We are amidst a pandemic, and in perhaps the toughest most challenging times that our careers may ever face. We are under an avalanche of information and fighting problems we would never have dreamed of facing, and we are expected to sort through the pieces and make do with not much guidance. It’s time to get back to basics and define what qualities leaders need to embody to be the best version of themselves they can be, especially during COVID-19.
An organisation’s success is driven by a good leader. We want to guide you through this new space, and give you some tools and ideas on how to align with the new quality of leader needed to pilot their team into the future.
LET YOURSELF ADAPT
Change is exciting! Yes, it can be hard and frustrating, but it is a chance for things to be shaken up, for you and your team to take chances on one another and strengthen your performance. Your outlook here is important and it’s up to you as a leader to take responsibility for your organisation.
The current COVID crisis is forcing us to create new solutions, which come from new thought patterns, new strategies, and new beliefs. Prior to the pandemic, a lot of companies and leaders thought employees working from home meant there would be a lack of productivity, but COVID-19 forced us into a situation we never dreamed of, and guess what? Employees worked from home and surprise surprise, they were productive!
They are less tired because they are saving between hours of travel time. They can shake off three-thirty-itis and clear their head by taking their dog for a walk on a lunch break instead of hunching over their desk cramming in a sandwich. On the whole, they’re happier, they’re healthier, and they have built a strong sense of loyalty towards companies which have allowed them to carry on with this flexibility. Companies have adapted, knowing that this freedom is based on a trust system and can still produce the desired results.
Having to adapt is not a bad thing. Did you know that basketball and hockey teams are often known to perform better after losing teammates to injury? This is because the remainder of the team has to find new ways of working together, strengthening areas of their performance and delivering better results. The same goes for your team. Have you ever noticed that on a day you work from home, suddenly staff find their own solutions rather than just popping their head in to ask you? The extra step of calling means that your team will work to figure their answers out. Not being as readily available can be a huge boost for your productivity. Restructures, although disheartening, can allow for some really positive changes for your company.
With these new adaptations, it may feel like you are losing control - but this does not have to be the case! For best results, give your employees clear outlines of what you expect from them, and where possible make sure you make it clear that you are outputs-based. If your team works partly or fully from home, it is crucial that they are in regular contact, with productive regular meetings and get-togethers to keep everyone in the loop, gelling together, and working as a team to retain company culture.
An adaptable leader is a leader that can survive and then thrive. Let go of some of those traditional mindsets you have had and allow room for some necessary changes.
HOW DO WE BECOME MORE ADAPTABLE?
Relax. Let yourself take on the mindset that you don’t know everything and that sometimes you will need to be flexible.
Be open to different ways of thinking - shift and experiment ideas - this will allow you to use different thinking strategies and mental frameworks and deepen your awareness and perspectives on how individuals and your team thinks
Be curious - trust your team and listen to their ideas. If they come up with a plan that seems like it could work and produce good results, implement it.
Plan ahead - understand that while an end goal and a vision are necessary, the path that takes you there needs to be flexible. It’s important to have multiple plans for reaching goals. Rather than getting stuck on one solution to solve a problem, adapt and always have a contingency plan in place
Be patient (more on this later). Adapting to new systems and processes means there will be some kinks to iron out, and sometimes needed to truly yield results.
BE AN AUTHENTIC LEADER
A genuine, caring leader develops caring and loyal staff. Authenticity builds and maintains trust, which strengthens staff retention, and allows for a more team-focused environment.
Ensure you are honest with your staff, and show them you have the bite as well as the bark. When possible and appropriate, get down in the trenches with your team. Watch the respect that comes to a leader who takes an extra 10 minutes to teach an employee the right way of doing things, or stays late with the team to ensure a project meets a deadline. Watch the positive mood shift of an employee who has been told they are appreciated, and their work is great. See the loyalty attracted to a leader who allows their employee to leave when they have a sick family member or a kid’s play, or who can notice when their staff are at breaking point and can take them for a private chat to check in on their mental health.
People want a leader, not a boss. A boss wants facts, figures and results as soon as possible. A leader wants the same but knows there are other factors at play, and successfully navigates them to make his or her team feel included, valued, and celebrated - transparency is key!
