Leading Confidently in Today’s Environment

As many have used the phrase, “we are in unprecedented times” with three remarkably historic events simultaneously occurring: global pandemic, economic volatility and racial unrest.   Our emotional, mental and physical capacities are certainly being put to the test.

The question becomes how, as leaders of people, we can ensure the emotional, mental and physical well-being of our employees?

Based on over 27 years in organizational development and working with a multitude of small, medium and large organizations, below are 6 key action steps that will help build your confidence leading during these challenging times:

.     Embrace Uncertainty & Unknown

  • It is important to realize we are in a significant change management process and that everyone responds to change differently.   Some organizations freeze, feel a loss of control, and are reactionary which results in a survival mode mentality.  Other organizations lead with curiosity and courage which results in innovation, creativity and agility.
  • Organizations respond to change by focusing on their “processes” and “people.”  Many change efforts fail because organizations prioritize the process side of change over the people side of change.
Key:  Focus on your people.  Create psychological safety by building trust enabling employees to believe in your character and competence to get through these challenging times together.  One way to do this is relying on your contingency and business continuty plans as this builds confidence in your organization.  Remember, you are teaching your employees how to succeed in crisis.

2.     Hone Communication & Transparency

  • Realize that communication during these times is “non-negotiable.”  It is your responsibility to communicate clearly, often, and use various communication methods (virtual staff meetings, personalized phone conversations, 1-1 video check-ins, virtual small groups, email, and certainly in-person where applicable).
  • Remember, the “unknown” creates fear, doubt and distraction for many people.  As a result, it is important to communicate with honesty and transparency to help your employees focus and bring out their best.   
  • Ensure you create two-way dialogue, ask open ended questions, actively listen and share what you do know, what you don’t know and how you are going to close the gap. Leverage ways to use video technology (if in-person isn’t feasible) so each other’s non-verbals are seen which further helps to interpret messages correctly.
Key: Fill in the blanks, don't let employees create their own stories of what they think is happening or not happening and always have a "pulse" on how they are doing.

3.     Build Resilience & Agility

  • Accepting that a “new normal” exists and that going back to the way things existed is not the answer.  Letting go of the past so that there is room to explore and be creative will enable you and your team to navigate through these challenging times more confidently and with positivity.
  • Resilience comes from your emotional strength to cope and quickly recover from difficulties. Therefore, it’s important as a leader of people to understand the needs of each employee in order to create a collective team who is resilient. In doing so, you are helping the broader organization become more agile and able to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes.
Key: Leverage past successes to help inform current and future problem solving without it restricting the ability be innovate and lead with curiousity.

4.     Focus on Empathy and Compassion

  • Research says that for many people “psychological distance” is harder than “social distance.”  As leaders of people, it is important to check-in with your employees and ask how are they doing? How are they feeling? How can you support them?  
  • Understand how external forces and the current environment affects the emotional well-being and levels of motivation and engagement of your employees and do something about it.  Overall, empathy refers to one’s ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person while compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.
Key: Look at the situation from your employees perspective and think about what they need to hear from you.  Psychological safety creates breakthroughs and employees who will remain loyal and committed to doing their best work.

5.      Manage Performance Creatively

  • Long ago we realized it’s impossible to separate work from personal life as they are too enmeshed and both affect our ability to stay focused, motivated and engaged (both at work and home).  
  • Recognizing the reality of working at home in this new virtual environment requires rethinking how work gets done and how progress is measured.  As Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”  So, be sure to think creatively and engage your employees in the process.
  • Some examples of rethinking how works gets done includes re-skilling employees to do multiple jobs, reprioritizing projects / timelines, rebalancing workload, and leveraging new technology / resources.
  • Some other examples include organizations that didn’t think their entire workforce could be moved virtually (never would have done that in the past) but forced to and realized it can work. Hiring an executive without meeting them first and participating in the traditional interview process that involves meeting with other senior leaders face-to-face. Hiring hundreds of new employees virtually, without ever meeting in person and ensuring they still feel connected to the organization and its culture.
Key: Allow yourself to think beyond how performance was measured and recognized in the past and open yourself up to new, creative ways that may never have been imagined or thought to work in the past.

6.      Project Confidence & Strength 

  • You are the leader and your employees are counting on you to guide them through these challenging times. Stay true to yourself while projecting positivity and hope.
  • Monitor you own emotions and “buffer” your team from any negative feelings you may have as you don’t want to add your emotions onto their own worries or concerns. Leverage a mentor, colleague, family member or friend when you have concerns or worries and seek their insights.
  • Find ways to stay healthy, rested, and feeling your best. This can be unique to each leader but certainly eating well, sleeping well and exercise is important.
  • Look for ways to maximize your employees potential and affirm their capabilities. This builds a sense of confidence within each employee as well as a feeling of progress and self-worth.
Key:  Your team will learn from you how to remain calm, focused and strong during  challenging times.  This will build the resilence and agility mentioned earlier.

So, where do you stand relative to the above?  

Take stock to determine where you may want to focus more time and energy so you can confidently lead during these everchanging times.


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JM Consulting Group, LLC