‘If you’re actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’
John Quincy Adams
Prolonged pandemic isolation is taking a toll – on productivity, personal drive, creativity and enthusiasm. As individuals we will all have our lockdown stories with many of us having faced challenges that we are ill equipped to deal with. In a recent survey 34% of respondents felt burned out, 22% were depressed and 37% were stressed. Now is the time for leaders to stand up, acknowledge the effects of the pandemic and create the right environment for success.
Focus on what only you can do
When the stakes are really high many leaders naturally tend to feel they have to be there all the time and to make all the decisions. However, perhaps the biggest learning for many leaders, over the last year, has been how much can be achieved when people are just left to get on with it. Of course, we know that collaboration is necessary for some aspects of work but empowering others to make decisions leaves you free to focus on what only you can do. It perhaps happened by necessity but now let’s do it by design.
Infusing hope and energy into your business starts with you
Great leaders have the self-confidence to show their vulnerabilities. That in turn allows others to be open about theirs. We all originally thought that Covid 19 would be a short-term adjustment, a sprint. So, we prepared for that. Sadly, it ended up being a marathon, but we hadn’t trained for that! We need to adjust our expectations of ourselves as well as others. That doesn’t mean we stop delivering but we do need to appreciate where our energy levels are at and conserve energy for the months ahead.
Do you need help or inspiration?
As leaders we are supposed to have all the answers, get out of bed every morning with a spring in our step, put the interest of our colleagues first and be prepared to sacrifice much of our ‘me time’ to inspire those around us. Where are you getting your support, your inspiration? Take time to find someone or a network where you can focus on your needs and challenges.
Conduct 121s with your returning teams
Get face to face with your colleagues. Trust is borne out of a feeling that my business really cares about me as an individual. The challenge with some of your best and most productive employees is they don’t have an ‘off switch.’ Talk to them and help them manage their workload and re-set priorities. They might even need to be persuaded to take some time out. You will need them to be firing on all cylinders when the world fully opens up.
Re-align your business goals and priorities
Take the learning from the pandemic and review your plan, your priorities and ways to meet them. What can still be done remotely and what now needs good old-fashioned face to face collaboration. ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.’ There were many things that you were doing before the pandemic which will be still relevant.
Pivot from your why
As leaders we need to remind our teams that our purpose remains the same, but we might need to change what we do or how we do it. Talk to your leadership team, get close to those that are closest to your customer and listen and adapt to changing market needs.
Ensure people have clear expectations and measures (performance management still matters)
Good people want to be measured so they can celebrate success. Returning to profit starts with tracking performance on a daily basis. Continue to devolve decision-making. We have seen how swiftly decisions can be made when necessary. Build it into the fabric of your organisation
Focus on becoming a learning organisation
Recent months has shown how capable we are of systemic change when necessity demands it. The vaccination programme in the UK demonstrates how even the largest of tankers can turn on a sixpence! To become a learning organisation, we need to accept change as the norm.
As leaders we set the tone by our own behaviour, what we do and say daily. Our focus should be on creating an environment of ‘psychological safety’ where individuals feel safe to ‘test and learn,’ have some time to reflect on learnings and know that you as the leader have got their back.
In this time of such uncertainty the real leaders need to stand up. Some of the rules of engagement have changed but as John Quincy Adams said,