By Charles Gerhold, M.A., Senior Consultant
My wife and I, like so many people, are working from home. We’ve staked our claims to work areas. We are focused on our jobs while supporting our daughter as she finishes her Sophomore year of high school from home. We are lucky. Our respective employers are weathering this storm well and we are in fact busier than ever during this crisis. We are thankful for our good fortune.
We have a new habit of taking a walk around the neighborhood after work. Spring is here and a lot of folks are outside. Even with social distancing, we can say “hi” to neighbors from across the street. I typically offer the obligatory “How are you?” which is now usually met with, “Hanging in there.” Hanging in there. That is what we are all doing.
“Hanging in there” is a perfect description of how we are all feeling. It describes the limbo of wellness we are experiencing. Not doing great. Not doing horribly. Vacillating between feeling okay and not okay. Navigating the uncertainty of what comes next professionally, personally, and financially. Trying to balance optimism for the future with honest pragmatism about the present.
As an executive coach I am hearing the same response from my clients. Hanging in there while navigating the crisis, making high stakes decisions, and managing increased workloads. Hanging in there while contingency planning for an uncertain future and trying to support employees who are hanging in there too. As a leader it is important to recognize how the uncertainty of this crisis impacts you and your team. Ambiguity is stressful and the unknown can be scary.
Here are some steps you can take to navigate these uncertain times and maintain you own and your team’s effectiveness.
- Stay connected: Your workload as a leader will likely increase during this crisis. Make sure you remain visible and available to your team. Set clear expectations. Let others know your preferred method to be contacted. Schedule frequent and recurring one-on-one and team check-ins. Discuss business, but check–in on a personal level too.
- Aggressively address the unknown: Deliver clear and explicit messages about what you know and how it will impact the team. Discuss what you are hearing about the market. Set the expectations about what changes are coming. It is also important to clarify what is not known and what you and your organization are doing to get answers. And sometimes there won’t be answers. Be open and honest about that too.
- Express appreciation and compassion: Boost others’ self-esteem by showing your appreciation. Thank your team for their continued focus and extra effort. Be patient when others are having an off day. Hold others accountable while also recognizing what they need. Express your understanding for what they are going through.
- Demonstrate realistic optimism: It may not feel like it, but this crisis will pass. Address issues honestly while also communicating optimism for the future. Remind yourself and others the situation is temporary; bad times do not last forever.
- Take care of yourself: Working from home can blur the lines between work time and personal time. Focus on creating the right balance between work and personal needs. Just as you show compassion for others, be compassionate with yourself. You’re not perfect. You are allowed to feel bad. You are “hanging in there” too. Share your personal experience with others – it will likely be cathartic for you and will model for others a mature response to emotional stress during this time of crisis.
Leading is hard in the best of times. Crisis situations test our resilience – the stakes are higher and the future is uncertain. Stay focused on driving results and strengthening your organization for the future. Do what you can to take care of yourself and those with whom you work. Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt. Stay connected and support each other.
And hang in there. It will get better.
For more ideas about how to support resilient leadership in your organization, reach out to us at 510-463-0333.