3 Leadership Practices That Employees Need Now More Than Ever
September 30, 2020
4 minute read – As the pandemic hit, many employees stepped up, going above and beyond. While some are finding the uncertainty of the new environment an exciting challenge, others are running on sheer nerves and grit.
As we talk with senior leaders, we’ve been gauging how organizations are faring and noting what’s working for employees. It’s important for leaders to be aware of the unique areas in their organization that need more attention. Even if you don’t have answers yet, this acute awareness can help prevent tiny cracks from becoming big fissures. Here are a few of the takeaways that merit mindful watching and deeper understanding:
Straight Talk. Part of the mental heaviness that people are feeling is from the uncertainty of not knowing what the situation will be from week to week. Removing even a little bit of uncertainty can settle minds and allow people to take action.
One way to remove just a bit of uncertainty is providing frequent updates that celebrate progress, directly address real and perceived issues, and most importantly, let each person know what is needed from them to continue to move the organization forward. This individualized communication helps people know that they can make a difference, which is so important to mental health.
There are situations the leadership team will not know how to address, which is completely understandable and humanizes the leadership team. In those cases, consider asking a broader group of your team for help in creating solutions. Whatever you do, remember that there is a delicate balance of communicating the seriousness of a situation and inspiring hope.
Talent Development. Talent development was hard enough for many organizations pre-pandemic. While many were well-intentioned, professional development often took a back seat to other priorities and daily whirlwinds.
Take the time with your direct reports to co-create their unique development plans, milestones, and success measures. As a C-Suite team, it is also valuable to make it a practice to actively discuss and assess your current talent with the future strategic needs of the organization.
We can’t stress enough that lack of deliberate focus on professional development will stunt the organization’s growth, creativity, and ability to execute well. We understand time is precious. Ensuring that you retain, engage, and use your talent to the best of their abilities is a great use of time. Done well, it will result in you having more time.
Frequent Feedback. Make it a habit to seek and provide frequent feedback. This is another area that was hard enough for many leaders, in a face-to-face environment. We have seen how valuable it is to ingrain the feedback loop in a hybrid or virtual world.
A few tips:
- Make sure it is a loop. Be genuinely curious about understanding how your team thinks you are showing up.
- Go first. Some may be afraid to tell you what you need to hear so give them a nudge. For example, let them know a recent situation where you feel you could have shown up better. Remember you are human too and may also be under pressure. It can be comforting for people to see your humanness.
- Ask open-ended questions with a true expectation of getting an answer. A couple of simple examples are, “What are at least 3 things that you wish I would do differently?” and “What are at least 3 ways I can support you this week?” You may need to dig a little. Eventually, the conversations will flow naturally from there. Often, the employee will then ask the leader the same questions. Ideally, you each have your cameras on so you don’t miss out on important cues. Over time, the questions will evolve and the feedback will become more valuable as trust is built. Building trust is so important as people become less patient with all the simultaneous stressors.
While we have many more tips, these 3 were common successes as we spoke with many leaders across the industry. Keep in mind, this is a rapidly evolving situation. It will be different 6 months from now. So keep the dialogs open.