The Covid-19 pandemic has provided the ideal opportunity for leaders to step up and move people forward to a preferred future despite global crises. However, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust levels are hovering at all-time lows, with only the business community regarded as both ethical and competent.
Consequently, whether they like it or not, employers are now regarded as the mainstay of trust. This is a huge responsibility because leaders themselves are struggling with working between children requiring homeschooling, navigating almost paper-thin or non-existent boundaries between work and home, and still having to deliver on the bottom line.
Working virtually does not necessarily lend itself to trust-building the way we are naturally wired to in terms of social dynamics. Some leaders resort to time sheets, micromanagement and Zoom clock-ins, while others have gone quiet with their teams left in a fog of radio silence.
The biggest blow to the morale of leaders and their teams is that the pandemic is a recurring crisis that has been with us for over a year. We do not have a way of planning when the impact will end. This unendingness is a real problem and the countermeasure is a motion of resilience.
We always needed authentic leaders but now, more than ever, we require leaders who can navigate the recurrency of the current situation with a commitment to resilience.
Andy Brough shares his top tips for cultivating resilience amid recurring crises.
- Create a comfortable space
To the best of your ability, create a comfortable space that will allow you to work optimally, even if it is at your dining room table. If you have to get lighting or a chair, or improve the bandwidth on your router or an ethernet cable, do so. These are practical things we can do. Leaders have the responsibility to ensure their teams do have the fundamentals to work properly. We can’t all work together (albeit from a distance) if people do not have all the necessary equipment. That is critical.
- Be conscious of meeting fatigue
People spend eight hours a day on Zoom or other virtual meeting platforms, which is exhausting. If your meetings are not for engagement, why are you having them?
Be more critical about whether the meeting must happen, how long it needs to be and if we are allowing for enough of a gap between for self-care. Otherwise, you and your teams will spend hours in back-to-back meetings. Pre-Covid-19, we would end a meeting, walk away, go to our cars and drive away. Now, there are no boundaries. Be critical about whether it is necessary to have this meeting in the first place.
Accept that you will have to work more asynchronously. Not everyone has to be there for every meeting, all the time. A big benefit of working remotely is that we can record meetings, send video messages and use SharePoint, which makes it easier to share data with team members who were not part of meetings.
- Foster accountability and trust through an outcomes-based approach
Leading a remote team requires and builds better leaders. It gives space for leaders to focus on outcomes, rather than be absorbed and distracted by managing processes. I started working remotely 20 years ago and we began training people how to manage remote workers 15 years ago … it is not a new thing. The main issue is that many companies were not prepared and, as a result, are working remotely almost grudgingly now. Yet, leaders who have embraced it are more aligned and collaborative. Not having to limit recruitment to local geography means companies can bring the best minds of the world into their teams. The opportunities for this way of working and leading are endless.
When leaders are more specific about outcomes and less prescriptive on the process, people experience greater autonomy and work in styles and rhythms that suit them. The key to making this work is a high degree of accountability and trust. Ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the purpose of the team, the goals and expectations regarding their individual contribution.
- Equip your teams for remote working
Not only does the pandemic force leaders to adopt an outcomes-based approach, but it also necessitates them to take full responsibility for the success of their teams. Working from home can be challenging and leaders have the responsibility to ensure their teams have the fundamentals to work properly. Does each team member have a suitable computer? Can you guarantee a stable internet connection? The health and wellness of teams form the base of the company’s success.
- Create intentional moments to boost morale
Something many miss about the traditional office environment is the “moment to chat by the watercooler”. It is possible to replicate this moment in an online setting but it is up to the leader to be intentional with building these social moments into their meetings. There are two schools of thought: a task-oriented leader will be frustrated with chit-chat because there is more to discuss. However, a socially oriented leader will keep an eye out for it. They will create moments for people to share; for the team to get real about how things are going. Yes, equipment is critical but so is providing people with intentional moments to boost morale. It is critical that leaders avoid gluing their teams to their screens without breaks or social interaction for up to eight hours a day.
These unprecedented times have pressed fast-forward on the transition to remote working. This puts strain on leaders but, above all, allows them to transform how they lead and to guide people to a new and exciting way to succeed. One thing is clear: great leaders are resilient. Resilience can be cultivated, it is a choice, and we as leaders owe it to our followers to create an environment within which they can learn to develop and eventually master resilience themselves.
***Dr Andrew J Brough (Andy) is a global leadership and organisational development and e-learning specialist, professional speaker, lecturer, facilitator, and conference moderator. His book, Leadership: The Exponential Effect is available for purchase in South Africa via www.publisher.co.za (paperback copies); theexponentialeffect.com and all good local bookstores. Internationally the book is available via Amazon (paperback and e-book). South African users can also purchase the e-book via Amazon.