5 Actions Leaders Take to Solve Problems Post-COVIDMay 19, 2021
Former Secretary of State, four-star Army general, and National Security Advisor Colin Powell once said, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or conclude you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
As I continue this series of blogs on Resetting the Company Culture post-COVID (Check out my blog 3 Reasons Self Care is Selfless Leadership), I can’t help but think of how a lot of what leaders need to do during this time of crisis management is solving problems for their company and for their team.
Self-care is Not Optional
My first article talked about the leader taking care of himself or herself. As leaders, we must first take care of ourselves so we are equipped to be attentive to our employee’s needs. Next, we need to understand who is coming back to work so we can better understand each employee’s background (check out my blog 3 Ways Leaders Can Ease the Return to Work). This article and the next will discuss how to re-acclimate workers back into the physical workspace.
I will not dive into how to keep the physical workspace healthy; however, I will mention that leaders should know and implement company policy for hand sanitizing stations, protective dividers, and appropriate spacing between employees, if applicable. Ensuring awareness and adherence to these new safety protocols is important to create comfort at work.
Be the Leader Your People Need
Leaders must plan for intentional team building. How do you want to bring your people back together? A lack of a plan may impact a company’s performance and productivity.
Before your team can effectively come together, the cognitive workspace must be rebuilt. As a leader, you are directly responsible for making sure your team is in the right headspace so they can regain their productivity. In this article, I will share three simple approaches leaders can take to help their employees re-acclimate to the workspace.
Be Physically Present
During a crisis, the most effective leaders maintain a high level of visibility with their team. As your team comes back into the workplace (for some it may be their first time returning in over a year), your job will be to get into the “trenches” and reassure your people.
While emails and written messages have their place, they are nothing compared to an empathic human voice. By being physically present you will hear firsthand your employee’s stories, understand their biggest concerns, and offer empathy. Employees want to know you are on their side and in the same boat as them.
Everyone is facing the storm together, therefore you as the leader must be the calm voice in the storm. Furthermore, by being physically present, you might be able to identify problems before they arise or create solutions to small problems before they become bigger issues.
Allow Space for Employees to Tend to Personal Matters
As I mentioned in my blog 3 Ways Leaders Can Ease the Return to Work, some workers will return to the workplace while their home life continues to be stressful. For example, some employees may have children who are still learning online. Or they might be dealing with the emotional trauma of losing a loved one. Or their family might be suffering from financial setbacks.
As the leader, you must recognize the unique needs of each person and provide assistance. It could be as simple as accommodating more teleworking, revisiting paid time off policies, or allowing employees to receive their vaccine while on the clock. Another option is to provide mental health resources or connect employees with Employee Assistance Programs.
Just as employees needed time adjusting to working from home, they will need time to adjust to the routine of coming back into the office. Some may struggle to get to work on time due to a lack of public transportation or having to drop a child off at daycare. By being understanding and flexible about how and when work gets accomplished, the leader can create a supportive environment. When an employee does not have to worry about their home life, they are able to give 100% of their attention and focus to the company mission. The sooner the employee gets their life “back to normal” the sooner they can get back to performing and producing at a high level.
Have a Plan, but be Prepared to Adapt
Before the first employee steps back through your doors, have a plan in place. With the uncertainty of the last year, employees are craving normalcy, transparency, and consistency. A well thought out plan will help. Think about the logistics of bringing personnel back into the office. What will meetings look like? What if the office has to close back down? Use the lessons learned from last year to create new procedures, abolish non-sustainable workflows, and create better lines of communication. I know in our company, we realized that we can re-imagine work.
After you’ve set your plans in place, be prepared to be flexible. In the Marine Corps, we called it “Semper Gumby” or “always flexible.” You must plan for contingencies. What if one department shuts down due to a COVID contact? Or what if the government decides to close down businesses again? Think through the surprises of last year and create plans for those unforeseen events. While you are not going to be able to think through every scenario, having a solid reacclimating plan in place will allow you to be flexible should disorder rear its ugly head again. This can also be a wonderful way to engage team members to tackle some of these issues.
Leadership is Solving Problems
As General Colin Powell said, “Leadership is solving problems.” As a leader, you must be proactive and prepare the space for bringing people back together and re-building the team so your company can succeed as it did before. While this challenge may be unique, I am confident that leaders who continue to solve problems as they did before COVID will enable their employees and business to thrive.
Jenny DuFresne is the CEO, Leaders Transform. Our mission is to develop leaders who grow, inspire, and evolve people, culture, and impact. Our team supports executive and mid-level leaders with executive coaching, leader, team, and culture development in mid-market companies. Learn more at www.LeadersTransform.com
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