As we emerge from COVID-19 restrictions, new challenges lie ahead. I have been asked by many clients to help them navigate the transition into a new reality. Regardless of whether you have been on the frontlines in an essential service or working remotely, the next few months are critical for planning your personal transition into the new reality. There is an opportunity to rebuild team focus, morale, and productivity, and a renewed feeling of belonging as we emerge into a post-pandemic world.
Here’s a few leadership tips to help you make the comeback better than the setback:
Connect Before You Expect. We all need our teams to be productive and focused, especially as we emerge from the disruption. Parenting over the past forty+ years has taught me (the hard way) that leadership in the home and at work is mostly about connection. When children are safe, relaxed, and cared about, they are more willing to receive our guidance and follow through on their responsibilities. Brain science tells us that this is true for all of us. We are all more likely to be accountable when our perspective is taken into consideration. People are emerging from the pandemic with a variety of emotions – anxiety, excitement, fear, loneliness, exhaustion, grief, self-doubt, and everything in between. It’s okay not to be okay. And it’s okay – in fact it is necessary for our well-being – to acknowledge what we are going through, what we’ve been through, and what we are up against going forward. Now is a great time to rebuild connections, listen carefully with compassion and empathy, and take the time to be there. Don’t be afraid of asking people about their mental health status. It’s not about fixing anybody or anything. It’s about community. Connect before you expect.
Think Win-Win. While many of your team are excited to get back into the workplace, many are also as excited to continue to work remotely. While flexibility from leaders will be required, even more important is the commitment to a win-win solution. Take the time to define the needs of the organization and the needs of your team members and make these explicit with everyone. Then take time to create a third alternative that serves both the employee and the organization. Remember – you can’t sink half a ship. You won’t succeed in the long run until everyone succeeds.
Reinforce Personal Responsibility. Personal responsibility is about giving to others what we expect from others. Making this comeback better than the setback means taking personal responsibility to come to work better and stronger than when we left. We all have a part to play in building – and rebuilding – a worthwhile place to work. Accountability isn’t about blaming or finger pointing or fault finding. It’s about taking ownership and recognizing that each of us does our part. Personal responsibility recognizes that waiting for someone to change is never a good strategy.
Make Belonging an Intention. A sense of belonging, or feeling part of something bigger than ourselves, is a fundamental human need. Knowing that our unique gifts are needed and valued gives us meaning and purpose. When people feel safe to voice their views and to be who they are, are included in decisions that impact them, and are listened to and valued for their perspective, it increases productivity. We all need to be recognized for what we bring and how our contribution and authentic voices and ideas can be powerful and make a difference. A sense of belonging can also mean giving credit when it’s due. You can’t take for granted or assume that everyone feels that they belong. You must be intentional at making it happen. I am committed to making my leadership programs more diverse and inclusive and so I have asked a senior executive from a community services agency whose mother was raised in the residential school system in Canada if she might consider joining and starting the classes of my live-stream masterclass with some smudging, an indigenous prayer, and some teachings from her people.
Attend To Your Authentic Leadership.
Authentic leadership means finding your own path and bringing that more fully to the world. As leaders, we spend our lives helping and building others, but do we have an authentic vision for ourselves? Leading authentically requires a strong identity, a compelling sense of self. Thelonious Monk, the jazz musician, said once that “a genius is a person most like themself.” Being an authentic leader is synonymous with being one’s self. It is that simple, and it is also that difficult. The authentic leadership visioning process (which we teach in our masterclass
) is about creating something that’s true to your values, to who you are and to your dreams and that will make a lasting impact on the world. It’s easy to say, but it’s hard to do. In essence, it’s not what we can do or what we should do, it’s what we want to do or what we may feel called to do. I encourage you to take some uninterrupted time this summer to reflect deeply on what the next ten years of your life would look like if it were aligned with your truest self. Assess the gaps between your vision and your reality and get to work to close those gaps.
Many people have recently asked me whether we are going to emerge from the pandemic as better people and better leaders. My response is a quote from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” Ford was referring to the power of belief. Our beliefs are potentially the biggest single force at work in our personal and organizational lives. We all face a fundamental choice as we go forward. You can have trusting beliefs or distrusting beliefs about a problem. The problem remains the same. It’s just how we perceive it. Distrusting beliefs put us in a victim mindset: “There’s nothing we can do. This is horrible. We’re stuck. We’re at the mercy of poor choices and bad leadership.” A trusting belief says, “This is challenging; we were not prepared. But if we stay true to who we are, our values, our vision and our mission; if we treat each other with dignity; if we believe in the spirit of generosity; if we stay true to those beliefs, we can get through this.” Let’s decide to make this comeback better than the setback.