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By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success
Business leaders face pressure every day. Pressure to deliver a product to their customers or to meet internal goals, for example. Good leaders shoulder this pressure and translate it into actionable direction. Their leadership shields front-line workers from stress and anxiety, while getting results. That said, the combination of COVID-19 and workplace leadership is brand new territory for most companies.
Businesses face prolific and unprecedented challenges due to coronavirus. In the face of new and still unknown obstacles, the workplace needs leaders more than ever. Good leadership in the time of pandemic goes beyond the ability to channel pressure to results. Leaders need to forge ahead and offer support in ways they might not be familiar with.
People are scared, frustrated, anxious, and a broad mix of other worried emotions. There’s no telling when the pandemic will end, what course it will take in the coming months, or how we as a society will respond to it. There’s a lot up in the air. It’s up to workplace leaders to keep employees grounded.
Good emotional leadership during uncertain times is a powerful force. It can boost confidence and provide clarity, and help employees focus when they might be prone to distraction. To be a good emotional leader you need to project stability. Encourage employees to focus not on what they can’t control, but what they can control. Their work is a great example. Show them the brighter side of the situation—they’re still gainfully employed at a company that cares about their wellbeing.
More than anything, leaders need to be emotionally available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employee fears and uncertainties will creep up from time to time. When they do, they need someone to reassure them with honesty, confidence, and empathy.
There’s been a huge embrace of technology since the pandemic started. Companies seeking adaptive solutions to telecommuting, workplace distancing, and modified operations have found it in technology. For employees, it often means a crash course in using new tech and rapid integration of new processes into their routine.
Workplace leaders need to assume the role of technocrats. Get familiar with the technologies you expect your employees to use and become an oracle who can answer questions when asked. Not only will this reduce the already-strained workload on the company IT department, it’ll expedite employee acclimation to new apps and processes. You don’t need to be an infallible source of software expertise—you just need to provide guidance to the extent you expect employees to use new tech.
For many workplaces, every new day of operation during the coronavirus pandemic is a new day of uncertainty. New floor plans, decentralized teams, and evolving employee needs all require different management approaches. Leaders need agility to maintain order and clarity.
Critical thinking is the key to agility. Workplace leaders need to quickly address the needs of their teams under the mindset of a workplace operating during COVID-19. How can you provide employees the tools, resources, and support they need without deviating from safety efforts? How do you manage in-house employees vs. remote workers vs. their interactions with clients? What’s the hierarchy of priorities right now and how can you adapt to meet them? Leaders need to constantly adjust and pivot to keep up with the pandemic. Agility is paramount.
Policy changes—temporary and permanent—are critical as workplaces strive to stay safe during the pandemic. For these policies to be effective, employees need to embrace and follow them. It starts at the top, with leaders.
Leaders need to not only observe new workplace policies themselves, but encourage others to mind them as well. Whether it’s social distancing policies, hand washing protocols, occupancy parameters, or any other policy meant to keep employees safe, leaders pave the way for compliance. When employees see senior staff following protocols, they’ll take them seriously and mind their own behaviors as well.
All this, on top of traditional leadership
As they navigate new technologies and act as stewards for new workplace policies, good leaders also need to fulfill their core roles. They need to keep business operations running smoothly, and to get the most out of their subordinates. They’re responsible for meeting the goals and expectations of the company, consumers, and stakeholders. They’re expected to shoulder the pressure that comes with their position.
Recognize COVID-19 and workplace leadership within your organization, and provide these leaders with as much support and as many resources as you can muster. Good leadership is what will help companies weather the pandemic and emerge strong after it’s over.
Keep reading: Workplace Resources For A Post COVID-19 Environment