Our worlds have changed dramatically over the last few weeks and it feels like nothing will ever be the same again. The only certainty is that we will be in a place of the unknown for many more weeks and months to come.
There are dramatic differences in where clients find themselves on the spectrum – either clients have never been so busy, or they have lost 80% of their business. Every single person has been affected by Coronavirus both professionally and personally. Examples from our clients range from a farm shop whose sales have quadrupled in a week to a leisure attraction that is closed for three months and has to furlough all their staff.
But how do you lead your team when there is so much chaos in the world? How do you find the motivation to get up, face another day and be a leader when all your team are remote workers or furloughed for the foreseeable future?
How do you transition from a leader whose major focus is on achievement and success to having to be the best communicator and look after the wellbeing of your team as a priority as a means to survival?
We have created six tips on how to be the best leader you can be at this time:
1. Be your best self
The qualities of the best leaders are still needed in difficult times – passion, authenticity, honesty, care, positivity, inspirational and treating others as you would want your child to be treated by the world. We say child as we care passionately for our children, even more than we do ourselves. Finding a way to be human, act with integrity and love for your team is enormously important at this time. This difficult time provides an opportunity for all of us to invest in what is important not only in our businesses but in our lives.
An events business we work with had their order book cleared of all orders for the next three months. With over 100 staff they had to make cuts to people’s pay and hours. When making the announcement to the team the leader broke down in tears. All of the team rallied and agreed to continue working 5 days a week but for the same pay.
2. Share and talk with others
There is never a more important time than now for sharing stories with your fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. The more you share the more you realise we are all in this together and you are not alone. As business leaders we all need support and if you have not had that in place up until now then now is the ideal time to find some. Sharing allows you to access other people’s skills, creativity and approaches to problems very similar to your own. There is no place for being proud at this time. Showing vulnerability and being able to tell your truth in a safe place is so important in keeping your stress levels down and accessing untapped creativity in your own mind.
For the last three weeks, we have been running daily 60-minute video calls for all of our Customer Experience Directors to come together and share their stories, worries and ideas for supporting our customers and each other. Through this process we have created a free team survey and are currently putting together a Leader survey to help you too. Finding the people you can work with and help you to get through this time will pay dividends in keeping you sane, motivated and in great shape to lead your team in the future.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
We know that the most important part of maintaining any relationship is communication. Having the right tools such as Zoom or Google Meet/Hangouts to be able to communicate virtually is extremely important. Finding a way to continue with team, coffee and networking meetings is vital. Communication needs to increase rather than reduce at this time. The biggest concern about self-isolation and remote working is the impact on mental health and overall well-being – there are many aspects not least financial pressures. How do you ensure that your team are ok? That they have all that they need to work from home and remain motivated? Providing a blend of communication from line managers, colleagues and senior leaders is critical to maintain an environment where colleagues feel listened to and supported. Regular communication will provide the continuity and much needed structure for your team irrespective of the practical challenges.
We know from our recent free team survey results that communication has been plentiful up until now. It is vital that you continue with a steady stream of communication that is supportive and motivating without it being distracting and interrupting the flow of work, especially with those who are working at home.
4. Culture is everything
It is now more important than ever to have a company culture which demonstrates how much you care about your team and their welfare. Choosing to be ultra-supportive and treating your team well in times of adversity will create loyalty and productivity. If you have had to furlough any employees or pause working with sub contracted staff members, they all still remain part of the team that will support and help you when the time comes to re-establish the business in the future. As part of your ‘business family’ it makes sense to keep the culture of caring and support with this group of people. It is a two-way relationship!
A great example of this is a leader from a restaurant company who is producing an internal video blog to distribute to all their workers to keep them informed of where the business is at and any information that will help them feel like they still belong and they are part of a company that is on hold for the time being. The intention of the vlog is also to have a positive influence on the roles and behaviours that the workers have in society at this time with regard to looking out for others as well as their neighbours, family and friends.
5. Trust and faith in your team has never been more important
These extraordinary times have resulted in leaders being more immersed in the lives of their team by the very fact that your employee’s place of work is their home. In addition, the employee’s home is also potentially a temporary school and a co-working space with their partner. The pressure and ability to work remotely at home is extreme. Many employees may never have worked from home before and could be finding it hard to adjust to this new reality. Our recent free team survey with client’s employees highlights that one in five reported that employees did not feel that they were properly set up at home to work.
The complexity of managing your employees in this situation is beyond anything any leader has had to do before. There is now a lack of control in place in regard to your team, which perhaps was not realised before but is now plain to see. All of your leadership skills will be used to communicate, check in with your team and lead with integrity and you are relying on your team to do the same when you are not present or in the same building.
Remaining open to changes in working hours, focusing on productivity rather than time worked will be vital to keeping your head and not becoming overly controlling.
6. Keep calm, be mindful and carry on
Our sixth most important tip for all leaders at this time is to do your best to remain calm, be mindful of the circumstances that surrounds each of your clients, your employees, and your suppliers and respond with sensitivity. The world has changed, and selling is not a major priority right now as most businesses are not buying! Taking care means ensuring all your team are following the government advice. Feeling angry or frustrated when you can’t do or get what you want is no longer acceptable behaviour. Encouraging new behaviours towards a more accepting society and a focus on looking out for others more in need than ourselves can help our overall wellbeing.
Compassion for all the humanness we observe around us is the new order of the day and in the words of Robert McKee, author “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.”
We are here for you at this time, we have a free team survey to support you and your employees and we are in the process of creating a Leader survey that will be available next week to collect and share the wisdom of you and other leaders on how you are managing at this time. We will do everything we can to support you in whatever way we can. Keep well, stay safe and if you fancy a virtual coffee then please reach out!