It’s no secret that unless you are in the toilet paper industry, business during the current climate is struggling. It seems like every day a friend or former colleague is sharing that they’ve had their salary cut, been furloughed, or even laid off from their job of 20 years. As leaders, it’s imperative that we look through a different lens during this time.
Weather the Storm with High Quality Tools
I want to encourage you to experiment with different working tools right now that you wouldn’t typically reach for during a normal day in the office. If you’re like most Americans, you’ve been working from home for the past month. Using tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to connect with your colleagues, even if not to discuss business matters but simply catch up personally, can offer a significant morale boost.
If you are not already using a project management tool such as Monday.com or Trello, consider implementing these. Project management software assists with task breakdown, can display status updates, and aligns the team on project progress. These tools will allow you to see the big picture as well as the smaller steps needed to reach the goal.
An additional option to consider when leading a team from home is using an instant messaging system. Sending an email for every simple question, or worse, not asking a question at all, can lead to miscommunication and unproductivity. Tools like Slack or Google Hangouts provide instant communication between individuals and teams, allowing users to check in with their team members at a moment’s notice.
Focus on True Leadership, Not Just Lip Service
We all know that our employees are not unaware of the state of the world right now. Therefore, do not attempt to diminish the severity of COVID-19 to your employees. As leaders, we should be treating our employees with upmost respect and honesty at all times, but especially during a crisis.
As you gain more and more information about the state of the world, your industry, and your business, make a significant effort to relay this information as soon as appropriate to employees. If sending a lengthy email or presentation filled with numbers and predictions isn’t your cup of tea, consider holding “open house” style virtual meetings where employees can receive answers in an informal setting. To ensure comfortability, create a survey prior to the call where employees can submit their questions anonymously. And when asked these questions, be as honest as possible. While certain information should always stay at a high-level, it’s important to pass along what you can to employees to ease their minds and ensure that they know they are well-informed.
A key indicator of a true leader is an individual who can accept and admit that they don’t have all the answers. Be honest with your employees in sharing that you too are uncertain of what the company’s next steps are, but are committed to creating and enforcing a plan. And then, follow through with your actions. We are all human and no one is expecting perfection from a leader suddenly thrust into crisis management. But what will be expected is your readiness to come alongside your employees and collaborate on a solutions plan. Let your employees in and be surprised at the value and dedication that they will offer in return.
Recognize that Business is Not Running as Usual
If your situation is anything like mine, you are home with stacks of work to be done, kids requiring your attention, and a refrigerator begging to be re-filled. Life is very different now, and you are simply trying to navigate 100 tasks at once. I recently came across a phrase that has been circulating social media:
“You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”
When reading this, my ideology of the current situation completely shifted. We, along with our friends, employees, superiors, and families are trying to be teacher, stay-at-home parent, employee, leader, housekeeper, and entertainer all at once. Employees are trying to focus on their daily work while feeding a child, planning groceries, and checking in on elderly loved ones. Now more than ever it is vital that we show grace and understanding. Certain tasks may need to be put on the backburner or re-delegated. And that is okay. Life is different now, and as much as we want business to run as usual, this is not usual.
There are high levels of uncertainty in the world right now. I encourage you to spend a few moments reflecting on what you can and can’t control, and let the latter list go. As I mentioned earlier, leaders often place a pressure on themselves to always have the answers. While it’s important to give your team grace, please do not forget to be patient with yourself as well. Your workday may look different and that is okay. You too deserve the patience and understanding that you are offering to others.