5 Ways to Be a Better Leader During COVID-19
It’s been more than six months since the first stay-at-home orders sent this nation into lockdown and turned millions of employees into remote workers. Most of the frantic restructuring that came early in this transition has calmed down, but for you as a leader, now is not the time for complacency.
With no clear end to this pandemic in sight, your team needs you to empower and motivate them through the uncertainties still ahead. To some degree at least, remote work is here to stay, and employees will look to you for direction in how to navigate this.
However, 45 percent of surveyed leaders do not have a long-term plan to optimize their business culture for remote work, and 53 percent reveal they spent more time on plans for the holiday office party than on strategies for the future of remote leadership.
Don’t let your team, or company, fall apart during this epidemic. Your team needs their leader more now than ever before, so use these tips to step up your leadership and keep everyone moving forward.
Prioritize the Health of Your Employees First
While some employees want to continue working remotely, other teams function better in an office or a hybrid structure. So if you plan to transition your team back onsite in some capacity, it’s vital to maintain a safe, healthy, and clean environment.
In a recent office space cleaning practices survey, 63 percent of companies who have returned to an office make sure it’s is cleaned several times a day and adhere to safety measures such as hand sanitizer, UV light disinfectants, and employee temperature checks.
Don’t forget to check the CDC guidelines for how to maintain a safe and healthy environment for your employees. This may start with hiring a CDC-certified cleaning company, which 34 percent of the office cleaning survey respondents have done.
Trust Your Employees as They Work Remotely
With many, if not all, members of your team scattered in various locations, you might be tempted to keep close tabs on their productivity. But to them, this can feel like distrust and micro-management.
Instead of letting this affect employee trust and productivity, take a step back. Scott J. Corwin, attorney and president of Scott J. Corwin Law, explains how he does this:
“I seek to empower my staff and recognize that true leadership means trusting employees and giving them the latitude to make decisions and to lead by example. If I want my team to perform outstandingly, then I must do the same,”
Establish deadlines, accountability, and expectations, but do what you expect of them as well. More importantly, respect your employees’ agency and trust their competence to garner the same respect in return.
Respond and Adjust when an Error Takes Place
Everyone is dealing with more stress and pressure than normal this year, so when an error happens—which is inevitable—don’t react on emotional impulse. That will heighten an already tense situation. Instead, your job as a leader is to de-escalate the problem and create a solution.
Respond first with calmness and empathy, reframe the mistake into a learning opportunity and work together to resolve the issue. Be flexible enough to adjust if an approach is not effective, and “instead of chastising someone for dropping the ball, take time to check-in,” suggests Christopher Littlefield, a specialist in employee appreciation.
Maintain Consistent and Open Communication
There is so much uncertain and conflicting information about how much longer the pandemic will continue and what this means for business in the media. Right now, employees just need straight communication.
As a leader, your job is to be honest, decisive, clear, and transparent in all forms of messaging. Strong communication between the leader and employees builds connection, engagement, and unified purpose, suggests the Journal of Public Affairs.
Here are a few simple ways you can do that:
- Touch base with your team often and make yourself accessible to them on various channels.
- Offer support, both in groups and one-on-one when applicable.
- Welcome feedback, especially regarding remote management challenges.
- Be open to all questions, ensuring employees are always up-to-date and in-the-know about potential changes and challenges.
Keep Your Perspective Fixed on the Long-Term
Your focus and direction must ultimately be long-term—this will inspire both perseverance and resilience on your team.
“Organizations that embrace [this] perspective view uncertainty as offering possibilities rather than threats, positioning themselves to take decisive action to shape an unknown future,” suggests workplace experts at Deloitte.
Not only do you have to be focused on the future, but you need to reassure employees that you have a plan to navigate beyond just 2020 with confidence and a realistic and relatable outlook as well. McKinsey & Company suggests:
“Leaders need to strike the right balance between realism about the challenges ahead and confidence that the organization will find its way through the crisis.”
Be a Better Leader During COVID
COVID-19 will most likely be around for potentially months and years to come and there’s no playbook for how to navigate a team of employees through a pandemic. It’s a new test of leadership that no business expected to confront this year, but it’s also an opportunity to grow as a leader and to strengthen your whole team in the process.
Jessica Thiefels is a published author, host of Mindset Reset Radio, and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. She also contributes to Glassdoor, Fast Company, Outbrain, Score.org and more. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.