Many of the movies that I watch tend to portray leaders as people who are always confident; always know where they are going and never seem to have a moment’s doubt. In the season of coronavirus, I wonder whether these portrayals of leaders are helpful? Are there other leadership traits that would be more beneficial for us to see on display during these times?
As you lead people through this pandemic, it can be tempting to put on a show of bravado, mistakenly assuming that this will give your team confidence to move forward. But the evidence is actually to the contrary.
Research now indicates that employees would rather you give them the information straight. In other words, whatever is going on, however the pandemic is affecting the organisation, tell us.
This can seem counter-intuitive. Surely, we should just be saying that everything is going to be ok. However, recent results from a survey on resilience, by ADP Research Institute, indicate that changes at work initiated by the pandemic have in fact increased resilience. If at least 5 or more changes have occurred, then people are 13 times more likely to be resilient.
This suggests, as Marcus Buckingham of ADP says, that what we mind is the unknown. If you (leaders) tell us straight what is happening then resilience in the workforce increases.
The fact is, resilience is developed through adversity. It is more likely to develop when leaders are open with their teams. When people know what is happening, they can figure out how they are going to deal with it. But if employees feel like you are not telling them everything, they will be left with a feeling of the unknown for which they cannot plan.
Not only are we dealing with the disruption the pandemic is bringing in terms of onsite practice, there is also the fact that many teams are now working remotely. In order to build resilience remotely, it is critical that the leader is authentic in their communication.
What does that mean? It means telling your team how it is affecting you. Tell them that you’re finding the impact of the crisis tough and that you understand that this will be affecting each member of the team in different ways. This is authentic, it is important to show that you are human. Beyond that you can say what you do know: that this too will pass. And what won’t change: despite the pandemic, our values are still the same, we still have customers to serve, and we will serve them to the best of our ability.
There will be challenges. But there will also be opportunities. The key to keeping employee engagement high is to be authentic about where you are, confident about where you see things going, and to communicate clearly about how things will affect working practices and individual team members.
How will you communicate? Be clear, be explicit, and make sure you communicate regularly and check in with your team.
Look out for more of this another time.