As a manager, which staff are you worrying about, and which are taking a lot of your time right now?
Your team may be finding the workload relentless, juggling unforeseen household challenges and fearing for the organisation’s long term sustainability and their jobs.
Use these 5 tips to reflect on where you are at, improve your effectiveness and be a brilliant manager … all while maintaining work life balance. Download my full presentation (including graphs and diagrams)- 5 steps to great leadership in a COVID world.
1. Work out where your head is at
You are experiencing huge change. Since mid-March, you may have plunged into frustration and depression, you may have come through that and started exploring how to work with this new world. You may still be in the denial phase, believing you have accepted the impact of the virus but in fact not having even started to process it. The model below shows the stages you will pass through. Compared to others, you may spend different amounts of time in each stage, but you will go through them all. Be honest, ask yourself how you're feeling right now, and use the answer to work out which stage you are at on the change curve.
2. Identify what you need right now
The phase you are in (step 1 above) defines what you need:
Denial or Frustration - Someone to listen and empathise, someone you can let off steam to, who will not advise you or try to fix things.
Depression - Someone to help you set your direction, define your priorities and clarify your tasks.
Experiment - Someone to support and encourage you to experiment, to help you work out what you might trial. To keep you focussed on the positives and stop you slipping back into the depression phase.
Decision - This is a good place to be! Keep seeking support to help you evaluate how things are going, reflect on what you have learnt, keep developing yourself and continuously improving your ways of working.
3. Ask for what you need
Don’t expect your manager to be psychic and give you what you need. Remember that your manager will also be going through the change curve, and is human too. Be sympathetic to their possible situation, while finding a way to make your request, e.g. for a space to sound-off, some clear direction, or to jointly brainstorm new ways of working. If your manager is unwilling or unable to give you this, who can you turn to? A mentor, peer, relative, trusted friend or coach?
4. As a manager, create psychological safety in your team
Each of your team members is at a different place on that change curve, has a different personality type, and is experiencing different impacts of their personal circumstances. So they each have unique needs of you. Assign time to build a safe space with each team member. Talk one-to-one every day to start with. Ask them how things are in their personal lives.
Ask about their biggest worries, anxieties or uncertainties. Ask, ‘What do you need from me, to perform at your best?’ If they say they are fine, ask again. You may need to probe, which makes some people uncomfortable. Keep giving support by listening deeply, providing time to think, and contributing only encouraging noises or a repeat of their words. Encourage them to explain anything that isn’t completely clear. Check they understand your expectations - while the work still needs to be done, how flexible are you about how and when your team works, to support their personal situations?
Once you feel you have a good relationship with each team member, set up brief daily check-in times (most often by phone or video, sometimes by messenger/chat) to maintain your support. Be visible and available by chat or whatsapp, and prioritise it if they ask to talk. If you have a time limit for a conversation, say that up-front, find out what they most want to achieve from the conversation and then be fully present for the time you have available. This will enable your team to perform at their best, maximising your organisation’s impact.
Run a remote team session to explore where people are on the change curve, bearing in mind personality types. If you haven't explored team personality types, then consider running a session on this as it will optimise relationships while working remotely. It is liberating to have a shared understanding of where you and your colleagues are positioned, and the process of discovery is as important as the conclusion, creating bonds and a more honest self- diagnosis.
In daily conversations, gauge when each team member is ready to be urged forward along the change curve. The mark of a great manager is when you develop your ability to judge individual requirements, and to respond to those.
5. Maintain work life balance
You will be starting to realise that COVID19 is not a sprint, it is a marathon. As a leader, talking about work life balance is not enough. You must lead by example for your teams to see how to achieve a good balance and keep themselves healthy and effective. I’ve mentioned above that working remotely means putting a little more time into your team relationships. How can you also maintain a good work life balance?
The answer is to rethink the rest of your day and decide how to improve your effectiveness elsewhere. Brainstorm options on a piece of paper, ask your team for ideas, and test some new approaches. The solution is out there. If you feel stuck, then as a trained coach I would be happy to help you - please contact me if you would like to talk.
Some options may be:
First Published: 2nd April 2020
By Nicki Deeson, Association of Business Mentors: Full Member
Republished by kind permission of the Association of Business Mentors