“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example.” - Donald McGannon
Actions always speak louder than words. How our leaders act and behave during the times of crisis establishes their credentials among the people. It is their actions and behaviors that can help keep the organization motivated and charged up to tide through rough waters. This is something that I strongly believe in as we continue courageously march during these challenging times. This will also give rise to simple but effective rules of leadership.
These are uncertain times and the aftermath will not be limited to 2020 but linger on for a few years to come. The only way organizations can cope and stay motivated is through its leadership. A leadership that is focused yet flexible, adaptable to unforeseen future events, and their impact on both business and people while continuing to drive progress.
Business operations and work as we have known are changed forever. Social distancing, managed remote working, etc. are the new normal. This also puts great emphasis on budgets, productivity, health, and well-being of people and business growth. More companies are adopting emerging technologies to create seamless remote working systems. Increased use of technology has led to new operating models as well. Keeping employees engaged and motivated in such a situation has become critical for leaders.
As leaders, we need to focus on what we and our teams are doing to deliver the best possible outcomes for our organization. More importantly, as we face these challenging times, we need to focus on how we're showing up, how we're connecting, how available we are, and how we listen and empathize. And when I think about this, 3 things come to mind...
- CARE: Now is the time to show that we actually care. This means some simple things like taking the time out to ask people how they are and how they are coping with the challenges due to the lockdown. Listen and not just ask, be willing to hang around to hear even if the answer is 'not that great right now'. Follow-up and take time to really check-in and hear how people are doing and what extra support they may need, before moving on to the task list!
- CONNECT: Being connected is mission-critical. Staying connected with your team is one of the most important things to do. Now is a great time to get to know your team members a little more personally than perhaps you already do – their situation at home, their challenges with working from home or what they're struggling with. Find ways to inspire them or help them in a personal project they may be working on. Help them to stay motivated, engaged, confident and creative. Be careful not to make assumptions e.g. ‘x’ is an introvert so they're fine at home or ‘y’ has a partner who doesn't work so the home situation will be much calmer or ‘x’ lives alone but is always positive so will never feel socially isolated during the lockdown. Also, find creative ways to connect as a team – have some social time on video conference – have a post-work break-out session over tea/coffee or pot-luck dinner, keep celebrating birthdays, team wins, specials occasions, etc.
- COMMUNICATE: We have already seen the destructive impact of fake news on public sentiment, especially during a crisis. It is extremely important to communicate clearly and honestly. When we don't communicate often enough people will make it up for themselves – they invent stories and these stories become rumors which are often worse than reality. Create time for people to ask questions and be open where you can be as transparent as possible even if you don’t have the answer. Leaders must remember to be calm, compassionate and confident in their speech while communicating.
There are no perfect plans since the situation is so dynamic and we have to take each day as it comes. But leaders can always inspire by showcasing extraordinary behavior and simply following the ‘3Cs during a crisis’ rule to sail the choppy times and bring their people ashore successfully.