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Leadership in the Times of COVID-19: Part 2

The New Year is here, along with all of the hope and celebration it typically brings. This year, however, people have a lot more to say about the last 12 months than they usually do! There’s no denying it: 2020 was pretty rough on a lot of people, and we are all desperately clinging to the hope that 2021 will bring us peace, happiness, and a sense of normalcy. With vaccines being administered, there is a sense of optimism that you can’t deny, but we want to make sure that, as a leader, you’re prepared to help your team thrive regardless of what 2021 brings us. 

In our last post, we focused on how the stress of a prolonged crisis can affect you as a leader and why it’s important to incorporate strategies designed to protect your mental health and awareness as you navigate these uncharted waters. Today, we’re turning our vision outward and focusing more on the way a leader can interact with his or her team during these times of crisis, specifically as we all muddle through our current lives in the age of COVID-19

Display Calm

How many times have you been told to “just stay calm” when you’re freaking out about something? 

We all know that in an emergency the most effective choice is to “stay calm.” It’s how you prevent disaster when evacuating large groups of people from danger, and it’s how you make the least amount of mistakes as you work toward a greater solution. 

The problem is that staying calm isn’t something that just happens to us. As leaders, we are forced to make the deliberate decision to display calm to the people we are in charge of. The word display is extremely important here. Remember that your team is looking to you for guidance and, while you may not have all the answers right at that moment, it’s important for your team to know that you’re going to do what it takes to find them. 

When you make a deliberate effort to display a calm demeanor for your employees, it becomes an example of the confidence you hope they can display and reinforces you as an effective leader. 

Display Hope

Just like the novel coronavirus we are all dealing with right now, emergency situations are often events we’ve never had to deal with before. That’s a very scary realization to have. Luckily, human beings have a history of being resourceful, innovative, and creative in the ways they respond to adverse situations. 

As a leader, you can lean on this knowledge and provide hope to your team by emphasizing the importance of getting creative. Look at the companies this last year that had to reinvent themselves: restaurants began offering innovative ways to get takeout to their patrons in order to stay afloat, and bars started building DIY cocktail kits to send home when no one could walk through their doors. Give the people you’re leading a reason to roll up their sleeves and work toward new and inventive ways to achieve success. It’ll not only provide a healthy dose of hope and optimism, but it will also bring a productive form of distraction to the mix. 

Display Realism

While hope is one of the most important things we can cling to right now, it’s important to make sure that optimism is laced with realism when you’re the leader of a group. 

Promising fast, hopeful outcomes without any recognition for the facts and the grimness of the situation can ultimately result in disappointment and plummeting morale once reality sets in. So, as you build up your team on messages of innovation and the success it can bring, be sure to mix your delivery with a recognition of the facts: 

  • Times are tough, and they’re going to continue to be so for a while. 
  • We don’t know when this will end, but we do know that we can make the best with what we have so that we come out stronger when the smoke clears. 
  • Hard work has value – even more so when the chips are down. By working diligently together, bonds will be strengthened and innovation will shine through. 

Display Compassion

The extent to which this pandemic has affected people across the globe is staggering. With climbing death tolls and increasing lockdown measures, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t struggling. This is why it’s so important to look at employee relations, performance, and attitudes with a filter of compassion. 

As you and your organization navigate this crisis, showing proactive compassion can go a long way toward improving morale and productivity in such an unstable time. This means checking in on your team members before they start showing signs of distress. Ask questions like: 

  • Wow, this sure has been stressful. How are you doing?
  • What are your feelings about the new direction we’re taking?
  • How is this project going? Are you able to be successful even with these new restrictions? 

By taking an actively compassionate approach to the mental health of your team members, you’ll not only be able to prevent fires rather than put them out, but you’ll also establish yourself further as someone who deserves trust and loyalty. 

It’s important, however, to remember your limitations, which we mentioned in our previous blog post. Not all leaders are trained mental health practitioners — assess the status of your team members and find them the outside help they need if they need it. 

Remember: you have already overcome so much this year, and with calmness, realistic hope, and compassion, you’re sure to continue to be successful.