The importance of good Leadership post COVID-19

With the pending reestablishment of workplace environments following the global pandemic, how do we resume our work environments and reengage our teams? How do we return to “business as usual”?

Leadership is the key but most importantly effective leadership to ensure inspiration, reassurance and the upmost support, empathy & compassion.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on leaders in all types of businesses and beyond. COVID-19 has spread fear among employees at all levels. This is a humanitarian fear and that of livelihood. The scale of the outbreak and its unpredictability has made it challenging for businesses to react accordingly but what matters the most is the remobilisation of workplaces and teams. Reorientation, control, and strong emotional balance and support are imperative so let’s explore specific contributors to ensure the most effective transition possible.

Motivation
Knowing how to motivate your workforce will help ensure they’re enthusiastically bringing their best efforts as the crisis passes each day and helping the company meets its goals. But how do we achieve this motivation in practical terms. What does it actually look like?

Identify from individuals their own personal drivers for motivation in an initial meeting in teams. It is important to remember that different people have different drivers for motivation. Exploring what your team need as individuals will allow a customised approach therefore a more effective outcome.

Dedicating natural motivators from the team derived from Insights Discovery or Myers-Briggs testing may be appointed to drive morale and support the wider team. These motivational ambassadors can encourage team members where appropriate. Holding team-building exercises every so often to help team members bond and work together more effectively. Conducting regular temperature checks to establish the mood of the team. These checks can offer particularly important insights during periods of change or uncertainty when morale is impacted. Organising a weekly team lunch or night out so everyone can spend time together and get to socialise once again are great ways of reengaging your team.

Stress, Anxiety & Trepidation
Uncertain, unfamiliar, frightened, insecure are just a few emotions employees will feel when returning to their work routines following the crisis, leaders need to give advanced and clear instructions to prepare the team step by step. Then provide a portal such as an online chat or forum to start business communication in the way of a gradual return to work. This will give clear directions and next steps so that people have focus and something to work towards. Leaders will also be able to reassure team members that they are aware of their stress level and share with them on how to reduce stress in the workplace which can also be communicated to teams prior to the return to work.

Bringing teams together

It is imperative that leaders inspire and pull their whole team together, gaining refocus and reorganisation to remake the team and influence the team to encourage productivity.

1. Be yourself
It is vital for leaders to be consistently authentic to ensure that the team are comfortable to have effective and transparent communication and to maintain credibility. Leaders should encourage teams to let the personalities of the team shine and not disguise how they feel.

2. Consistently communicate the plan
Teams need to know the plan, and the next steps to take to have focus on goals when remobilising. Awareness of business changes for a team both during and post COVID-19 crisis and the impact to the business moving forward is crucial to team individuals. A lack of communication could instil fear and confusion.

3. Schedule fun
The best-performing teams have fun together. As a leader, one of the ways to keep your team’s attention and enthusiasm up is to build fun into your workday post COVID-19. Having been through such a serious episode it is important to bring the team together with fun activities to overcome any negativity.

Whatever type of team, being yourself as a leader, communicating the plan and the next detail consistently, and scheduling in the fun all make for a more productive and effective work environment.

Listening & empathising

Leaders should acknowledge the personal and professional challenges that employees and their loved ones experience during the crisis. COVID-19 has impacted so many elements of day to day life and the crisis will affect people in different ways, leaders should pay careful attention to how people are struggling and take corresponding measures to support them. Empathy is powerful in this case and the understanding by leaders that “I know how you are feeling” is priceless.

It is vital that leaders not only demonstrate empathy but open themselves to empathy from others and remain attentive to their own well-being. As stress, fatigue, and uncertainty build up during a crisis, leaders might find that their abilities to process information, to remain level headed, and to exercise good judgment diminish.

Social skills & Team bonding

With teams having spent a substantial length of time completely or partially isolated from extended social situations it is important for businesses to encourage gradual socialisation within the workplace. This brings a lot of value to a business through regular social events that benefit employees, your workplace and if done right the community. This is an investment in company culture and employees.

A social committee is a great practical solution to ensure the dedication to social activity. This could be an online community via an app or with regular structured meetings.

As difficult as situations like these might be, they also provide unique opportunities to build trust within teams. Going through a traumatic situation with others brings you closer together and helps build powerful bonds. It also builds strength, character and confidence. As difficult as it is to tackle a tough situation, the company and team involved can become more resilient than ever.

Leadership skills & support

Leaders should be transparent and knowledgeable in remobilising, empowering, and executing teams. Trust is everything in leadership and teams want experts showing them the way.

1. Listen
Be a good listener, encourage others to talk about them and how they are feeling and what they care about, if leaders listen to team members, they are much more likely to listen in return.

2. Show respect for everyone
The best way to earn respect is to give it, and this is crucial for communication. Respect is the foundation of any relationship, and is the ultimate social skill. If people respect you, they will trust you, be honest with you and work hard for you.

3. Be prepared & be transparent
Leaders should make sure they are prepared. Upon return to work following COVID-19 teams will be keen to know how their benefits are affected i.e. bonuses based on company profits and annual leave usage. Such important points are important to get right and communicate effectively.

4. Enthusiasm and Positive Thinking
Negative conversations and environments lead to negative thinking, and negative thoughts lead to self-doubt. Turning negative thoughts or actions into positive ones is a great way to build relationships and increase employee engagement. If individuals know they can consult with leaders when things are tough, it shows trust, and being able to find the best in situations and see the best in others is a great way to build trust and connections with the team.

Communication

During and following a crisis of this nature, thoughtful, frequent communication shows that leaders are following the situation and adjusting their responses as they learn more. This helps them reassure teams that they are confronting the crisis. Leaders should take special care to see that each audience’s concerns, questions, and interests are addressed.

Communications should continue both during and once the crisis has passed. Offering an optimistic, realistic outlook can have a powerful effect on employees inspiring them to support the company’s recovery.

Communicate regularly, openly and honestly with the team members as this can help make them feel valued, involved and more secure. Communication should be open and approachable. Let team members know that you want to communicate with them and that you value their input.

Leaders should consider holding valuable “clinics” for teams to use as an open door approach so team members can talk to you face-to-face when they need to or via a video conferencing portal. Clear and frequent communication is the key and will boost your team’s success keeping the team up to date as soon as possible if something in the organisation changes that affects the team to prevent gossip and negativity. As well as “clinics” create opportunities for the team to communicate in regular team meetings, giving team members the chance to raise any issues or questions they might have. If more personal or sensitive topics need to be discussed, it may be more appropriate to hold one-to-one meetings with the individuals in question. 10 minute weekly catch-ups with employees could potentially nip problems in the bud or address any confusion. Team members can openly discuss ideas, questions, and concerns without fear of repercussions

Communicate effectively leading up to the return to work of team members (particularly those who have been furloughed), this could involve the method of flexible working remotely to allow for teams to prepare themselves for the workplace. Leaders should commence communication via video conference meetings during this time to communicate business information, dedicate individuals to support the team and commence business operations.

What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviours and mind sets that will prevent them from overreacting to the impact of the crisis and help them look ahead. When people feel a sense of safety, trust and empowerment, growth will return.