Leading your team out of lockdown
One of our new normals for 2020 is leading your team out of lockdown. Facing uncertainty on many levels, the new realities of living with Covid19 include reintegrating furloughed team members with those who’ve kept the ship afloat in stormy waters and relaunching our businesses now unlocking has started.
Are you ready for that leadership challenge? Perhaps you are the furloughed member and worried about going back to work or the business leader struggling to come to terms with the new reality? We all have a role to play as the world recovers from Covid19.
None knows what is going to happen next. Experts have made predications and recommendations but the only certainty is that things will change again.
In Cornwall where I live we have the 5th lowest rate of infection in the country. In one sense that’s reassuring and perhaps not unexpected for a rural and geographically remote county.
On the other hand, looking at one of the primary industries – tourism – it’s a concern. Summer visitors double the county’s population and tourism supports more than 1 in 5 jobs.
The medical community is concerned that Cornwall hasn’t had a Covid19 peak and that as the county opens up and the tourist influx arrives the virus will come with them.
It’s a genuine dilemma for those earn their livings from tourism, hospitality or service industries. We need our visitors back, but they bring increased risk of Covid19 and people are worried because we just don’t know what will happen.
How do we deal with uncertainty, manage the safety of staff and visitors and lead our teams and colleagues through this period?
Hope is not a strategy, so leading your team out of lockdown requires you to adopt a role model mindset whether you’re an employer or employee.
Here are my top tips for leading your team out of lockdown. To be clear, I’m not going to cover social distancing recommendations or sector specific regulations, because they’ll certainly change again and this article will be out of date by the time you read it!
Pick three consistent talking points to give perspective to your team and colleagues and be super consistent with your communication. They should be positive and help tie people back to the future. For example
- We’re all going through this together
- This will pass and we need to be ready for what follows and returning to normal
- We get to choose our attitude to this and I’m choosing to see the opportunity.
Develop different perspective points for each audience in your team, be consistent and use it combat negative talk, which rapidly becomes toxic and draining.
If you want to talk confidentially and develop your own perspective points for the recovery – arrange a chat and I’ll give you some pointers for free.
Keep focused on your priorities, accepting that they’ve probably had to change since the start of the year. Much of the change has been out of your control and you may already have adapted and restructured significantly. Further adaptation will be necessary for those affected by furlough as they come back to work.
- Keep – what will you keep doing? What’s working for you?
- Stop – What will you need to stop doing because it no longer works or is relevant?
- Start – what must you start doing to allow you to open up? What has to change?
If you’ve consciously adapted during the crisis, bear in mind that those on furlough won’t have seen or understood those changes. Communicate the new way of doing things deliberately and consistently.
Keep focused on the priorities as you do this exercise, what are the things that must be done and communicated widely?
Struggling to prioritise? Let me help with writing your Keep, Stop, Start notes
Structure your processes
People are looking for certainty in the midst of ambiguity. It’s important when the pressure is intense. Structuring your processes really helps root people in the moment, especially for those that process changes slowly. Being intentional about your routines helps generate control.
- Lock in a routine, e.g. morning set up meetings, regular breaks and team briefings
- Once set, communicate it widely and support it rigorously, especially if routines don’t come naturally to you.
How do you find time in your business when you’re working flat out? Get in touch and we’ll brain storm ways you can find time to work on the business rather than in the business.
Make self-care routines a personal and team priority. Eating, drinking and sleeping well are prerequisites for high performance in any role. Watch out for alcohol, caffeine and poor food choices as they steal from self-care, leading to sleep disturbance and negatively affecting all of your motivating hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin.
Exercise is an essential part of self-care, so consider take a daily walk as part of your routine as a minimum. Finding your motivation through a connection to nature, meditating or physical tiredness all play a role in managing your ability to cope, building resilience and your attitude to life.
Listen to motivating voices, not the negative ones. Consume good stuff and limit your consumption of news and social media. Talk with your funny friends and find some positive podcasts or shows to consume.
When talking with the team, reinforce your perspective points, use ‘we’ when doing this and ask for contributions and help. Leading your team out of lockdown shouldn’t be a solo effort, so who else can you use to share your message?
Even if you’re not feeling super-positive yourself from time to time, your team are looking to you for positive reinforcement. Be the encourager and do it anyway for one very good reason – mood contagion.
As a leader, your job is to lead the mood and culture, not to match it. Mood is contagious in a team, so leading by example works, whether you’re the boss or the newbie.
Need some external motivation, someone to give you a gee up or help you stay accountable? This is a core role of a coach – let me show you how.
Ambition and action
Reconnecting to the future and firing up your ambition with action is a neurological trick to use. You’re aiming to tap into the main human motivators – autonomy, mastery and purpose.
It may be that you’ve been given or allowed more autonomy during the crisis. Tap into that and preserve it. Get into a daily routine that allows you to refresh the goals and keep people focused on the drivers. This stimulates desire to succeed and is essential in keeping the team headed in the right direction. Visualize, internalize and verbalize the intent, using that momentum to create actions.
Use a planner of some kind, including regular team communications to monitor the positive progress on the actions towards the goal. This generates the rewards of success and making progress. Allow yourself and team to absorb, reinforce and celebrate the wins and generate the next steps towards the goal.
If you’ve never created a 90-day planning tool, it might feel daunting, so I’ll show you a simple framework to get you started.
Research has shown that lack of encouragement from a line manager increases the likelihood of a worker leaving a job by 7 times. Daily acknowledgement of work and performance is a critical minimum that you should provide your team and colleagues, even if it’s just a thank you.
The higher the degree of uncertainty, the more acknowledgement and validation is required. It’s as simple as a thank you, well done or comment on positive progress. Make it specific to the person, be kind and say nice things, even if progress is slow or mistakes are made. You will stimulate the production of serotonin and oxytocin in your team – powerful neurochemical mediators of reward.
Be explicit in your comments and aligned with your expectations or perspective points. The more specific your comments are, the greater the impact on the individual will be. Any feedback should be intentional and implementable, ensuring it’s consistent with the goals you’ve set as a team.
See the opportunity
There’s a famous saying, ‘never waste a good crisis’. Covid19 has been a once in a lifetime crisis and whilst difficult for all of us and tragic for some, we have an obligation to seize the opportunity and recover well. It’s a chance to redefine ourselves, our work and recalibrate our priorities.
Recognizing the opportunity can be a challenge when you’re at low eb, so ask yourself a reflective question, ‘How will you want to have lived through the crisis and recovered?’. If you need help finding that perspective and actively becoming the best version of yourself, you’re not alone.
Now is the time to translate all of your latent hopes, aspirations and ambitions into reality, we’ve been given a free pass and the playing field has been levelled.
What to do if you need help?
Of course, I’m going to say get a coach – whether that’s personal coaching or for your business. I’ll help you leading your team out of lockdown, to find clarity on your purpose, a positive way forward and equip you with communication skills, business planning tools and frameworks for success. I’ll be your encourager and support, dedicated to your personal need.
There are other options too, so reach out to your network, spend time listening to inspiring leaders and reading positive articles from authoritative sources. Research what’s available in your local community, such as business hubs, growth accelerators and incubators. It’s also likely that your bank has a suite of resources available to help, as do local and national governments.
- We will get through this together
- Covid19 will pass and we will be ready for whatever follows
- We all get to choose our attitude to the crisis – what’s yours?