These are tough, unprecedented times for everyone. And the more we watch the news, the worse it seems to get – it’s wearing us all down already. I have to admit that I am having a hard time focusing on any task, and I am a focuser! I find myself getting distracted a lot, going from one thing to another, which is unlike me. So I know everyone is feeling some kind of stress, uncertainty and yes, a lot of fear.
I am trying to figure out what I can do to help. And since we are now stuck at home, I have some extra time to watch webinars, read and curate information. To that end, I saw a great presentation recently by Carlene Li who wrote the book ‘The Disrupted Mindset’, and I wanted to net down some of the really useful things she said.
First of all, she said that we feel disrupted when we are not in control, can’t see the future or our stable relationships are torn apart – kind of like what we are going through now. (And for those control freaks out there, that’s extra tough!) So a good way to get some of that control back again is to plan and start to take action, even if it’s just little steps.
Charlene shared 5 ways that Leaders can start to adjust to these turbulent times – because we must adapt & change if we are to come out stronger:
1. Showing up as a strategic leader: How are you approaching this crisis – are you fear focused (constantly checking the news), are you fear unfocussed (distracted, unsure – like I have been) or are you strategically focused? That means being engaged in finding new solutions & opportunities to the problems you are being faced with. As leaders we are used to having all the answers and we don’t right now – that is very unsettling. So rather than dwelling on that, what we need to be doing is asking the right questions – and then connecting with our people & our network to get help in finding the answers.
As a strategic leader we also want to be looking at all of our stakeholders equally, in a balanced way – and that means employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and the community to insure all are moving forward together.
Most importantly, you need to take care of yourself as much as you are taking care of others – get exercise, have a mindfulness practice, mediation – whatever can help you relieve the stress. This also includes connecting with your network and other leaders to share ideas. Don’t try to go it alone – think of creating a peer-based Personal Advisory Board – they help you and you help them.
2. Look to establish new norms & structures – especially now that so many people are working from home – this helps to create stability. Think about clarifying how you want your employees to work. For example, focusing your employees on results, not hours worked. And how do you manage remotely when you are not used to doing that? Make changes to increase flexibility & collaboration – your employees will thank you for that! If you are still in an office situation, go from scheduled meetings to daily standups (apart of course) and asynchronous work. You have no choice but to work in a different way now and it could actually make you and your teams more productive.
Another important part of this is to outline which tools everyone is going to use – pick one main method so people don’t have to go back and forth between different communication systems. It will be more streamlined and simpler for everyone. There are lots of great video meeting apps available like Zoom and Microsoft Teams is an awesome way to collaborate. Both of these can be free to get started and not that expensive to upgrade. Slack, Google Drive, Docs, the Dropbox functions are also good – email takes too long and is cumbersome.
As well, please be mindful of time zones. There’s nothing worse than someone on the east coast setting a virtual meeting at 8am Est – that’s 5am on the west coast! (Sounds crazy but that’s still going on) And don’t forget about your International locations. World Time Buddy is an awesome App to easily check out time zones around the world.
3. Create accountability with transparency & openness – look to identify where trust is low and especially where people are afraid, and address with openness. Don’t lie to people or underplay the seriousness of the situation or their fear. Be honest that you don’t have all the answers. Remove fear of failure and help everyone to see that we are all in this together – trying new things without the stigma of failure leads to innovation. Create opportunities for diverse perspectives to filter up – everyone has a voice. Don’t shy away from the difficult conversations and this will create more trust. Your people are intelligent though in the absence of information and communication, human nature is to fear the worse and also make things up.
Put vital data and information where it can be best used and everyone can see it. Foster a sense of collaboration and sharing (again lots of tools around for this). If you are not normally that open & transparent, time to get out of your comfort zone – employees want to hear the truth and know you are all in it together.
4. Communicate in 3D to nurture relationships – no matter what is going on, you can never communicate too much, right now this is especially critical. 3D communication is the 3 dimensions of communication – over communicate, use one source of truth (one place people can go to, to get their information & answers) and don’t forget about your remote team members, (or silent team members) where ever they are – treat everyone the same. Remember that people want to know what is going on, especially bad news – again in absence of news, they will make it up.
This is an opportunity for you to create and nurture a new culture – look for ways to engineer connections between your employees and customers to replace the normal ways we’ve worked in the past. Spark ‘non-work’ engagements – for example I’ve started setting up virtual happy hours with friends and clients on Zoom – everyone shows up with their favorite drink and appetizer and it is a great way to connect, relieve some stress and stay in touch. There are all sorts of creative ideas you can come up with if you change your mindset.
5. Focus on the change and impact you can make – a leader’s job is to create change – how can you look to the future to create the organization you will need as you move forward? How can you serve your employees and customers in a different way to make an impact? Crisis situations, especially with recessions following them, always spawn innovation. Figure out who your future customers are and get your customer obsessed employees involved in helping determine what they will need. As well, ask your customers or create Customer Advisory Boards to help you.
Unfortunately, as leaders right now we have to get out of our comfort zones and look to uncharted territory. We have to move into a place where we don’t know the outcome, and perhaps have to create a totally new outcome.
But we don’t have to do it alone – as mentioned we don’t or won’t have all the answers but collectively, we will be better off. We are all in this together. Let me know if I can help!