

Leading through Coronavirus is not a case of ‘let’s start where we left off’. Any leader who fails to acknowledge the psychological impact of the magnitude of this pandemic, being isolated at home or working in a completely different way will be letting their staff down. Leaders need to ensure they show compassion when it comes to their staff’s ability to cope with these unprecedented and ongoing changes. Lower your expectations and give your staff more leeway when it comes to taking breaks, chatting with colleagues and adapting to new working practices.

4. Be the beacon

Stability and hopefulness are essential for recovery from the turmoil that COVID-19 has created. As a leader it’s critical that you be a stable and consistent presence and take time to connect with your staff in a positive way. Share success stories, show appreciation for people’s efforts, help them focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, the lessons we’ve learned from dealing with a pandemic, the positives we can take from it. Be the beacon they choose to follow.

The Coronacrisis has certainly challenged us. What we need to do now is lead our staff towards a new normal. If you’d like further information or leadership training, please contact jill@jemtraining.com.au