As governments grapple with a pandemic that has brought them to their knees and cities around the world extend lockdowns, uncertainty is the new status quo. It’s not business as usual, and by default, neither is it leadership as usual. What has always worked may not be relevant during a crisis.
As many of us lead our teams from home, how can we assure our people and keep them engaged and focused on meeting deliverables? Perhaps we need to take stock of our own leadership approaches so we can continue to inspire, influence and lead with purpose.
Control Versus Acceptance
“Take control of the situation” is generally sound advice that leaders are taught to embrace. As important as it is to take charge of a situation, sometimes accepting that a situation is not within your control may be an equally strong approach. Many believe that acceptance is equivalent to resignation or being passive. On the contrary, acceptance requires courage. It is an acknowledgment of fact.
Acceptance helps you consciously question your own perspective of the situation and be supportive of yourself first before you can lead others. Without acceptance, you may not be able to find new solutions, and pushing harder often only results in frustration and loss of self-confidence that can spread to your team. Start with acceptance so that you can truly take charge of the situation.
Check The Balance In Your Trust Account
A crisis tests the strength and position of your trust account with your team. Trust is determined by your level of transparency and the strength of your relationships in a crisis.
According to research published in the Journal of Management, transparency hinges on how well you execute and manage these four dimensions:
1. Quantity: how much information you share
2. Intent: how proactive you are in sharing information
3. Perception: the extent to which your team perceives your efforts as transparent
4. Quality of information: the importance of the information you share
Increase transparency by sharing what you know and acknowledging what you don’t know so that your team understands how decisions are made and can make informed decisions on their own.
In addition, consciously build emotional connections and manage the experience your team has with you to cement your relationships. A large part of communication happens nonverbally. Your nonverbal behaviors and cues, such as eye contact, your smile and your voice inflection, reflect your emotions and are often more easily read by your team. During this period of isolation, skip the emails and texts. Pick up the phone and call your team, get on video, smile often and make small talk. An understanding on a nonverbal level can deepen relationships and complement your verbal messages. Focus on how you respond emotionally to your team to lead with impact.
Think Beyond The Short-Term
It’s common to focus on immediate threats and survival during a crisis. Decisiveness and quick action to manage current events are critical and can give you a sense of usefulness and being the “hero” as you save the day.
Deliberately take a long-term view of the challenges and opportunities that present themselves. Thinking beyond the crisis can help you analyze the assumptions you’ve made about your business, provide clear direction and unite your team toward a common mission. In doing so, you create the opportunity for every member of the team to see how they contribute to the bigger cause and give them permission to unleash their own creativity and decision-making to focus on novel ways to solve problems.
Empathy Alone Isn’t Enough
Showing empathy for your team is important; however, I’ve noticed that it can also lead to your own withdrawal and disengagement as a result of feeling those emotions and not necessarily taking action. Compassion in a crisis is often a more important tool for leaders because it is proactive and more likely to lead to action that improves the well-being of your team. While empathy is about understanding that self-isolation is hard, compassion is about organizing a virtual team-bonding session or rolling up your sleeves to help.
Leading with compassion allows you to invest in people, clear roadblocks and support their growth. Display compassion by listening and talking to your team and appreciating and recognizing their efforts in these times. Your compassion for your team not only builds your own resilience, but it also can create a sense of belonging for your team and increase their loyalty as you work together in tough situations.
Compassionate leadership can have a direct impact on your team’s ability to perform at a higher level during a crisis. Research shows that leaders who display a high level of compassion have teams that are “more apt to go the extra mile” when the occasion calls for it.
Leading your teams is probably quite demanding right now. The burden may fall squarely on your shoulders to inspire and influence. What matters most is the effort you put into building your own resilience, fostering collaboration and providing positive reinforcement to help your team stay focused on the long-term as you deal with daily challenges. Perhaps a good reminder is to look at what you expect from your leaders during this time of crisis and reflect on your own leadership.
This content was originally published here.