We are in strange and uncertain times arising from the COVID-19 crisis. The coming months may feel fearful as people attempt to return to their daily lives in new circumstances. As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions ease and employees return to work, ask how you can support your team as they start embracing the new normal. It can be challenging to deal with uncertainty.
As a leader, you are responsible for helping your team envisage how things are going to be and what they can expect. Painting a clear picture of how things will resume is important to managing uncertainty – combat uncertainty by creating certainty. There have also been great benefits.
Collaboration has become even more important, and the early days saw spikes in productivity. We’ve seen that teams can operate well remotely. We’ve also seen that things can get done very quickly in a crisis in terms of how we mobilised remote working at the start of the lockdown, for example. Businesses and communities pulled together to support each other.
Nevertheless, many businesses are in financial difficulties. I think collaboration across the supply chain is going to be crucial to get through this crisis. We’ll need to manage expectations as we support up and down the supply chain.
For many businesses, there was an uptake in activity at the start of the lockdown. It is typical of a crisis – we end up getting a lot done, for instance, we are quick to make decisions.
As we move through the change curve, we need to re-engage after the depression and potential tiredness that can ensue. If you can manage the uncertainty and get buy-in, then productivity will remain and could improve as people find their way through.
In this blog, I will guide you through how leaders can best manage uncertainty and support their teams in embracing the new normal.
Navigating Uncertainty as a Leader
With the dawn of a new era, leaders need to review their goals and be clear about any changes to their teams. Has your purpose or your ‘why’ changed? Communicate this to your team.
How Great Leaders Inspire Action
Consistent and clear communication drives trust in teams. Meet people where they are at, levelling with them, rather than forcing them to get to where you want them to be. Trust grows as people feel heard and understood.
Margie Warrel, author of Leading Through Uncertainty, identifies how leaders can assist their teams through times of turmoil. She emphasises six different methods of supporting your team:
Reassurance Through Modelling Self-certainty
If you can lead yourself first and not add to an environment of anxiety, it will help those looking to you for guidance. Remain calm and have a more level-headed approach to work and life in general.
Inspire a Common Purpose Amongst Employees
Letting employees know that you are all in this uncertain time together. Acknowledging how they feel encourages the team to build trust and strengthens bonds.
Prioritise People and their Needs
Ensure that no one feels left behind. As Warrel wrote, “people want to know that you’re in the trenches with them and that you’ve got their back.” Make sure that you are aware of how your employees are doing and invest time in learning about their emotional and mental health.
Risk Over-communication Over Insufficient Communication
Don’t leave your team in the dark about what your organisation is doing to face these unprecedented times. Send out regular updates to your colleagues and always be open to questions.
Be Decisive to Communicate Clearly and Quickly
Moreover, swift communication follows decisiveness. At a time of societal and political uncertainty, you should try to eliminate chaos in the workplace. Decide what the company will do to tackle the situation and implement it. It helps people feel more secure, even if it may only be in their work environment.
Be Open-minded to Evolution
The current crisis brings a chance to learn, adapt and evolve as a team. Those who will tackle the challenges that it presents and are willing to adapt will come out tops on the other side.
Therefore, leaders must take on an emotional support role and be more understanding than ever. Be people-orientated and listen to your teams to ensure that you overcome these uncertain times.
Top Tips for Embracing the New Normal
Here are my top four tips for helping your team embrace the new and uncertain working environment.
Take away as much uncertainty as possible by being decisive and clear on what your team can expect when they return to the office. Make decisions that bring as much reassurance as possible on health, safety and wellbeing. Clarity around a common purpose involves active engagement with your team in redefining your organisation’s purpose for the near future. Be clear on what this new purpose is, how it is different from the previous one and what needs to change. Providing a clear purpose and objective creates an anchor for each team member in a time when their personal lives may be turbulent.
Share with your teams what the company is doing and how you can support your team. However, listening, understanding and showing empathy regarding the physical and mental wellbeing of your team is paramount. You may have people on your team who are vulnerable to the dynamics of the current situation. Some will have to continue to self-isolate due to at-risk family members. Others may be unable to travel to work due to young children at home.
Why good leaders make you feel safe
Gain an understanding of each team member’s circumstances. Support them and work around their struggles. Without the usual access to a support system such as friends or family, creating a supportive work environment could be the most helpful thing you could do as a leader.
3. Recognition that People make Mistakes
Recognise that both leaders and employees will make mistakes and that it is okay. These are unprecedented times that none of us has ever faced before. You should expect a few mistakes. Getting things wrong should not be seen as a failure but as opportunities to learn and evolve.
4. Focus on Yours and Your Team’s Health and Wellbeing
Safety and wellbeing come first. Before all else, make sure that you aren’t making at-risk or sick employees come to work. Ensure that everyone is comfortable discussing working remotely or having changes made to their workplace. We must see this current situation as an opportunity to work together towards something better rather than trying to resist change.
If you’d like to find out more about leading your team through these times, get in touch on 07980 838945 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be delighted to have a chat!