The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a series of changes to the way we work. Our workplaces, the way we do business and the way we manage the team have undergone a fundamental reset. From managing teams working remotely to employees experiencing mental health or financial hardship – the pandemic has led to many new leadership challenges.
While leaders of today still require the ‘traditional’ leadership skills, they will also require a greater degree of emotional intelligence (EQ) to build relationships and trust among their teams. We are in an era of flexible work, and while the concept of EQ is not new, a change of how leaders support and communicate with their teams needs to adapt to this new work culture.
What it takes
While honesty has always been important in effective leadership, in this moment of the pandemic, today’s workforce requires candor. Be real. By sharing your own vulnerabilities, challenges and fears within established boundaries, leaders will show employees that it is safe to feel and discuss emotions at work.
Now, of all times, if leaders conceal their concerns in an attempt be kind or shelter team members from the challenges you as the leader and the organization overall are faced with, people will not understand expectations and things will not add up. Team members today really need to hear specific ways that their leaders are in all of this with them.
Consistent, transparent, and fact-based communications will remain key for leaders moving forward. Today’s workplace is fueled with insecurity, anxiety and skepticism and people respond to the known (even if the news is not good), far better than the unknown.
It is important for team members to understand the current organizational position and a clear vision of what success looks like. However be mindful to not overcommunicate during a crisis. Each team member is faced with daily challenges outside of the norm so evaluate your communication by considering what does your team need to know vs what would they like to know.
Team members expect and desire honesty and transparency and avoiding difficult conversations can erode trust more than it can preserve faith in both the leadership, and the organization.
The key to performance is human motivation, and a key component of motivation is relatedness. In today’s world, where so many elements of everyone’s lives have been impacted by this pandemic, and all very different, it is up to the leader to set the tone on ensuring relatedness.
It is no secret that employee engagement is key to a thriving workplace – essential for supporting productivity and increasing profitability. Feel safe to take risks and create a space where teams can speak their mind and you are all working towards shared, common goals, as a team.
Trust building helps teams navigate ambiguity and stay committed to managing the unknown with confidence and embrace this time of change as an opportunity to learn new skills and grow.
In a world where so much of lives, in today’s context, is uncertain and unpredictable, leaders need to encourage autonomy. Allowing employees to make their own decisions on how, when and where they work – effectively helping them become masters of their work will be integral across many industries.
Leading the change
The need for agility while leading this change will be of equal importance. Removing barriers and creating short term wins will be critical in building momentum towards a positive change and a motivated team.
During times of crisis, leaders must reflect on their own emotions (self-awareness) and understand that a leader who demonstrates care, compassion, and concern for the health of their teams will have a team that will live those same values at work and the clients they work with.
There is no rule book for leading through a world changing global pandemic, but we know for sure that we cannot care for others without being healthy ourselves. At a basic level, take the time to do the things that bring you joy each day. Be sure to fill your own tank. We are all human.
There is no doubt that leadership will be one of the most heavily tested skills throughout this pandemic. Leaders are navigating a volatile, uncertain, and complex landscape and doing it amidst their own uncertainties and pandemic fueled challenges. Awareness, vulnerability, accountability, and compassion will be critical for leaders of today.