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The coronavirus crisis changed the world overnight. Remote work is the new normal, and organizational priorities have shifted. Alongside the highly contagious virus that’s out there, people are experiencing negative emotions. Some are anxious due to the risks of the pandemic. Others are overwhelmed as daily life has been turned on its head. For many people, feelings of frustration are building into anger because they are worried about losing their livelihood. People fear the impact on their immediate families and are struggling to find ways to deal with the new reality.
For company leaders, the way you live and breathe has changed, including the way you de-stress. Going to the gym and meeting for drinks during Happy Hour have come to a halt. So, what is there to do to take some of the pressure away?
Here are six strategies leaders can draw upon to build their inner-net, preserve their emotional strength, and safeguard their employee’s emotional well-being during this and other times of crisis.
1. Healthy emotional hygiene
We know misery loves company, and emotional contagion is very real. When leaders mimic an emotion, it typically evokes that same emotion within them. The reverse can also occur. One Harvard Business Review article, The Contagion We Can Control, highlights how embracing a positive emotional contagion through showing kindness, adopting mindfulness techniques, and connecting with high-quality people, even in the virtual world, can positively increase your mood.
Leaders can invest their energy into purposefully expressing gratitude, focusing on positive and uplifting moments, or accessing online resources to help them and their employees to learn new skills. By investing in techniques that help leaders stay calm, people around you will begin to mimic that same emotion as well.
2. Safety in the organization
Employees need you to understand their anxieties, frustrations, and pain points to be able to support them before expecting them to perform at their fullest potential. Leaders must prioritize connections and meet their people where they are rather than where you want them to be. This is how you build trust and prepare employees to handle a pandemic or similar crisis. Use virtual team building to explore new ways to remain connected, to share what presses people buttons, and to delve into what inspires them to support each other to move towards the team goals.
3. Say what you mean and mean what you say
Leaders must project calm and aim for honest, transparent, and flexible communication. Daily changes, and at times, hourly decisions are made that likely will change the next day. People will criticize, and no one will be immune to the experience. When dealing with vulnerability, honesty will assist you to stay in your lane of truth and transparency and to let people know that you don’t have the answers. When you do have the answers, you will feed the information through the appropriate communication channels.
4. Shaping your virtual interactions
The reality of remote work will be new for many. Setting up basic standards and rules will be crucial for establishing shared expectations for performance. Understanding how each team member operates, recognizing their interpersonal needs, and investing energy into recognizing individual and team accomplishments place you and your team in the best possible position in achieving outcomes.
Checking-in individually and as a team creates perspective, highlights fears and frustrations, and creates opportunities for growth in a world were instability, ambiguity and uncertainty are driving forces. Address what you can and can’t control to position everyone for the future.
Impressive, a digital marketing agency, made the switch from work to home, placing the well-being of their people first. Despite adjustments, the agency embraced virtual team huddles. Now it’s a weekly wrap-up on Fridays and after-hour virtual drinks on Google Hangouts to reflect and celebrate the wins of the week.
5. Negative distancing
As important as social distancing is within the current climate, negative distancing is just as critical. Viruses thrive on connection, and there is no difference when it comes to people who immerse themselves in sharing negativity. Your appetite for paying attention to negativity is an evolutionary hand-me-down from cavemen ancestors. The way we override our default setting is to:
- Recognize what is happening when negative patterns get activated and practice doing something different every time.
- When you experience harmful self-dialogue activities, approach your inner voice with kindness. Adopt “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” to treat yourself with the same compassion.
- Limit your contact with the number of negative people on virtual platforms.
- Implement boundaries through identifying your limits, what is negotiable and non-negotiable, notice your feelings, observe your environment, and above all, permit yourself to increase your sense of self-control.
- Celebrate small victories and adopt a belief that mistakes are just feedback and an opportunity to grow.
6. Focus on the human within the leader
When you genuinely care for people and authentically build relationships to give, rather than gain, you expand your ability to influence others. When you come from a place of integrity and focus on the human being, you build real professional relationships where vulnerability is respected, fears are acknowledged, and anxieties of what the future holds are shared.
Today is the day to pull together — to talk about the meaning of leadership with your people, to explore their leadership stories, and to discover how they want people to recognize the qualities within themselves. By sharing experiences, leaders illuminate the path for others to stand with confidence, share their leadership journey, and celebrate their messages of gratitude.