If there’s one thing that’s certain about COVID-19, it’s that it has completely thrown a wrench into what ‘work’ looks like for almost all of us. With the exception of a rare few, almost everyone, whether employee, leader, or president, has had to make adjustments to how they work. For some, they’re not even going into the office, communicating only through email or Zoom calls. For others, Personal Protective Equipment is mandatory. For others still, they are in the office only part-time, to cut down on the number of people present on any given day.
Add in the fact that everything else that impacts our work life – such as kids’ school or activity schedules, our spouse’s work patterns, and so on – nothing is as it once was. As a leader, how do you continue to manage your team when the team looks so different? What can you expect as you try to navigate these new waters? What can you do to make things easier for those looking to you for direction?
On top of all of the same stress-induced symptoms everyone else is facing during this pandemic, leaders have an extra hurdle in that others look to them for direction. This means leaders can also fear making mistakes, raising other people’s anxiety levels, fear losing control, and paralysis.
There’s an added layer of complexity with being a leader, in that you need to adapt early, ahead of your team, so that you can help them adapt to the changes. Change can be difficult for most people at the best of times. It’s important as a leader that you be an early adopter to the changes in the workplace and help your teams move along the change curve with the least amount of resistance and stress as possible.
To help them do that, you have to show up as exceedingly human (a phrase by Patrick Lencioni); let them know you’re on the same page as them and that you understand. Other things you can do include:
- Show courage and take action, even if you don’t have the full picture,
- Ensure you’re putting your people first, and
- Demonstrate caring and compassion when employees are stressed and when making difficult decisions.
As we move into the second phase, we have to, as leaders, be aware that our teams are experiencing adaptation fatigue. Collectively, we’re going through multiple phases of change at work, but also at home and at school, in the communities, and so on. Our teams are feeling new fears related to the pandemic, including public transportation, exposure in public places, sanitary protocols at work, behaviours of co-workers, and more.
It can be overwhelming, especially when responsible for others at work and not just our own feelings of uncertainty. But if we remember to move gradually, slowly, assess the needs of the team and individuals on it and adjust as needed while providing clear direction, we can keep the stress levels down and move forward as a team in these unpredictable times.
From proprietary material developed in partnership with Suzanne Pilloud-Proulx, M.Ps., Certified Integral Coach, Clinical Psychologist, and Associate of the Centre de Relations Humaines