Get Back to the Basics
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
I often hear leaders refer to life during this pandemic as our "new normal". But what about this time is really normal?
Normal means we know what to expect. That things are pretty standard. Or even ordinary.
However, nothing is normal right now. We don't know what to expect given these uncertain times. Even within the present, our feelings shift from one moment to the next. Which was proven yet again this morning as I marveled at the sunrise why arguing with my five year old why clothes are needed for his classroom Zoom call later today.
Trying to target a sense of normalcy for yourself can feel like running on a hamster wheel. It is worthless pursuit that gets you nowhere as the idea of normal is out of your control. Rather, spend the energy you do have on items you can control for your team:
Necessary equipment. I think about the equipment I needed to get my job done on my first day - a desk, phone, and computer was all I needed. Remote working, however, requires managers to provide multiple ways to communicate while ensuring team members can manage care for children and parents at home.
The solutions you created when the pandemic first started may not be sufficient now - or when you return to work. Stay connected with your team members by frequently reviewing their struggles and challenges in getting the work done.
True connection. Many of us feel isolated or alone during this time. When the pandemic started, I felt I was constantly asking "How can I help?" While I thought I was helping, I realized everyone shared the same overwhelming feelings that I did. In a similar way, many organizations schedule virtual "happy hours" or "check-ins" in a way to help create connection. While these conversations may help, they also may not allow the space for people to share meaningful connections.
As a leader, truly dedicate frequent time to "check-in" with someone. If you send a text, ask if a phone call would be needed. If you talk regularly, share what you're feeling that is going well and what isn't going well.
Focused energy. I so need to finish up a project. And get lunch ready for the kids. And do some laundry. I'm distracted. So are your team members. And so are you.
Ensure you're setting priorities and expectations - and setting the right priorities and expectations. There are amazing stories out there about how organizations have pivoted during this time to support the increasing demand for PPE and other safety equipment. However, creating initiatives, goals, or even simple tasks, that are not relevant during this time, or to your team's core function, will fall on deaf ears or create more distractions for your team.
Opportunities exist. I know people who have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I have close friends who have lost their jobs or are fearful of the future of their job. This isn't the time to paint a false picture of reality to your team.
It is more than appropriate to share where the organization, and even you, are struggling during this time. And, as a leader, it is also the time to identify and start working towards the opportunities that have presented itself.
These basic elements won't help things feel like normal, but will help your team members with what they need more - to feel like they are cared for during these times.