Your employees are dealing with a lot right now.
If it’s not the effects of the unpredictable pandemic, the tectonic economic changes are rattling everyone from top to bottom in your organization. Add to that the societal and political issues that have everyone on edge and concerned about the future. Then there’s the “new normal” of “no normal.” No wonder it feels like uncharted territory. Whew!
So, what do your people need from you as a leader right now?
With “people being people” and all, this immense pressure and disruption means that members of your team need a level of understanding and support from you that has been amped up by the current conditions.
Where to begin? Focus on five issues (some would say opportunities) in your team’s work life right now that can help them navigate the choppy waters now and ahead.
#1 Discomfort with Ambiguity
There’s a lack of clarity, unanswerable questions and unpredictability that has your people struggling. After all, for most people clarity equals comfort. And, even where there is clarity these days, it changes quickly. Thus, no clarity, no comfort.
To help your staff with this, articulate (and constantly reinforce) what they can count on… from you, from the team and from the organization. Just make sure that what you promise, you deliver. This consistency gives a degree of comfort in the face of opacity. Grounding slays ambiguity.
# 2 Resolving Anxiety
You (and your team) are experiencing massive, rapid change right now. People (and maybe you, too) are frustrated that they can’t get things done or at the speed they would like to. And, the neuroscience of our brains finds change hard to deal with (even if we like a bit of change). All of this adds up to a constant state of low-level (or high-level) anxiety. Change ratchets up anxiety.
So, to help your team… focus on what is still the same. In the face of drastic or uncomfortable changes, it can feel like everything is different. And, if everything is different then everything can feel scary or unsafe or unsteady. Yet, the likelihood is that when there are disruptive changes, the lion’s share of things are mostly the same.
After all, you still are selling to and servicing your customers. Your team is still meeting regularly. Your colleagues are still your colleagues. You have solved difficult problems before. Why not emphasize what is still the same in the face of change and relieve some of the pressure? It’s not denial… it’s reality.
#3 The Realm of Distraction
There are squirrels everywhere as we learned from the distractible canines in the movie Up. And right now the distractions are real doozies. For you and your team, it feels like a swirling, erratic dust storm surrounding you. It may be hard to see through the storm to the other side.
What will it take to handle this? It’s focus. Focusing intentionally on the right things helps you make your way through to the light. Having a touchstone in the wilderness of worry and distraction anchors you to deal with the things flying around in the air.
What that looks like at work is knowing and using routines (and rituals). Re-establish clear routines or create them anew. Write them down as a checklist for you and have your direct reports do the same. Then fashion checklists for the routines of your collective team as well. You don’t have to wing everything – fall back on the routines.
#4 Believing the Story
You and your team have beautiful minds. In situations such as now however, your beautiful mind can be a beautiful minefield. Because of how our brains work, we have perceptions, beliefs, expectations, assumptions and habits of thinking that course through our minds. They are largely invisible, unconscious and in the background. That’s not a bad thing – it can help us function. Without help it’s hard to see them. They are essentially “blind spots.”
These invisible thoughts can come back to bite us. Our brains blend thoughts together based on some past experiences and we start to believe they are true in all situations. For example, think about this statement from a member of your team, “If we lose more staff, we’ll never be able to get the work done.” With that thinking, how likely is it that the team can creatively work smarter not harder given cutbacks or constraints. Yet, in this person’s mind, these two thoughts of “losing staff” and “never getting the work done” are forever fused and completely disenabling. And, the person doesn’t even realize it. And it’s not just them, it’s us too.
How do you help your team members be in their right minds? Be their coach. Have conversations with them about their thinking concerning their various projects and tasks. Listen for where they may be limiting their own thinking or ruling out options outright they should explore. Have them think about whether what they are thinking must always be so. Challenge them to think differently. It’s time to step beyond the old thinking patterns to solve new problems.
#5 Resilience and Resourcefulness Required
It’s a roller coaster out there. One minute things are up. The next they are down. It wears-and-tears on the minds and bodies of you and your team.
The solution… build resilience and resourcefulness in the face of the ever-changing ground beneath your feet. How to do this? Recognize that you and your team members each have what are called “core needs.” These are the needs you have from time-to-time for the types of experiences that really energize, satisfy and fulfill you. They “refill your tanks,” if you will.
The change of circumstances and the constraints you are tackling drain your tanks. And, because of the change, your usual ways of refilling them may be harder to attain. Think access to exercise or social engagements and the like. Knowing your personal core needs (and those of your team members) can help you be creative about how to keep the tanks “topped off.” They are the foundation of being resilient and resourceful in the face of extreme challenge. Resiliency is a participation sport. Use core needs to win the game.