There has been a perceptible sigh of relief as the COVID-19 vaccines began making their way to people throughout the world. Perhaps less noticeable was the collective sigh from leaders throughout the world, many of whom feel the exhaustion that comes from holding their teams, business units, and organizations together these past nine months.
Gird yourselves, dear leader, we’re not back to "normal" yet. Even the most optimistic estimates indicate that we have months to go before we reach a state where anything approaching normal is possible. As leaders, we're not done yet.
Back in the early days of the pandemic, I reached out to my fellow leaders for ideas and insights to help me lead my own business and my team. Craig Gironda, AVP, Global Solutions Engineers Specialists Teams at Entelechy client RingCentral, graciously provided insights that I share with you now … knowing that the last miles of a marathon are the most challenging.
First, a bit about Craig. Craig’s most ardent supporters are those who work for Craig; as a leader, this is the ultimate compliment. One team member said this about Craig:
Some say, to be a leader you need followers. I take that idea one step further. People only willingly follow those that inspire them. Good leaders don't have followers, they have collaborators. People who passionately contribute their best because their leader places the same goals, behaviors, standards, and enthusiasm inside of them.
When I asked Craig for his insights on leading his team through these uncharted waters of the pandemic, Craig provided the following tips:
- Family first! Work continues to play second (or third) priority in everyone’s life right now and will continue to in the months to come. Give team members the permission to take care of Job One: family.
- Pick up the phone. Nothing is more reassuring to a team member than a voice … YOUR voice. Keep checking in. Keep reminding your team that you're thinking of them.
- Don't mess with people's PTO. Craig wrote this as a line in the sand reminding us that if an employee requests or is off the clock, let them enjoy that time. In the context of COVID-19, it can also mean "don't force employees to use precious PTO to handle pandemic-related issues" like unexpected daycare issues, home school duties, doctor's appointments, etc.
- Invest in YOU. Whether learning a new skill or managing stress, self-growth and self-development is a worthy investment because it’s an investment in YOU. And we want you to be your best, most engaged, most productive, most invested self.
- Take time to recharge. Passion can take a toll. But, I would argue, nothing takes a toll like the insidious day-in-day-out uncertainty caused by this pandemic and the political and social unrest we've been experiencing here in the United States. Especially as we enter our tenth month, we're weary. Give employees permission to do what they need to do to recharge their emotional and physical batteries.
- Be radically transparent. Being transparent provides the one thing that people crave — and desperately need during times of uncertainty: control. When people can see the landscape as a result of your transparency, they feel enabled … and maybe even empowered … to take action. Additionally, being transparent allows team members to provide support, ideas, and energy in ways that are good for the team. Unless you as leader are smarter than the collective, you will benefit from being transparent.
- Encourage innovation. The pandemic is forcing us to do things differently. The shackles of "we've never done it that way before" have been summarily broken by COVID-19; we've never done ANY of this this way before. So, let's embrace the unique position we're in and see what we CAN be!
To be sure, Craig's tips are useful in calmer times. But as we continue helping our teams move through these uncertain times, they're even more important.
We're not done yet. As leaders, we will be remembered by what we did during these challenging times. Let us resolve to be the best leader we can be.
Entelechy has published several articles on leading during a crisis and managing remote teams. If you found this article helpful, we invite you to explore others in this arena, including: