When the first wave of COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown, business leaders scrambled to pivot out of necessity. Overnight, they had to make financial adjustments and staffing decisions to keep the business afloat. They had to reassure stakeholders, hone their public message, and implement health and safety measures. If being a great leader was difficult before, now it has become even tougher.
Most pressing, they had to steer employees through a sudden transition to remote work. And this happened abruptly and without knowing if it would last a couple of weeks or several months. But teams adapted and leadership strengthened in the new normal of this past year.
In fact, a recent poll from McKinsey & Company found that 78 percent of workers felt their organization’s response to the crisis was effective. While 80 percent felt their well-being was prioritized, 77 percent felt they were given the information to adjust.
The readjustment of a great leader
This data inspires confidence in the midst of such a difficult year. However, with no end to the pandemic in sight, your team still needs a resilient, strong, proactive, ultimately great leader to help them navigate the uncertainties ahead.
Use these five action steps to continue improving your leadership, no matter what the future has in store.
Practice compassion and emotional intelligence
Your team members are stretched thin and stressed out. While working from home, they have to balance projects and deadlines with family commitments and personal sanity. When transitioning back into the office, they have/will have to adapt after months of social distancing.
More than ever before, employees need a compassionate, emotionally intelligent leader. Your job is to be empathetic and show you care. Even simply allocating a few minutes to check in with each person on a weekly call can be a powerful way to show up for your employees with kindness and understanding.
What’s more, but being empathetic with your employees, you help them do the same. This boosts their emotional intelligence (EI), which then improves the business. That happens because EI accounts for 58 percent of overall job performance, according to the World Economic Forum.
Rally your team around a shared core mission
Beyond the pandemic, this year is rife with social upheaval. Both your customers and employees want to know that your business will stand by its values to make an impact. Now is the time to be clear on your organizational mission and walk the talk.
The thing is, only 41 percent of U.S. employees know what their company’s mission is, and just 27 percent believe in that mission, according to a Gallup survey. Yet, the same Gallup survey shared that one organization earned an 85 percent increase in net profits by building a culture around core values.
Get clear on your company mission and rally your team around it. This reminds everyone of the why behind what they do, boosting endurance and motivation in these chaotic times. Here’s how to keep your organizational culture alive through the pandemic.
Communicate transparently whenever possible
As we all know, there are a lot of conflicting reports in the news about this virus and its effect on business. Thus your team needs to hear from you about how their jobs—and the company as a whole—are faring. Make this a priority, updating your team on all relevant information regularly.
Be as transparent as you can in all communication memos. According to Orangefiery, 66 percent of employees find their organization trustworthy in its communication. Yet, the research also indicates that 32 percent want more transparency from their leaders, while 22 percent want clearer, more frequent messages.
You may not have all the answers your team members seek, but honest communication is a best practice you can’t overlook. Employees would rather hear “We’re figuring it out” than “Don’t worry about it, do your job” or worse, nothing at all.
Be flexible and adaptable in all decision making
When changes occur at a moment’s notice, you need to make swift, informed decisions on your feet. This requires adaptability. Thinking ahead to the future is important, but you must also be flexible enough to shift gears in another direction if a strategy does not work or you meet an unexpected hurdle.
In a recent analysis of 25 organizations, those who were most successful during the COVID-19 transition had an agile and adaptive business model, suggests Harvard Business School researchers. When you lead with an adaptable mindset, your team will learn how to efficiently course-correct too. This makes them sharper, quicker, more agile problem solvers in the long-term.
Make sure your team has the tools to connect
Since the pandemic began, 75 percent of surveyed remote workers are just as productive on individual tasks at home as they would be in the office, reports Boston Consulting Group. However, slightly more than 50 percent feel this way about collaborative tasks.
As the data also points out, employees with access to the right tools are twice as likely to collaborate productively than their counterparts. Equip your team members with the best communication, project management, and virtual collaboration platforms if you haven’t already.
These tools make it easier to share documents and multimedia files, track the progress of workflow, exchange feedback on assignments, and optimize internal communication. This reduces stress, making your employees’ lives easier while ensuring everyone is able to stay productive and get their work done.
Be a great leader during the pandemic
This is one leadership test you never saw coming, but it has ushered in a new normal that forced you to be the best leader you can.
What the future of business holds for us in a post-pandemic world still remains unknown, but you can lead with purpose and motivate your team to continue pushing forward in spite of all the curveballs.