As COVID-19 crashed into your reality, you rapidly made changes.
Some were practical, some strategic, some were externally imposed and some you decided. Entire workforces have “new normals,” whether working from home or working within imaginary 6-foot cubes that follow a person around.
Your people rose to the occasion and rolled up their sleeves.
But the adrenalin is wearing off. Perhaps, as one leader said, you’re “starting to see the fraying edges.” It may not be the Super Bowl, and we are certainly not half-way through this, but it IS time to make adjustments. What’s working? What isn’t? What immediate decisions can be re-evaluated based on the long horizon for the crisis?
Maybe you’re doing lots of Zoom meetings to provide routine and check-ins. That’s good. But do they routinely run long? Is the duration and tempo right for your other leaders? Are your extroverts on stage too much while your introverts tap out?
Ask your people for feedback. Give them multiple mechanisms to provide it. Realize that every leader – including you – is making mistakes during this time. Learn from them. Adapt quickly.
A friend and I were chatting about the tension between giving flexibility and grace while still maintaining high standards and routine. George has led through a lot of chaos in his military and civilian careers, and I value his perspective. He said it comes down to two things: double down on relationships and do everything you can to reinforce normalcy and familiarity.
Double down on relationships.
You are learning more about your people than ever before. There’s something about weathering storms together. As you “troop the line,” be alert to the variety of responses among your people and what you don’t yet know about them. Become the best listener you’ve ever been. Ask what adjustments they need you to make. What questions might increase their candor with you? Wait for the answers. Also, stay alert for signs of burnout – a clear threat from now to the end of the crisis.
Reinforce normalcy and familiarity.
Routines and standards are part of that. What else will increase normalcy for your people? Maybe their home office needs their favorite office chair. In the bounds of “stay at home” orders and with proper accountability, maybe you let them pillage the empty office. Or, consider how to break bread together. I’ve heard of both work lunches and Sunday family dinner being shared via videoconference. Another leader keeps his Zoom app open, inviting impromptu video calls – the new open door policy. As senior leaders, are you more available than ever?
Crisis can magnify the smallest things, and you can make a difference with the smallest changes.
What is the next round of adjustments for your team?