Keeping Your Best Employees During Tough Times

Leaders carrying a complex load

Over the last few months we have all played a role in the worldwide, high-stakes exercise of physical distancing, working from home, and social isolation… whether we liked it or not. But unlike traditional experiments, this one came with limited guidelines, little preparation time or alternate plans. This meant we all needed to adapt and do it as quickly and effectively as possible.

This has been especially true for leaders who have carried a complex load: the need to keep themselves calm, productive and optimistic, while simultaneously supporting their team members’ emotional well-being and engagement, as well as trying, as much as possible, to meet business objectives.

Sounds like a real-life ‘Mission Impossible’ scenario, without the help of stuntmen, special effects, or make-up artists.

It’s important to remember that, historically, times of hardship and misfortune have become times of creativity and new opportunities. What do canned food, microwave ovens and digital photography have in common, except that they are used daily? All of these familiar items were invented during very difficult times of war.

The most important lesson we all need to learn is that mindset is vital. While some leaders see the end of the world and their business, others see opportunities for development, deeper connections and innovations. If you would like to join the second group, continue reading.

Four Tools for Seeing Opportunity during difficult times:

  1. Whether your team works from home or keeps the production line running with a reduced crew, each person will react differently to the situation. Use an individual approach to address concerns, opening the conversation with questions like:
  • How do you feel?
  • What is on your mind?
  • What worries you the most?

Your reaction as a leader has to be based on the responses you get from each team member. A one-size-fits-all mindset didn’t work well in the past and it certainly won’t be productive now.

  1. Clear expectations are crucial, especially during times of uncertainty. Multiple priorities are confusing and distracting; focus on achieving simple, clearly articulated, short-term goals.
  2. Physical distancing and social isolation are temporary obstacles that will disappear once the situation changes. Feelings of loneliness, anxiety, high levels of stress might last longer. Open, honest and frequent communication is one way to ease the burden. It doesn’t mean that leaders must have all the answers, but they need to share information and resources as quickly as possible, always keeping communication channels opened and initiating the conversations instead of waiting for employees to do so.
  3. Praise! Celebrating the smallest achievements helps to keep spirits up, morale high, and trust strong.

Investing in your employees and their well-being is important at any time, but particularly during unknown challenges. Follow these suggestions and you’ll keep your team intact as the culture changes and things return to a more familiar routine.

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May 4, 2020

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