4 Tips to Become a Leader Role Model During COVID-19
How can you be a leader role model for your employees? The end of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic may soon be in sight, with a recent announcement by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announcing that their vaccine appears to be 90% effective against the virus. It’s a glimmer of hope in a year that has otherwise been riddled with social and political upheaval, natural disasters, and countless preventable deaths. However, even with news of a promising vaccine, it will likely be many months before countries begin immunizations. This means the reality of masks, handwashing, and physical distancing will still be with us into 2021. As such, those in professional leadership positions need to continue (or finally start!) being role models and cheerleaders for their teams and businesses during this pandemic long-haul.
It’s possible to become a leader with a few easy tips:
Care About People, Not Products
Personal stress is at an all-time high with increasing debt, job insecurity, lack of childcare, and fear of a novel virus that can potentially kill you or a loved one. The public and private sectors both seem to be learning more as the months progress, so many organizations are still divided on whether there should be a return to the office or an expansion of Work from Home (WFH) mandates. However, the same issue remains true across the board – employees want empathy, compassion, and understanding from their leaders. No worker wants to hear about CEO bonuses when they’ve been furloughed, or be badgered about project status reports when they’re trying to look after small children when daycares are closed. Instead, employees want to be given leeway on deadlines and responsibilities as they deal with their entire lives being upended when government mandates or life circumstances change at the drop of a hat.
Empathy must also extend to employees at businesses that have made the decision to return to physical office spaces. Leaders need to ensure they’re following public health recommendations and adhering to the same mask, wellness check, and physical distancing rules are their employees. Many workers may already feel unsafe and frustrated by returning to an office. Therefore, having a leader such as a boss or a supervisor, who skips out on temperature checks, walks around without a mask, and touches or crowds around, employees will only create more stress, uncertainty, and frustration.
The key is for leaders to care about their employees and their wellbeing because they’re the most important asset your business has.
Think on Your Feet
As mentioned, government direction has been changing rapidly as new waves of cases arise and new information about the virus emerges. Truly great business leaders need to be ready and able to accommodate new lockdown rules, sudden outbreaks within their business or team, or new requests for time off amongst stressed or ill employees. Leaders also need to ensure they’re demonstrating confidence and clarity with each new business or personal interruption. Confusion, misunderstandings, or mixed messages amongst employees can add yet more stress to an already toppling mountain. A leader who can deliver updates that are clear and concise is paramount for success in an environment that is rapidly shifting.
Being consistently clear in your messaging with your team also ensures you become a trusted source of information in a world with the rapid dissemination of misinformation. When your team knows they can turn to you for factual, clear, thorough information or advice you become a role model and beacon employees can turn to when they’re feeling stressed or unsure.
Create a List of Priorities and Reach Out More
With so many different personal and professional priorities jockeying for attention, a leadership role model needs to ensure that the most important work is completed first. A hierarchical list of tasks that needs to be completed can ensure employees are all focused on delivering the most important priorities within a company. This can help lessen the stress on employees who are currently having to make the hard decision of completing every single one of their ever-expanding list of professional tasks or ensuring their family is taken care of.
It’s also important for a leader to ensure they’re reaching out to their team even more than they were pre-pandemic. If you used to hold meetings to brainstorm or touch base with your team once a week or bi-monthly before COVID-19 hit, try to start having group meetings, or one-on-one check-ins more frequently. This can ensure that priorities aren’t drifting or becoming too much for employees. It also makes sure that if there is a problem, it can be caught and corrected early, before it gets out of hand.
Checking in with your team is important regardless of whether they’re furloughed or working. Knowing they have a leader who genuinely cares for their well-being can go a long way in making you a true role model in your business.
Celebrate Your Team
Money undoubtedly may be tight as the economy continues to suffer almost a year into the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean, as a leader, you can’t celebrate the successes your team has accomplished. In fact, taking the time to highlight the good your employees have done is an important habit to get into, regardless of a pandemic. Leaders who are present with their team, who know when something important has been accomplished, and who go out of their way to celebrate that fact are clear role models. A little commemoration goes a long way because when employees know the work they do matters, they’re more likely to put the extra effort in.
Celebrations don’t have to be bonuses if they’re not financially viable, but widespread recognition can help, especially by sharing the successes your team has accomplished with higherups or other teams within the company. Celebrate the monumentally hard work your employees have delivered while dealing with global upheaval, and let others know about it, too. Ensure there is recognition for the effort your team has been giving and reward it amply.
Leaders need to put aside the business world’s obsession with profit above all else and instead reach out to employees and treat them like the worthwhile human beings they are, particularly in this pandemic. Listen to your team’s concerns, make adjustments and concessions when needed, and take an active part in promoting public health recommendations to help ease the wealth of stress going around. COVID-19 doesn’t attack products or services, it attacks people. Therefore, people are where the focus should be. Compassionate, empathetic, and accommodating leaders who can understand that employees are a business’s greatest asset can rise to the occasion and become true leadership role models during the pandemic, and beyond.
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