Alpha & Delta & Omicron, Oh My!
Leading Your Team Through Another Wave
The hits just keep on coming!
The classic line from a Few Good Men holds up well in a global pandemic. Just when we thought it was safe to lower our masks, grab a bite inside our favourite restaurant, or jump on a commuter flight for a long weekend away, the rise of the latest, greatest strain of Covid-19 – the mysterious Omicron variant – has us on edge and rapidly reevaluating our plans – forcefully so in some places where lock downs and curfews are back in place. If the data is accurate, even the “boosted” among us may be infected sometime soon and go a few rounds with our microscopic adversary before the snow melts (for those in cold weather cities – thankfully I just have sun and sand now!). For those of us in leadership, the potential spike demands that we dig deep to provide support, encouragement, and vision for those we lead.
Calmness and Resolve
When the ground shakes, leaders must exhibit calmness and resolve. As many are facing another round of quarantines, shutdowns, and economic duress – then our people will look to us for a sense of security and direction. The best thing leaders can do for their teams in a time of crisis is to lead. This means choosing discipline over impulsivity. If the news gets bad, study its impacts on your organization and the people working within it. Review the contingency plans you already have in place and execute them. Revisit what you learned from earlier responses to Covid-19 spikes, and apply that wisdom to tweak contingencies that are already in place. When your team sees you had a plan and are following it, blood pressures will lower a few points. Impulsive leadership, which is NOT leadership, only adds high-test fuel to the crisis.
Check on Your People
In the recent past, I have had a lot to say about empathy in leadership. When the crisis arrives, leaders exercise a double portion of their empathy. Over the next few months, it is vitally important to connect and check in on your people and their families. If your team is especially large, invite some of your team to help you with this important task. Empathy also implies vulnerability. As you assess the well-being of the people working with you, let them know how you and yours are managing the challenge. Communicate regularly with members of your team with “fireside chats,” notes that are personal and comforting, not highly technical. If your teammates see you as relatable and connected – giving the team a sense that you are also dealing with similar challenges – then they will place greater trust in you when you must make the tough decisions.
Sometimes the best contingency plans are unworkable or just fail to deliver the results you seek. Leaders can discern when it is time to pull the plug on Plan B and move on to something else. In other words, leadership in a crisis environment requires adaptability and flexibility.
Flexibility may take on a variety of shapes. For example, a particular situation may require flexibility in leadership style. Consider the virus. In this environment, many of us must step aside on occasion to let the health and safety professionals in our organizations take the lead on decisions that fall within their areas of expertise. Flexibility with schedules, work settings, etc. is a must when particular situations disrupt establish patterns of work. Did I mention flexibility of thought? What has “always worked well before” may not work at all when the dumpster fires are lit. Be flexible, leaders, and open to the great ideas your team brings to your door.
Here’s to 2022
Sadly, given the situation at hand, several of you may need to reference something in this piece quite soon. However, we all have so much to look forward to in 2022, hopefully with far less drama than 2021. But… Just in case… Be prepared to lead. Your people will turn to you for support, encouragement, and vision amid the tough stuff.