Learn these three leadership practices to better connect with your teams, even during a pandemic. Start by recognizing the environment your team operates in.
It’s been nine long months in which we no longer shake hands, meet in person or see each other except on Zoom. The stress and loss affect us emotionally, mentally and physically. And that’s whether or not we ever test positive for the virus, which continues to be a threat. No wonder many of us are suffering from pandemic fatigue.
As this global storm tests our endurance like never before, it’s relevant to remember the saying, “Leaders bring the weather.” As leaders, we set the mood within our teams and organizations, especially in difficult times. The bad news? This battering crisis continues for now. The good news? We’ve survived long enough to know what three practices can make leaders like you resilient, effective, and positive as we weather the pandemic storm.
Empathy is the emotional glue that connects us, when we can listen, feel for one another, and sincerely understand what others are experiencing. It means being present, engaging at a deeper heart level with genuine concern. People are yearning for emotional connection these days.
We recommend you start every meeting with the simple practice of asking the question, “How are you doing? Really doing?” If someone appears to be struggling, follow-up with a one-on-one check-in. Also, revisit your open-door policy. Prop that door wide open, figuratively of course, and be welcoming and safe at a time when our world isn’t. Relationships can be strengthened with even a few minutes of sincere conversation. A true win, win.
Vulnerability is often considered a weakness, when in fact it requires courage. In her book, “Dare to Lead,” Brené Brown describes vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure." It’s a conscious, unsettling release of control. Effective leaders find the courage to admit when they don’t have a solution or make a mistake. They practice and get more comfortable not having the answers, and as a result, seek input from others.
We suggest you start by consciously asking more questions and encouraging team engagement. Teams that have a greater sense of vulnerability have higher trust levels, with less second-guessing. As a leader who values vulnerability you can create an environment of accountability and compassion.
Authenticity means you show up in ways that reflect who you truly are and how you feel. Rather than showing the Facebook version of yourself, or armoring up and presenting, you show up and share your whole self. Authenticity can come in the form of addressing tough issues courageously; speaking the truth; and applying your core values to make decisions.
Challenge yourself. Focus on being brave, even uncomfortably authentic. How? By being direct, candid, and honest, while still showing respect and love for your team. You’ll find it surprisingly freeing! Eventually, a sense of balance and openness becomes the norm, your team existing ‘above the line’ in that ideal space that defines a low drama, high performing, healthy work environment.
Construction zone ahead: our findings reveal that effective leaders continually invest in their personal growth. If the practices of empathy, vulnerability, and authenticity could be ordered on Amazon, they’d be in as much demand as hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. Instead, each one takes practice and long-term commitment on your part. But the proven results, of improved job satisfaction and higher performance overall, make this work important and rewarding.
So roll up your sleeves — not for the vaccine yet — but to reflect on and explore the practices that can make you a better, more resilient leader at a time when your team needs you most.
About the author:
Tom is the CEO/Co-Founder of StarQuest Group, an international leadership development firm based in Colorado that works with a variety of organizations, from start-up ventures and fast-growing mid-market companies to large global corporations. For the past 25+ years, Tom has been working with leaders, teams, and organizations to increase their effectiveness; and is dedicated to increasing the health, vitality, and productive of the workplace by developing more effective leaders.
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