LET YOUR CREATIVITY FLOW
Adaptability can be strengthened with creativity. Creativity will help lead your company forward and is also an important quality in the evolution of an authentic leader. In a world that is rapidly changing, with new competition, new customer demands, and an ever-changing market, creativity is king. Thinking outside the box, and encouraging your team to think outside the box will put you in good stead to retain and strengthen your team which will yield better results for you and your company.
HOW DO WE UNLEASH OUR CREATIVITY?
Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. Engage those who know the market, who know your clients, who can improve your product.
Dare to be different - define some diverse goals around innovation and creativity - look for new opportunities and decide what you want to do and what you want to achieve
Listen. Really listen. If you trust your team, take a moment to listen to their ideas and create steps to implement them. Inspire your team and give them the confidence to open up and communicate their creative ideas and thinking. Act as a role model and influence the thinking of your team.
Surround yourself with a diversity of people. The more diverse your team, the more you’re going to be able to adapt - use your team’s strengths and experiences to advance your company
Develop yourself personally. Get a mentor, listen to podcasts, join a business group or forum. The more ideas and opinions you are exposed to, the more creative you become
Get out of the office. Different environments force your brain to think differently. Ever had a great idea pop into your head in the shower or while taking some time out for a walk? Your brain loves figuring out your problems and continues to piece together solutions while you’re not focussing on the issues. Sometimes it just needs to do its thing in the background without direct stimulation.
PATIENCE IS KEY
We are all guilty of wanting things to be done yesterday. Sometimes we have someone putting pressure on us and it makes us put pressure on those we are leading.
In this time of uncertainty and instability, now more than ever your team will look to you for guidance and will mimic your attitude and behaviours. If you are constantly stressed, irritated and pushy you can foster an environment of distressed, error-making workers. Take a moment to breathe and calmly and rationally explain and direct. The easier you are to approach, the more comfortable employees will be with admitting mistakes early, rather than trying to hide them causing a messy snowball effect, or trying to blame others.
In one study, employees that rated their leaders in the highest quartile for patience had a huge effect! They reported creativity and collaboration had increased by an average of 16% and their productivity had increased by 13%.
A considered and measured leader is impressive. People in positions of power that rant and snap and cause an environment of stress and fear are also those who create an environment of disloyalty and disrespect.
HOW TO PRACTICE PATIENCE?
Look through the lens of others - Remember, particularly right now, people are often running on empty are prone to grow impatient and lose their cool. Be strong enough to handle the pressure and wise enough to be accountable and resolve the issue. See the bigger picture and help your team connect the dots toward an eventual solution
Evaluate tension points - Remain unbiased and don’t choose sides. As a leader, you must be extremely open-minded and patient under pressure in order to see it as an opportunity previously unseen - this includes keeping anger and/or disappointment out of your voice, especially for those that don’t make errors often. You want to retain your good workers, so be mindful of other people’s specific needs, approach and style.
Be organised. You are a leader and problems from your team fall back on you so not only do you need to keep on top of your day-to-day tasks, but also factor in some time for fixing problems and coaching and mentoring others.
Listen and ask questions with an open and positive attitude - practicing patience requires you to be a great listener and asking questions. It demands that you take a deep breath and let go of your own impatience to help solve a problem. Don’t be in a hurry. Respect and embrace the process.
Seek perspective - don’t ever pretend to know all of the answers. Though your patience may be wearing thin, don’t force your authority on others just to push the problem away (only for it to potentially return later). Learn how to pick and choose your battles – but more importantly, know when it’s time to seek further advice and then support your team by coaching them, rather than taking the task over yourself. Let them know they can come to you if they get stuck.
START BONDING: GET TO KNOW YOUR STAFF
We have spent a long time in isolation. People are craving interaction, and emotional and mental health has taken a blow. A common practice at work may have been for leaders to keep their team at arms length but it may be time to retract your arm slightly and get to know your team.
Research traditionally breaks leadership down into two basic sets of behaviours – task-oriented and relationship-oriented. The best leaders balance the two behaviours to yield the best results. At the end of the day, your staff want to feel valued and seen. Ask what your staff have been up to on the weekend, learn the names of their kids, ask how their pet is doing. Allow yourself the joy of a happy work environment for both yourself and your workers. Keep driving results, but add a touch of warmth.
For more advice on leadership and running a small business effectively, get in touch with Cinch HR.