Organizational leaders everywhere are working to keep their enterprises solvent during the unprecedented public health, social and economic crisis that is COVID-19. The leadership actions you take now could mean the survival of your business and be a lifeline for your employees. Now is the time, as you strategize ways to adapt, recover and continue your business mission, to consider which of your newly-adopted practices are worth carrying forward.
Orient the workplace toward people.
The thing that has struck me most during this time of isolation and social distancing is the grace and care that people are showing each other. People rely on human contact, so we are finding new ways to support each other even as we stay apart. In today’s virtual workplace, we are not just tolerating but celebrating the exuberant toddlers and persistent pets who interrupt meetings.
Since the success or failure of an enterprise rests almost entirely on workplace culture, leaders should tap into the long-term benefits of human connection. When employees are highly engaged, business outcomes are consistently more positive. As an organizational leader, now is the time to deliver the fundamentals of what people need: trust, hope, compassion and stability.
Let these fundamentals be your lens as you make business continuity plans. Things won’t be going back to the normal we remember. Instead, you get to deliberately decide, together with your employees, how to rebuild your business. What do you want things to look like? What can you put in place now that will unlock employees’ capacity for success? Consider these questions:
How can you provide hope?
A business leader offers hope through a genuine, positive vision for the future, grounded in optimism.
What are you doing right now to offer hope to your people? You may be communicating with employees more often and in more ways than ever before. With people feeling isolated, you are probably offering a lot more reassurance and support. You are bringing together teams to decide how to respond to the crisis and make plans to recover from it. In doing so, you are giving people a sense of direction and a vision for the future. You’re offering a sense of hope that the organization—and people’s livelihoods—will be okay.
In what ways can you continue providing employees with a sense of hope after your business recovers?
What can you do to foster trust?
You allow trust to grow when you embody the qualities of integrity, honesty and respect.
Chances are, over the last few weeks as a business leader, you have had to extend trust beyond your comfort zone. Maybe your entire team is working remotely with little guidance and you have limited visibility on their work. Perhaps you have extended additional responsibilities to junior staff. I bet you have been pleasantly surprised by the ways your employees have risen to meet the challenges.
Think about the ways you have acted, and relied on others to act during this time. Have your assumptions about people changed? Are there ways you can update company policies to express respect and trust for people?
What does compassion look like at work?
A leader with compassion is clearly demonstrating that they care about the whole person—they don’t view employees as just human cogs in the machine.
The workplace has suddenly moved online, and an unexpected pleasure is the glimpse we get into the real lives of our colleagues. People are dealing with so much that even the most driven business people have been forced to slow down. The lines between our personal and professional roles have blurred. Compassion at work can mean giving someone the space to be vulnerable and talk about difficulties they are experiencing, even when you cannot do anything to help. I had a moment like this with a colleague whose wife is a nurse, and he expressed so much gratitude that I took a few minutes to sit with him and just listen to what he was going through.
As a leader, you are likely having moments like this, too. Compassion has a powerful way of making people feel seen and valued. What changes can you make to your routine as a leader to make room for compassionate moments with your employees into the future? What can you do to continue to honor and respect employees, and give them space to be full people?
How do you convey stability?
Employees need stability, a sense of confidence in the organization and in the steadiness of the leader’s core values.
There is uncertainty almost everywhere we look right now. Everyone feels rocked and disoriented. It may seem like stability is the last thing you can offer, when there are no guarantees for what will happen in the weeks and months to come. But just by being a steady presence in people’s lives you are conveying stability. By keeping your organization running, by communicating consistently and clearly—even when you have no answers—you are meeting an important need for people. And when you have no answers, it is time to turn to your core values for guidance.
Are you showing employees how your organization’s values are informing your decisions? How can your team’s shared values serve as a bridge between the past and your organization’s post-coronavirus future?
Leading into an unpredictable future.
You have a challenge ahead of you as a business leader. You must point your organization toward a destination that is difficult to see and where the path is unclear. But it remains true that the things you focus on get amplified. The things you water grow. So pay attention to the beautiful moments in your day. Turn your eyes to what is right and good. Take stock of your strengths. And use this awareness to determine your plans for the future. If you need some help to transform your optimism into actionable steps, reach out to me at Integrated Success today.
Yours in success,
Linda is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Integrated Success HR Consulting & Coaching, She is a Gallup-certified Strengths Coach and a leader in strengths-focused development. Integrated Success works with organizations in developing effective teams and human resources practices to bring out the best of individuals for their own success and that of the organization. That’s why we say Integrated Success is the engine behind individuals and organizations thriving!