Though we are now months into this new pandemic-informed reality, there is still a lot left in the unknown.
We’re unsure of when employees will be able to return to work in person, we don’t know how our respective industries will weather the storm, we’re wondering if our individual jobs are secure – the list goes on. Such a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty can trigger fear, anxiety, and depression, all of which take severe tolls on your employees’ general wellbeing and performance at work.
The best leaders will see this uncertainty as what it should be: a call to action. Now more than ever, leaders need to meet their teams in the unknown, and help them as they navigate murky waters. Employees are calling for constant and thorough communication, and some semblance of stability, and it is the leader’s job to help them focus forward.
However, the old conventions of leadership aren’t holding up in this new normal. Projecting an infallible and inhuman image of confidence and strength may work in some contexts, but you may discover the more effective strategy is to lead with your heart.
As you meet your people in the unknown, don’t be afraid of coming face to face with a plurality of conflicting, messy emotions. Use one-on-one time to ask employees how they’re doing, what they’re thinking, what they’re hoping for, and use those moments of connection to tailor your response. If you can identify how each individual needs you to show up for them, you will have a much easier time building a cohesive and resilient team that performs through good times and bad.
As you work to reframe uncertainty as opportunity, it’s okay to realize – and perhaps even admit – that you don’t hold all the answers. You can still articulate a sense of hope despite battling your own fears; the very gesture of reaching out and just being with your team goes a long way. Be honest and transparent about your own emotions as you tend to theirs. This will help mitigate the discomfort and stigma of “unproductive uncertainty.”
It is often said that times of crisis show a leader’s true colors, and this current moment is the perfect chance to display yours. If you can demonstrate to your employees that you see them, hear them, and are actively working to aid them in their personal struggles, they will continue to follow you once the bigger picture comes back into focus.
Though we can’t anticipate what’s on the other side of this uncertainty, we can use our innate humanity to prepare for it.
Need help supporting your employees through this uncertain time? Learn more about our back-to-work consulting and training services.