Managers usually try to keep teams focused on long-term goals and strategies. But these are uncertain times… and leaders are challenged to find new ways to help employees feel productive, safe, engaged and motivated.
Success will involve a blend of bold, decisive decision-making and “soft skills” which we’ll explore further here.
Managers Taking Care of Themselves
To properly support others, leaders need to be working from a position of confidence and security. Managerial roles are increasingly demanding, especially as teams require enhanced (emotional) support. Team leaders should acknowledge these demands… and recognise they may have limited experience or skills working this way. Then they need to look after their own physical and mental health and maintain a balanced lifestyle. This creates a platform from which to help others.
An empathetic approach will get the best results. That may mean making time to learn about employees’ unique situations and challenges. The idea is to create a safe space where team members can vent and express themselves in their individual ways. Recognise that there will be varying levels of anxiety as people deal with a whole range of events and consequences.
Frequent communication will help. Provide accurate and complete information, where possible. It’s acceptable to be unsure on certain points but that’s not the same as glossing over problems. Narrow the possible outcomes down to a range, for example, the worst, the best, and the expected scenarios. Anticipate problems and how they can be avoided. Try to get people to participate in the solutions so they can feel in control.
Ask questions to help employees express their situations and concerns. Listen carefully to build an understanding so you can act in the most appropriate way. Try to arrive at solutions rather than problems and steer conversations so they remain constructive and forward-thinking. Test out your ideas and proposed decisions so you can gauge responses. Success will be greater where team members have thought about and bought into your strategies.
Recognition and Rewards
This is a really good time for a celebration! It may not involve the traditional get-togethers to which we are accustomed but a public acknowledgment of wins will increase morale. Gifts might be a good gesture of appreciation and signal to the extended team that valuable progress is being made for which stellar performers are rewarded. If you’re not sure how to reward people, why not ask what they would value? Celebrate and acknowledge more frequently than before.
Openness to Change
The modern workplace is undergoing massive change, partly instigated by COVID-19. Therein lies a huge opportunity to look carefully at the way things are done and make improvements. In some cases, that means tweaking processes but other changes may be more fundamental. Whatever the case, it’s best to reevaluate “the way we’ve always done things”. Dealing with employees working remotely is an obvious example that brings both challenges and opportunities. Be flexible, promote new ideas and give them due consideration. Be poised to shift course especially where it enables a better employment environment.
Turn Uncertainty into an Opportunity
Rest assured that as you deal with uncertainty, your competitors are in the same boat. Businesses which respond positively and boldly will succeed. Help your team to recognise that there are opportunities for your business AND for the team by staying focused and working through the challenges. With this attitude, you’ll develop deeper loyalty and a renewed sense of community.