In this [considered pause] truly unprecedented time, we understand that organizational leaders have been facing new and pressing challenges every single day. In response, a panel of coaches from Vantage Leadership Consulting came together during the month of April to share their thinking around leading through adversity, as well as address common issues that our clients have shared with us. Our 5-part video series has since been released through weekly installments, but summaries and links to each video can be found below. While the series was initially developed as a resource to address the changes being driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to note that many of these key tenets are relevant to challenges leaders face in times of economic, political, and social crisis. As such, we encourage viewers to leverage these insights in the critical conversations arising around the Black Lives Matter movement.
VIDEO 1: How Should Leaders Be Communicating During This Time?
In Part 1 of our series, our coaches shared their thinking on how leaders should be communicating with their teams and the broader organization during this time of transition, and potentially, remote working. Overall, we believe in times of tragedy, our actions should start with the human element in mind. It is essential to keep employees front and center throughout each and every decision made. Further, we find communication is most effective when it is delivered consistently and transparently. This has to start from the top down, as true change can only happen when it is fully adopted by leadership and employees. Leaders should be looking to communicate more broadly and deeply in their organizations; as such, they may consider utilizing a team or task force dedicated to disseminating the right messages. Finally, it is important to remember that communication is not a one-way street—this is a time to create dialogues, foster conversations, and have the patience to listen to one another.
VIDEO 2: Is it Possible for Leaders to Over-Communicate During This Time?
In the second installment, our coaches tackle the question of how much communication is too much communication—can leaders be over-communicating with their employees? In short: no. However, the content of one’s messages and tone of their delivery are critical to how information is received, and this is even more relevant to the remote working conditions that are many people’s new reality. We encourage leaders to be thoughtful in their communication, and know that it is okay to be transparent and honest about what you do and do not know. If you are concerned about overwhelming your employees, be mindful to pair your increased frequency of communication with increased empathy, and soften messages where appropriate. Now more than ever, people are looking to their senior leaders for cues on how to act and react; as such, we encourage executives to lead with a sense of calm and model self-care behaviors. Above all else, leaders need to be sending clear and consistent messages—with all of the chaos in the world impacting how organizations and individuals can conduct business, now is not the time for internal organizational inconsistency. If possible, consider leveraging leaders who are known for their earnest and prudent communication to help.
VIDEO 3: How Do Leaders Model Resilience?
Part 3 is dedicated to discussing ways in which leaders can model resilience. The COVID-19 virus is quickly evolving and changing the way we operate on a daily basis—there are no definitive answers or solutions. As such, it is a leader’s duty to speak calmly and authentically; they are not responsible for knowing all of the answers, and it would be a disservice to themselves and others to project a greater level of confidence and assuredness than they actually feel. Further, leading in a virtual context is very different from what the majority of people are used to; as such, we encourage leaders to check in frequently with their employees and ask for updates (i.e., on both a personal and professional level). Ask open-ended questions to create dialogue, and ask people how they are doing—more importantly, be patient, truly listen to answers, and respond directly. Above all else: be a good human being. The way you communicate with others can be more important than what is actually said.
VIDEO 4: How Should Leaders Be Using Their Time?
Part 4 focuses in on how leaders should be using their time. Our coaches recognize the challenges that many people are facing in the current working climate. We encourage leaders to beware of the societal pressures of what they “could be” or “should be” doing with their time, especially if they are working from home. No longer having a commute does not always translate to having free time to read more books, pick up a new hobby, or learn a new skill. These pressures can in fact distract leaders and prevent them from being focused and decisive. The most important thing leaders can do is take care of themselves and their organization. Recognize when you are overwhelmed and need to take a step away, take (and encourage others to take) short walks to keep energy and productivity high. It is okay to not always feel okay; we are all continuing to adjust. A helpful measure leaders can take is to keep a record of how they have pivoted or adjusted processes during this time. In the future, when there is time to reflect on their learnings, they may find their innovations useful for a broader array of circumstances.
VIDEO 5: What Can We Learn About Managing Others During This Time?
The final installment of our leading through adversity series centers around what we can learn about managing others during the COVID-19 era. This is a trying time, and though there are certainly industries slowing down and feeling the negative effects from virus implications, many people are finding themselves busier than usual. With all of the organizational changes and transitions, we encourage leaders to ensure they are taking care of themselves and allowing others to help when possible (e.g., find more opportunities to delegate). With limited opportunities to supervise others in a virtual setting, leaders will need to find new ways to establish trust with their colleagues. They can promote and encourage others’ trust in their own capabilities and work ethic by holding themselves accountable and being sure to deliver on their promises. Though the COVID-19 virus has created many issues and presented a number of hurdles for people, leaders should find time to appreciate the way many people are stepping up right now—ultimately, they may find that they have underrated their employee’s capabilities to achieve and succeed on their own, and overrated their need to manage in order for that success to happen.
What have you learned about leading through turmoil in the last few months? How is your organization changing as a result, and how are you continuing to learn today? Share with us in the comments below!