In a world where change is inevitable and business needs are constantly evolving, keeping your team happy and motivated in the face of certain disruption requires strong and focused leadership.
The role of an effective leader isn’t just to help teams navigate change; it is to provide them with the tools they need to become resilient to it.
Using COVID-19 as an example, many leaders found themselves swept up in a wave of panic, and were overwhelmed by requests for additional support from staff. This is not surprising when you consider the uncharted territory of the pandemic in terms of uncertainty and economic challenge. It left even the most dedicated of staff members struggling with the enormous change in their work lives.
However, those leaders that had previously been focused on nurturing coping mechanisms within their teams found that they were far better equipped to handle the changes, as they had already cultivated greater mental robustness to cope with a world in turmoil.
While a global pandemic is an extreme event, other disruptors can and do happen. It’s important that leaders know how to instill resilience in their teams – not just because we never truly know what’s waiting around the corner, but also to ensure business continuity, agility, and a can-do approach during the most testing of times.
Here are a few skills to harness and deploy in order to help your team adapt to change and maintain mental wellbeing, composure, and equilibrium the next time the unexpected comes knocking.
Encourage your team to develop stress management skills
Leaders need to appreciate that stress can have an impact on output and quality of work. Further, a change of pace or new process can make a big difference to productivity. Therefore, it’s critical to acknowledge when times are stressful and encourage people to be intentional about building the skills to deal with pressure.
Every single member of your team is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to stress. Therefore, each team member will need to engage in a process to recognize, and manage their own stress triggers.
Whether you provide them with resources for developing a mindfulness practice, building emotional intelligence, creating a self-care regimen, or demonstrating that you value those skills, you will set an important tone. When you emphasize the need for self-care, you will make your team members more prone to feel that it is okay to engage in it.
Give time for recharging
Employees, no matter how talented or passionate, are not an ‘on-tap’ resource. Unlike technology, many can, and do suffer from business burnout.
To mitigate this, after a particularly busy period, allow your team some time for reflection, debriefing, and/or recharging before the process starts again. In addition to being mindful of breaks, it can also be helpful to celebrate at the end of successful projects. The positive reinforcement not only provides encouragement, it can also model the importance of acknowledging progress. Given that I often hear that wins can feel few and far between, particularly when one reaches more senior levels, it can remind people to take a step back to give themselves a “pat on the back.”
It’s also important to be particularly mindful of giving employees opportunities to disconnect from work. Research suggests that technological advances such as smartphones and laptops have increased employers’ expectations about how available their employees should be. This can lead to increased stress, in that it may interfere with the ability to recover from work-related pressures. To address this, teams can set boundaries with regards to emailing or calling after hours.
As an example, to deal with the pandemic and work increasingly bleeding into personal time, one company I work with recently set the expectation that people should give their colleagues 24-hours to respond to emails. (This, therefore, decreased the expectation that people should be working around the clock, eagerly waiting for emails so that they could respond as soon as they receive them).
The CEO further provided flexibility with regards to when people are expected to work from home. Understanding that employee’s situations differ (particularly given additional demands of remote schooling), he gave employees the option to structure their workdays however they wanted, as long as they were spending at least four hours on the clock during the conventional work day, and getting in the requisite amount of work during the remainder of the day. Because of this, his employees have really appreciated the flexibility, and it gives them the opportunity to recharge throughout the day, while also working in accordance with their natural rhythms.
Set realistic expectations
When heavy workloads hit, staff can be left with a lack of motivation and a sense of being emotionally drained due to unrealistic expectations.
Although many managers can motivate their teams to keep things together for the short term, it is unsustainable if workloads continue to weigh heavy without a light at the end of the tunnel.
Giving staff ways to cope with the additional stress and anxiety brought on by increased pressure of work, acts as a sort of band-aid. Although these are necessary skills (which I highly recommend, as noted above), if the workload is consistently excessive, they will provide a temporary fix but won’t actually remedy the problem.
Checking in with team members about their workloads, helping them to prioritize, and ensuring that you are being realistic about capacity is essential to ensure that they will have the bandwidth to be able to ramp up when times become particularly busy.
In addition, leaders can prepare their staff for the incoming wave of work by doing all they can to communicate what is on the horizon. Opening up a line of communication and asking for input can make a world of difference, particularly for those who are a bit slower to adapt to unanticipated changes. Something as simple as inviting team members to provide ideas and suggestions can provide them with a greater sense of empowerment in the workplace.
Being open, frank, and realistic not only helps build resilience by encouraging mental preparation for what’s ahead, but it also gives a sense of control over the situation.
If you expect your staff to jump on command, without being able to adapt yourself, you’re not exactly going to inspire confidence. Therefore, you’ll need to lead by example if you want them to become more resilient.
Change means that you need to adjust to new ways of working or thinking, in order to remain relevant and useful to your organization. Therefore, it’s important to check yourself to make sure that you’re being adequately flexible in your approach to leadership. That way, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you can deal with ambiguity, maintain optimism in the face of setbacks, and manage your own emotions.
By adapting your skills to the pressures placed on your role, you’ll not only inspire your team and give them the support they need to become resilient and agile in their own positions, but you’ll also ensure your value to the business is protected in the long term.
To create your own unique leadership brand and nurture an environment that inspires and empowers your employees, investing in your own personal development is a must.
My free webinar on the 5 Keys to Being an Authentic Leader who Inspires Others will help you to learn additional leadership techniques that will engage your team, while enabling you to stay true to yourself. I hope you’ll check it out!