LEADERSHIP DURING CRISIS – COVID-19

How workplace managers deal with their teams during the COVID-19 pandemic will make all the difference to both the motivation levels and productivity of the team.

In these uncertain times and the global health crisis, even experienced managers who are used to dealing with a level of unknowns in the workplace will be tested. During times of crisis and stress, employees look to their leaders for reassurances and guidance. So how do you as a manager steer your team through these troubled waters?

Communicate, Communicate

In times of crisis, communication is what keeps a team a coherent unit. Where teams have been broken up due to work-from-home requirements, it becomes important to hold regular meetings on Skype or Zoom for your group. For some employees, work-from-home will be quite blissful, however, managers need to be cognisant of the fact that not all people enjoy a happy home life. Some staff may be feeling trapped in unideal home situations, such as an unhappy marriage or screaming kids leaving them unable to concentrate. Others who live alone, may be feeling very detached, isolated and lonely. It is important to check in with individual team members in addition to the group to gain a clearer understanding of the new dynamics of your team.

Remaining Calm

As difficult as it may be, leaders need to remain calm during times of crisis. We can look to our president Cyril Ramaphosa and the way he is dealing with what must be the most stressful time of pretty much any presidency in a fledgling democracy. He is composed, stoic, consistent and very direct with his communication. A panicked leader creates a panicked team that becomes stuck in analysis paralysis. As a manager, stay positive, be consistent and try to keep your team focused on current projects wherever possible.

Openness and Honesty

Whilst this might seem obvious, it is also a natural human reaction within a crisis to withdraw and not deal with the realities. As a leader in a work situation, transparency is essential. With a lack of information, the rumour mill can rapidly run riot within an organization which is counterproductive for all. Be open to your team asking your questions and sharing their concerns. If you are unable to answer their questions, it is fine to say that you do not have the information at this time, or are not authorized to share certain details, however when final decisions have been made they will be the first to know. Maintaining trust with your team now, means greater loyalty when the crisis is over.

Staying Organized

If you’re leading a team through a crisis, chances are you are juggling a lot of balls and have a great deal on your plate. But it is essential that you do everything you can to stay productive and organized during this time to demonstrate to your team that things are under control. Anything less demonstrates to the team that things are not functional as normal which will translate into lowered productivity. Especially teams that are transitioning to a work-from-home scenario, they will be working for the first time without the structure of an office environment including office hours which can be quite destabilizing. If you are a macro style manager, adapting a more micromanagement style for a short time may actually be required until such time as the dust has settled and some kind of structure and rhythm have been restored. This may mean that you need to plan each day for yourself and your team, set daily goals, and check up regularly on the status of all of your projects.

Focusing on What you can Control

There are going to be aspects of any crisis that you can’t control. Remember that only you can control your reaction to a situation. Constantly worrying about the uncontrollable lowers productivity levels, morale, and overall success. No matter what happens during this time, it’s important to remember that this too shall pass. How you lead your team is not only a reflection of you but also your company. See this time as an opportunity to better your leadership by really helping others.

Be positive, be strong, and do well.