The world is changing so rapidly at the moment. Every day there are more updates and further restrictions that are radically changing the way we live and how our businesses can operate (if they can still operate). It seems that no one’s truly knows what’s to come next, but wherever you turn it all points towards restrict, contain and isolate.
There’s no end in sight, and my sense is we’re only just seeing the beginning. There is so much uncertainty all around us at the moment. Uncertainty with our lifestyle, jobs, financial security, social wellbeing and even our health. Right now is one of the most uncertain, unprecedented and unparalleled times in our history. Which is why we need whole hearted leaders now more than ever.
Leading in times of change and uncertainty is difficult, let alone in the most uncertain time we’ve ever known globally. We’re allowed to be scared, that’s called being human. But we don’t need to be scary. We can’t let scarcity and anxiety drive us to make decisions and lead from a place of fear. Leading from fear only drives more fear and scarcity in those around us (just look at the hoarding debacle).
What we need is to learn how to embrace being vulnerable and sitting with the discomfort. We need to feel the fear and scarcity but still lead with our hearts and minds from a place of love, compassion and empathy. For after all, empathy and compassion drives connection, fear and scarcity drive disconnection.
We already live in an age where we are statistically the loneliest and most disconnected generation to exist. We’re the only generation that has actively chosen to separate from their tribe, and the evidence shows that this has been a very poor choice culturally because depression, anxiety, suicide, loneliness and disconnection are at all-time highs.
My fear is that with the growing spread of COVID-19 and the directives to isolate and socially distance ourselves from others is that it is only going to further deepen our already disconnected and isolated society.
We know that as human beings we have an innate sense to bond and to feel connected to meaningful relationships and to meaningful work. And it seems all this is under threat.
So how do leaders help our people and teams to remain connected in all of this?
Our leaders need to embrace vulnerability and to have open, honest and brave conversations with one another. We need to put our people first in all of this. Even though it is heart breaking to talk with your people about what all of this could mean for their jobs and their lives, we need to come at this from a place of authenticity and honesty. This is what vulnerability and courage looks like.
Below are a few ideas of how I believe we can lead with whole hearts and from a place of empathy and compassion:
- If your team is working remotely consider setting up “virtual watering holes”.
This allows people to see one another and connect via FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. Think about creating smaller groups or “huddles” where every morning a group of 4 or 5 staff huddle together via Zoom for the first 20mins of the day to share how they’re going, where they are up to and what they have planned for the day.
- Instead of calling, FaceTime or Zoom/Skype.
We know that when we see a familiar face or someone we’re friendly with, we receive a dopamine hit in the brain which helps to combat cortisol and adrenaline (the stress hormones).
We know that in times of uncertainty the way our brains are wired is to put together the pieces that are missing to create a story. And often when we’re operating from a place of fear or anxiety, these stories are negative and worst case scenario. In uncertain times consider setting up a weekly staff meeting and sending out regular updates daily or every few days. The more information your people have the less they will be “filling in the gaps”.
- If you don’t have any updates, tell people that you don’t have any updates.
Again this builds on the above point, it greatly assists to reduce anxiety when you say things like “I’m sorry team, I don’t have any further updates at the moment, but I’ll send out another update on Friday unless there’s further changes between now and then”.
- Share all the wins that you have, no matter how big or small.
In times of uncertainty sharing wins with your staff is critical to help foster optimism, no matter how small. This can include a daily summary of new work that has come in, jobs that have gone out or ideas you have for new opportunities.
- Embrace questions and encourage shared learning.
Create regular forums or avenues for people to share their concerns or questions, and answer all as honestly and authentically as you can. There’s value in doing this in a group as well because when done well it can help people feel more comfortable with their own vulnerabilities and foster trust and connection.
- Get clear on your values and use them as your compass.
Understanding who you are and leading from a place of your own values fosters authenticity, and with authenticity comes trust. People are very good at sensing when others are being disingenuous and we know this only creates disconnection.
- Get clear on the “WHY” behind your business.
Often the “WHY” is what brings everyone together in the first place and what keeps your people coming back. Keep this in the forefront of your mind and refer back to the “WHY” when you can with your staff.
- Embrace gratitude.
There’s a growing body of evidence that tells us when we embrace gratitude it helps reduce stress and anxiety and fosters optimism and connection. This can include “sharing wins” with the team on a daily basis or practicing a gratitude meditation at the beginning of huddles or staff meetings.
- Get creative with your service delivery.
As many great leaders and CEO’s have said “if you don’t innovate you die”. You need to look at your business and identify in these times of uncertainty which if your services will be considered “essential” and can be adapted or transformed to be delivered differently.
Remember that it’s always darkest before the dawn and in every hardship there are always doors open for opportunities as long as we’re looking for them. We need to think of the situation we find ourselves in as not a catastrophe or an event we can’t control, but approach it as a problem that we need to solve. If we come at it with curiosity and from a beginners mind we’ll likely be able to think more creatively to help our business pivot or adapt, which ultimately can help our organisations not just survive, but thrive.
If you or your organisation wants some assistance to help navigate these unprecedented times, we offer leadership and management coaching. We have a variety of coaching and consulting tools and resources to help you develop your leadership skills to lead from a place of whole heartedness, vulnerability and compassion.
Physically distant. Socially connected. Together is better.
To find out more please call 1300 361 953.