5 Ways Leaders Build Team Resiliency Post COVID

leadership May 13, 2021

            Leadership is a contact sport. Even during routine times, leaders must engage with their team to keep a pulse on operations. However, during times of crisis, it becomes even more important for leaders to interact and engage with team members.

            Last week I shared the importance of leaders intentionally re-acclimating workers into the physical and cognitive workspace (5 Actions Leaders Take to Solve Problems Post-COVID)

           This week I will continue the conversation and explore why an employee’s emotional state must also be considered. Leaders who invest in the emotional and mental well-being of their employees enjoy higher retention levels, more productivity, and efficiency than those who do not devote time to ensuring their teams’ well-being.

Steady Leaders Needed Now 

            As you plan to bring workers back into the physical workspace, be conscious that each person’s situation is likely unique. While everyone braved the COVID-19 storm together, each person’s individual boat will have endured the effects differently.

            Some might have fought the storm from a simple canoe: they saw job loss, unable to pay rent, loss of a loved one. Others might have only felt faint effects of the storm from their strong ship of steel: minor inconveniences, not a lot of financial or status change. And then you have everyone in between. How do you prepare for this environment?


Be the Calm Voice and Calming Presence 

            First, be the calming voice in the storm. A lot of workers are still suffering from emotional loss. This storm isn’t over. Invest time in cultivating open conversations about what has been lost over the last year. No matter the situation, each person should feel validated about the emotional impact and feel free to share their story and emotions. While these conversations might be uncomfortable, they will help re-form the bonds of the team. Think about it. Do you want an employee who is bubbling over with anxiety, anger, or fear trying to provide great customer service? Or would you want an employee who has an outlet to share her/his experience in the safety of the team?


Lead by Example 

            Lead by example and start the conversation. Your team will appreciate your willingness to share your personal stories and be open. Not every topic of conversation has to be full of sorrow. Share things that may have become funny over time (remember stocking up on toilet paper)? Share the victories and important moments (more people adopted pets last year than in previous years). Impress upon other leaders that these conversations are important. Normalize these conversations at all levels of the company. The entire company benefits from a cascade of intentional and supportive conversations.


Engage in Deliberate Dialogue   

           These conversations need to be deliberate, intentional, and reiterative. The leaders need to be present; they need to set the tone of having an uncomfortable conversation. Lead the conversations and allow time for each employee to share. Set aside time weekly or bi-weekly for important dialog to occur. These types of conversations usually work better in smaller groups, so you, as the leader, may need to attend multiple sessions with different employees. 

            This cannot be a one-and-done, check in the box, kind of event. As the world returns to normal, people’s situations will change over time. Some will continue to suffer from previous hardships, and it's important to continually touch base with your team. In addition to planned discussions, leaders should also walk around the spaces, conduct “pop-ins” just to check on their employees and see how they are managing. By allowing the space for discussions, it will create a workplace culture where employees are not embarrassed to raise their hand and ask for help. Furthermore, creating this space will produce a positive culture where the employee can focus on their work because they know if they need help, the company will assist.


Build Trust with Purposeful Connection 

            Doing these things will build trust amongst the team and in the business. Employees perform better when they feel like they can trust their leaders. In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M. R. Covey discusses how trust affects two outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes down, speed goes down and cost goes up. However, when trust is high, speed goes up and cost goes down. Trust also builds synergy. When a team trusts their leaders, they are more committed to the company, work harder, and a collaborative environment emerges. As you welcome workers back into the office, work hard to build trust among the team.

            Bringing your team back into the office requires intentional team-building and emotional considerations. Even if these ideas are foreign to you, now more than ever is the time to incorporate them into your company’s ethos. By normalizing the emotional concerns of employees at all levels you reduce the risk of burn-out, increase retention and job satisfaction, and will reap the benefits of increased levels of productivity.


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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